Panthers have plenty of options with No. 1 pick

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PHILADELPHIA – The NHL may as well put out a casting call for a movie set in Philadelphia.


The league sent its top draft prospects to all the tourist areas for photos and interviews, from the Rocky statue, to the baseball stadium, and, yes, the obligatory cheesesteak stand.


But much like the fictional fighter who conquered the odds, only one standout can stand tall as the No. 1 overall pick.


And with the first pick of the 2014 draft, the Florida Panthers select …


Well, unlike some of the recent drafts, this one remained a mystery heading into tonight’s draft at Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center.


There is no consensus No. 1 pick and the Panthers have plenty of options to help try and turn the franchise into a consistent playoff team.


Panthers general manager Dale Tallon, however, hasn’t been shy about his willingness to trade the No. 1 pick for the right price. Florida has been stockpiling prospects since Tallon became general manager in May 2010, and the GM wants his young team to grow together.


The top candidates for No. 1 include: Kingston Frontenacs center Samuel Bennett, Barrie Colts defenseman Aaron Ekblad, Kootenay Ice center Sam Reinhart and Prince Albert Raiders center Leon Draisaitl.


Ekblad, Bennett, Reinhart, Draisaitl, Oshawa left wing Michael Dal Colle, and Sarnia defenseman Michael DeAngelo all were invited to tour Philadelphia this week and check out the sights. They’d all rather check out a No. 1 jersey with a name on the back tonight.


If the Panthers don’t trade the pick, Ekblad just might be the one.


The Sabres have the second pick, and Edmonton; Calgary; N.Y. Islanders; Vancouver; Carolina; Toronto; Winnipeg; and Anaheim complete the top 10.


“I believe that Ekblad is going to go 1,” Sabres general manager Tim Murray said. “Then we pick who we have left, the next guy on our list. If he doesn’t go 1, I’d be surprised, I guess. And I guess we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”


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