S. Jersey player picked in first round by Tampa Bay

Aaron Ekblad , a 6-foot-3, 216-pound defenseman, was made the first overall pick of the NHL draft by the Florida Panthers. CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer
Aaron Ekblad , a 6-foot-3, 216-pound defenseman, was made the first overall pick of the NHL draft by the Florida Panthers. CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer
Posted: June 29, 2014

Defenseman Anthony DeAngelo said he came to the Wells Fargo Center countless times while he was living in Sewell as a Flyers fan.

He moved to Iowa four years ago, and his goal of playing in the NHL only intensified.

So it was fitting that he found out about his professional destination while in the Wells Fargo Center for Friday's first round of the NHL draft.

DeAngelo was selected in the first round, 19th overall by the Tampa Bay Lightning. He had 15 goals and 56 assists in 51 games for the Sarnia Sting of the Ontario Hockey League this season.

He estimated that there were 125 friends and family members to witness his big day.

"It's a dream come true," DeAngelo said.

Tampa Bay made its selection two picks after the Flyers drafted defenseman Travis Sanheim at No. 17. DeAngelo acknowledged that he had anxious moments before the Flyers pick.

"That was a little nervous," he said. "I was nervous for a lot of teams, but the Flyers would have been cool, but I am excited to come to Tampa Bay for sure."

And to have it all happen in Philadelphia, not far from his former Gloucester County home, will always be special.

"It was 50-50. If I was not picked tonight, it would have been way worse - you would have wanted to be somewhere else - but to be drafted tonight is unbelievable," he said.

Rounds 2-7 will take place on Saturday beginning at 10 a.m.

Hours before the draft, the NHL and the NHL Players Association announced that the salary cap for the 2014-2015 season would be $69 million.

Clubs must maintain a minimum payroll of $51 million.

The salary cap for the 2013-2014 season was $64.3 million and the minimum was $44 million.

As for the draft, with admission being free, the fans filled the arena, and they brought some rested vocal chords.

Any mention of the Flyers was greeted with booming cheers, and other teams, plus commissioner Gary Bettman, frequently were booed heartily.

Bettman actually kept his cool while delivering his opening comments over a crescendo of boos. At one point he asked, "Isn't this the City of Brotherly Love?"

Bettman had to introduce each team when it was up on the clock, which meant boos each time he went to the podium.

This crowd treated the draft as if it was a hockey game, which meant there was only one team to cheer and everybody else, except the players drafted, was fair game.

To nobody's surprise Aaron Ekblad, the Ontario Hockey League's most valuable defenseman this past season, was selected first overall by the Florida Panthers. Playing for Barrie, the 6-foot-3, 216-pound Ekblad had 23 goals and 30 assists in 58 games.

He talked about the pressure of living up to being the No. 1 pick, something he is ready to deal with.

"There is always the burden of expectations and that will be there and it is what you make of it," Ekblad said. "That pressure, all that is motivation for me."

The Buffalo Sabres chose center Sam Reinhart with the second pick. Playing for Kootenay of the Western Hockey League, Reinhart had 36 goals and 69 assists.

Reinhart comes from excellent lineage. His father, Paul, was an NHL defenseman for 11 seasons with the Atlanta, then Calgary, Flames and Vancouver. Paul, who was the No. 12 overall pick in the 1979 NHL entry draft, has now had three sons drafted by NHL teams.

Max Reinhart was a third-round pick (64th overall) by the Flames in 2010. Griffin Reinhart was selected fourth overall by the New York Islanders in 2012.

Now Sam Reinhart is happy to continue the family's NHL legacy.

"It's great and we are all each other's No. 1 fans at the end of the day," he said. "I know they are thrilled for me as I was when they got drafted."

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