The Florida Panthers seem to be an organization that reaches a crossroads every few years. Making the playoffs in 2011-12 should have signified a club turning the corner and creating some forward momentum, but consecutive seasons near the league basement proved that success was short lived. Now the Panthers look fairly far away from true competitiveness despite a core of young players that should bring optimism if nothing else.

That makes this offseason so important for a team that now has a legitimate No. 1 goaltender in Roberto Luongo and the aforementioned promising youth at their remaining positions. They also have the first overall pick in this year's NHL Draft, which suggests the Panthers could take some steps toward putting a team on the ice next season that is a fair bit better than the one that amassed 66 points in 2013-14 and cost two coaches their jobs.

That No. 1 pick, more than anything else, gives general manager Dale Tallon options. He can use the pick, nabbing an NHL-ready player that could help contribute as soon as next season, even if at a fairly minimal level. The other choice and one that Tallon himself has been vocal about exploring is to trade the No. 1 pick for a package that would absolutely have to include a solid roster player and perhaps a bit more.

Reports suggest that if the Panthers are going to keep the pick, they will select the top defenseman available in Aaron Ekblad of the Barrie Colts. The 18-year-old comes in at 6-feet-4, 214 pounds and two years ago was granted exceptional status to play in the Ontario Hockey League at the age of 15. He was the first defenseman to be granted such a designation that had previously belonged to John Tavares alone. With that status has come a lot of hype for Ekblad, who has had to play under the microscope over the past three seasons in the OHL and has more than risen to the occasion.