Regarded as the best NHL draft of all time, the 2003 crop has no shortage of stars from the first round to the ninth round.
Although the NHL’s top offensive stars such as Sidney Crosby, Alexander Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin and Steven Stamkos didn’t come out of the ’03 crop, much of the NHL’s star power today can be credited to the draft. The draft provided the NHL with some of their most talented blueliners – Nashville Predators’ Shea Weber and Minnesota Wild’s Ryan Suter – top two-way forwards – Carolina Hurricanes’ Eric Staal and Anaheim Ducks’ Ryan Getzlaf – and Stanley Cup winning goaltenders – Pittsburgh Penguins’ Marc-Andre Fleury and Chicago Blackhawks’ Corey Crawford.
In hindsight vision, the draft would have gone differently. Of the 30 players selected in the first round, it seems only 17 would have went that high. Of those 17, they undoubtedly would have gone in different order. Fleury was selected first overall. Ten years later, it seems he would have been a late first-round pick after a couple poor playoff performances. Getzlaf, Parise and Anaheim Ducks winger Corey Perry were selected in the latter half of the first round. It goes without saying they wouldn’t have sat in the stands past the top 10 if NHL general managers had crystal balls.
There were, however, some early-round flops. The Columbus Blue Jackets invested the fourth pick on Russian forward Nikolia Zherdev, who spent time with three NHL clubs before bolting back to his home country to play in the KHL. The New York Rangers, meanwhile, drafted Hugh Jessiman, who has only played two games in the NHL, with the 14th overall pick over the likes of Parise, Getzlaf and Los Angeles Kings captain Dustin Brown.
Weber and Boston Bruins centre Patrice Bergeron standout as the top talents selected in the second round. It doesn’t, however, stop there. The round also saw St. Louis Blues power-forward David Backes, Tampa Bay Lightning defenceman Matt Carle, Bruins winger Loui Eriksson, Crawford, and Redwings goalie Jimmy Howard don jerseys.
Some players picked past the top 60 such as San Jose Sharks centre Joe Pavelski, New York Islanders winger Matt Moulson, and Winnipeg Jets defenceman Dustin Byfuglien, went on to blossom into impact players. Seven of the 30-hindsight first-rounders ranked below were picked outside of the top two rounds.
A testament to the draft’s depth is the quality players who didn’t even crack the top 30. Ottawa Senators winger Clarke MacArthur and Calgary Flames forward Lee Stempniak, who both have scored back-to-back 20-goal seasons, highlight the list of the players on the outside looking in. Not to mention, Redwings defenceman Kyle Quiency, who was selected 132nd overall, and Blues puck-stopper Brian Elliott, who was selected 291st overall by the Ottawa Senators, didn’t crack the list.
Here is a look at YTW’s 2003 draft ranking 10 years after it took place in Nashville.
1. Shea Weber, defence, selected 49th overall by the Nashville Predators
2. Eric Staal, centre, selected second overall by the Carolina Hurricanes
3. Ryan Getzlaf, centre, selected 19th overall by the Anaheim Ducks
4. Zach Parise, centre, selected 17th overall by the New Jersey Devils
5. Corey Perry, wing, selected 28th overall by the Anaheim Ducks
6. Ryan Suter, defence, selected seventh overall by the Nashville Predators
7. Brent Seabrook, defence, selected 14th overall by the Chicago Blackhawks
8. Patrice Bergeron, centre, selected 45th overall by the Boston Bruins
9. Dustin Brown, wing, selected 13th overall by the Los Angeles Kings
10. Mike Richards, centre, selected 24th overall by the Philadelphia Flyers
11. Dion Phaneuf, defence, selected ninth overall by the Calgary Flames
12. Jeff Carter, centre, selected 11th overall by the Philadelphia Flyers
13. David Backes, centre, selected 62nd overall by the St. Louis Blues
14. Ryan Kesler, centre, selected 23rd overall by the Vancouver Canucks
15. Thomas Vanek, wing, selected fifth overall by the Buffalo Sabres
16. Loui Eriksson, wing, selected 33rd overall by the Dallas Stars
17. Joe Pavelski, centre, selected 205th overall by the San Jose Sharks
18. Nathan Horton, wing, selected third overall by the Florida Panthers
19. Corey Crawford, goalie, selected 52nd overall by the Chicago Blackhawks
20. Matt Moulson, wing, selected 263rd overall by the Pittsburgh Penguins
21. Dustin Byfuglien, defence, selected 245th overall by the Atlanta Thrashers (Winnipeg Jets)
22. Brayden Coburn, defence, selected eighth overall by the Atlanta Thrashers (Winnipeg Jets)
23. Brent Burns, defence, selected 20th overall by the Minnesota Wild
24. Milan Michalek, wing, selected sixth overall by the San Jose Sharks
25. Marc-Andre Fleury, goalie, selected first overall by the Pittsburgh Penguins
26. Jimmy Howard, goalie, selected 33rd overall by the Detroit Redwings
27. Tobias Enstrom, defence, selected 239th overall by the Atlanta Thrashers (Winnipeg Jets)
28. Matt Carle, defence, selected 47th overall by the San Jose Sharks
29. Jaroslav Halak, goalie, selected 271st overall by the Montreal Canadiens
30. Marc Methot, defence, selected 168th overall by the Columbus Blue Jackets