Should the NHL continue its climb back from a multiple-lockout induced dark era, the arrival of Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby will receive much of the credit.
This is only partially correct though. Sure, the last two Hart Trophy winners are the linchpins, but the youth revolution taking control of the NHL and providing hope for a prosperous future didn’t start with the drafts that produced them.
While Ovechkin went No. 1 in 2004 and Crosby led off the draft a year later, it is the Class of 2003 that could be remembered as possibly the greatest of all time. It is this deep and talented bounty that will augment “the saviors” from the next two summers and give the league an abundant collection of star power for years to come.
“It certainly ranks right up there,” Nashville general manager David Poile said. “These players are certainly some of the best young players in the league today. A few years from now, it certainly might be the best draft of all time.”
The amount of talent in the league from the 2003 draft is staggering, from franchise cornerstones to key contributors and late bloomers with hefty future expectations - despite none of them yet reaching 24 years of age.
For proof of the 2003 draft’s impact, look no further than the game’s greatest stage. The Carolina Hurricanes were the first post-lockout champions of the NHL, and center Eric Staal, the No. 2 pick in 2003, led them in scoring during the postseason.
Anaheim snared the Stanley Cup in 2007, and center Ryan Getzlaf - 19th overall in 2003 - led the team in playoff scoring. Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, who this season starred for Eastern Conference champion Pittsburgh, finally began to fulfill the expectations placed upon him when the Penguins selected him with the first pick in the 2003 draft.
The list of stars does not stop there. Calgary’s Dion Phaneuf is the best young defenseman in the league, but Philadelphia’s Braydon Coburn (picked by Atlanta), Chicago’s Brent Seabrook and Minnesota’s Brent Burns aren’t far behind.
Getzlaf and classmate Corey Perry could make Anaheim contenders for the next decade, and the same goes for Philadelphia’s trio of 2003 alums Mike Richards, Jeff Carter and Coburn.
“Coming out of the predraft meeting, we felt it was going to be a very strong draft,” Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford said. “Obviously since we were picking so high, we felt very comfortable we were going to get a great player.”
Shuffle at the top
The Panthers held the top pick heading into the draft, but for the second straight year they traded it. Pittsburgh, eager to add a franchise player to build around after shedding the final remnants of their great teams from the previous decade, dealt Florida the No. 3 pick, a second-rounder and Mikael Samuelsson for the top choice and a third-round selection.
For the second time in the team’s history, the Penguins pegged a French Canadian from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with the first pick overall. The first one, Mario Lemieux, worked out pretty well, but Fleury was only the third goaltender to be the No. 1 pick.
After a tumultuous beginning to his professional career, Fleury made strides toward becoming a legit No. 1 goaltender last season and then cemented it with his play in the postseason this year.
By only moving back two spots, the Panthers grabbed the guy they coveted in Nathan Horton, a prototypical power forward from the Ontario Hockey League. In between were the Hurricanes, who had made a surprising run to the Cup finals in 2002 before crashing back to the fewest points in the league in 2003.View Entire Story
'Your papers, please' must never be heard in America
Independent voices from the TWT Communities
A mother of three and a passionate conservative, Shirley Husar changes the game.
Political satirist and Christian apologist Bob Siegel discusses religion and politics.
Columns from Voices around the World talking about the events, people, politics and social issues that concern us wherever, and whoever, we are.
Benghazi: The anatomy of a scandal
Vietnam Memorial adds four names
Cinco de Mayo on the Mall