The 2003 NHL Entry Draft took place roughly 13 years ago. The list of quality players in that draft had such significant impact on current NHL teams. Eric Staal won the Stanley Cup in only his second year. But, what if you could go back in time and re-draft history? It’s been ample time since the 2003 draft and many of those players had a feasible amount of time to accumulate points. It’s a very tough challenge to move the likes of Marc-Andre Fleury or Corey Perry and place them on other teams. Part of the equation is what do those teams need now or what would have made a better fit overall.
Some players in that draft did not pan out at all or had shorter careers. Originally, Nikolai Zherdev was drafted 4th overall by the Columbus Blue Jackets. Knowing the type of player, he turned out to be, perhaps the Columbus Blue Jackets may have been wise to choose a different player. What would Corey Perry's career have been like if he had the opportunity to play alongside Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin? Having said that, let us turn back the clocks and re-draft the entire first round of the legendary 2003 NHL Draft.
30 Pittsburgh Penguins - Corey Perry
The Pittsburgh Penguins selected Marc-Andre Fleury with the first selection in the 2003 Entry draft. Corey Perry has the size and pedigree to play alongside the likes of Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby. This is a perfect fit for a team that struggled to find players to play the wing for Sid the Kid. With Perry, Crosby would have come into the league with an elite winger to grow with him.
29 Carolina Hurricanes - Eric Staal
It seemed like the right fit at the time and probably still is the best logical choice for the Canes in hindsight. While many have soured on Staal in recent years due to his declining play, it's important to remember just how integral he was in the Canes' Stanley Cup run back in 2006 and how great of a player he was in his prime.
Eric Staal led his team to a Stanley Cup in only his second year at the helm. Pretty impressive. Oh, by the way, he also had 28 points in that outstanding playoff run. If not for Cam Ward, he was likely the runner up to the Conn Smythe trophy.
28 Florida Panthers - Shea Weber
The Panthers had a horrible roster in 2003. Arguably their best players were Roberto Luongo and Jay Bouwmeester. Typically, when rebuilding your franchise, you start from the back end outwards. They had a goaltender and they had a defenseman, but Shea Weber would have solidified the power play and punished people in his zone. He was severely underrated by scouts in the draft as he wasn’t taken until the 49th overall selection by the Nashville Predators. The Panthers were missing a true stud for years, which wasn't solved until they drafted Aaron Ekblad 11 years later. Weber could have probably helped the Panthers to a few playoff berths throughout the 2000s, playing in a much easier Eastern Conference.
27 Columbus Blue Jackets - Ryan Getzlaf
The Columbus Blue Jackets originally drafted Nikolai Zherdev at the number 4 spot. Nikolai Zherdev did not last too long in the NHL, but he still managed to play 421 career games with 115 goals, 146 assists for a total of 261 points. Respectable numbers. Anaheim's fate has already changed with Corey Perry being drafted by the Penguins. Having said that, Ryan Getzalf would be the game changing piece that the Blue Jackets needed. Quite frankly, Rick Nash's career numbers would likely be drastically higher playing alongside Getzalf. He is a solid 221 pounds standing in at 6'4.
In his career thus far, he has produced a near point per game, putting up 741 points in 787 games played. His stats get even more interesting. He also has a plus-138 rating, 273 power play points and 45 game winning goals. Let's not forget his 681 penalty minutes as well. Long term, this is a much smarter choice than drafting Nikolai Zherdev. In hindsight, the Columbus Blue Jackets may have already won a Stanley Cup--far fetched? Perhaps not.
26 Buffalo Sabres – Zach Parise
The Buffalo Sabres originally drafted Thomas Vanek with the number 5 pick in 2003. Zach Parise was not selected until the 17th spot by the New Jersey Devils. He is currently a member of the Minnesota Wild, and is still producing at a successful pace. Parise has accumulated 619 points in 761 career games. He has competed in 82 complete games three times in his career, and scored over 94 points once in the 2008-09 season. In 2003, the Buffalo Sabres roster was struggling. Ryan Miller was still playing behind Martin Biron and Brian Campbell was playing in the backend. They needed scoring and Danny Briere alone wasn’t cutting it. Zach Parise would have helped this franchise out tremendously adding that American born pedigree and that touch of scoring they required.
25 San Jose Sharks – Patrice Bergeron
An excellent face off man and a dynamic two-way player. He is an excellent leader and proved his worth as a member of the Boston Bruins. This San Jose Sharks drafted Milan Michalek with the number 6 pick. The Boston Bruins did not select Bergeron until the second round. He was the 45th pick. Imagine that! Bergeron has been a true leader in Boston. He has scored a total of 618 career points in 820 career games. Not to mention the fact that he also lead the Bruins to a Stanley Cup in the process. He has a couple of Selke trophies and been the leagues best defensive forward on many occasions. Great hardware for a trophy case.
24 Nashville Predators – Dion Phaneuf
The Nashville Predators drafted Ryan Suter with the number 7 pick in 2003. Instead, I am drafting Dion Phaneuf in this spot. He had the pedigree of an elite defense man. His hits and bruising style were almost that of a Chris Pronger. Nashville could use that style of play to keep forwards from getting to the front of the net. Phaneuf has an interesting history in Toronto and like being in any Canadian market, was open to criticism and scrutiny. He spent five years in playing for the Calgary Flames putting up some impressive numbers and then spent seven years with the Toronto Maple Leafs until being traded to the Ottawa Senators. However, his stats are very surprising. In 821 games played Dion has tallied 432 points. Not too bad for am NHL defenseman.
23 Atlanta Thrashers/Winnipeg Jets – Ryan Suter
Originally drafting Braydon Coburn, I’ve opted to place Ryan Suter at the number 8 pick. Braydon Coburn tallied 5 points in 38 games during two seasons of play for the Atlanta Thrashers. They gave up waiting for some signs of life and traded him to the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for Alexei Zhitnik. Drafting Ryan Suter in this spot eliminates this trade from ever taking place. Clearly, Suter is nowhere the size of Coburn at 6'5, but his style of play is simple yet effective. He has the ability to the move the puck well and keeps forwards guessing. He has been consistently productive throughout his career. In 832 games played he has tallied 402 points.
22 Calgary Flames – Thomas Vanek
The Calgary Flames originally drafted Dion Phaneuf in this spot but I had him selected by the Predators at number 7. Seeing how the Calgary traded Phaneuf five years later, it made sense to instead place a suitable scoring forward at number 9. Thomas Vanek recently signed with the Detroit Red Wings and recently spent time in Minnesota after being traded from Buffalo to the Islanders to Montreal—that experiment did not work out. However, snipers are a very rare breed in the NHL today and especially during the 2000s. He accumulated 48 points in his first season with the Buffalo Sabres. In 2006-07, Vanek had an outstanding 84 points in 82 games with a plus-47.
21 Montreal Canadiens – Marc-Andre Fleury
Montreal took Andrei Kostitsyn in the 10th overall spot. They also drafted his brother Sergei a few years later. With the opportunity to draft a Quebec born goalie, and Bergeron now off the board - the Montreal Canadiens select Marc-Andre Fleury. Le Bleu, Blanc et Rouge could not pass up this chance to fill up a long-time void since Patrick Roy. In 653 career games played his record is 357 wins, 206 loses, 2 ties and 59 overtime loses. His career saving percentage is .912 but he has putting up slightly better numbers from 2007-08 on. Fleury is a proven winner with two Stanley Cups to his name. He was able to bring his team to two Stanley Cup Finals, something the Habs have not seen since 1993--where they were the last Canadian team to win the Stanley Cup. J
20 Philadelphia Flyers – Jimmy Howard
The Philadelphia Flyers originally drafted Jeff Carter at number 11. He was then traded from the Flyers to the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2011, for Jakub Voracek and the Blue Jackets first and third round picks in 2011. Let's shift gears and make this trade disappear from history. The Flyers missed out on the chance to draft Marc-Andre Fleury. They have always needed quality goaltending—an issue they still have even today—the Flyers select Jimmy Howard. He is an American born goalie with a history of winning and certainly looks like an upgrade on all their future goalies to come.
19 New York Rangers – Jeff Carter
The New York Rangers originally rafted Hugh Jessiman in this spot. Who? Exactly. Jessiman played two games in the NHL and both not for the New York Rangers. He suited up for the Florida Panthers. His career stats are two games played, a and plus minus rating of -1 and 5 penalty minutes. He was traded to the Nashville Predators in 2008. Needless to say he never met expectations bouncing around, mostly playing the AHL.
18 Los Angeles Kings – David Backes
17 Chicago Blackhawks – Brent Seabrook
16 New York Islanders – Joe Pavelski
The Islanders originally drafted Robert Nilsson in the number 16 spot. Nilsson did not hab a long NHL career. He suited up for the Islanders for just one season, mostly spending his early years in the minors. After that, he found himself on a one-way ticket to Europe where he has continued his hockey career. This player doesn't even stand close to the caliber of Joe Pavelski. That is why the Islanders are drafting him now, rather than at his original 205th draft spot. He is a proven leader with a great right handed shot. He is a reliable two-way player and plays big minutes.
He drove the Sharks bus all the way to their very first Stanley Cup final this past season. He could have been doing that on Long Island, forming a one-two punch with John Tavares. Standing at 5'11 and 190 pounds, Joe continues to develop. In 757 games played he has tallied 563 points and an outstanding 212 points came on the power play. His career high in goals came in the 2013-14 season, scoring 41 goals. The only NHL player to have found more consistency in scoring in recent seasons has been Alex Ovechkin.
15 San Jose Sharks – Nathan Horton
Nathan Horton spent a great of time on the injury reserve. Despite this, Horton would have made an excellent addition to the San Jose Sharks (with Pavelski now off the board) and played on the top line with Joe Thornton, had his career lasted longer. This draft pick would not have made an immediate impact. It is important to note that Nathan Horton has not played a game in the NHL since April 2014 due to a back injury. Still, Horton had some very good years, including a very clutch playoff run with the Boston Bruins back in 2011, when he helped them hoist the Stanley Cup by producing 17 points in 21 playoff games. On top of that, he put up an impressive 3 game winning goals.
14 New Jersey Devils – Dustin Byfuglien
13 Washington Capitals – Ryan Kesler
12 Anaheim Ducks – Loui Eriksson
11 Minnesota Wild – Milan Michalek
10 Boston Bruins – Brent Burns
9 Edmonton Oilers – Toby Enstrom
The Edmonton Oilers drafted Marc-Antoine Pouliot in 2003. We can all agree that this change of course and grabbing Enstrom is a smart move. Pouliot played 192 games and only tallied 57 points. His last season was in 2011-12 with the Arizona Coyotes. Enstrom is a dependable blue-liner and capable of providing some offense, which he has done twice in Atlanta. Ironically, the Oilers need help on the blue line this year and like previous years. They had to trade Taylor Hall just to bring in some help in Adam Larsson. Enstrom has played a total of 616 games tallying 288 points. His career high in points came with the Atlanta Thrashers in the 2010-11 season scoring 51 points in 72 games.
8 Vancouver Canucks – Dustin Brown
7 Philadelphia Flyers – Jaroslav Halak
With the 24th pick in 2003, the Philadelphia Flyers originally drafted Mike Richards. Mike had some great years with the Flyers before being traded to the Los Angeles Kings. Regardless, the Flyers always needed goaltending. Everyone remembers the amazing run Jaroslav Halak had with the Montreal Canadiens in the playoffs. He stopped the pucks and Mike Cammalleri scored the goals, eliminating the Washington Capitals and the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2010 playoffs. Two teams which were absolute power houses that year. Ironically, Halak's best career save percentage--with 10 games or more played--came when he was traded to the Capitals in 2013-14 and posted a .930 SV% in 13 games.
6 Florida Panthers – Mike Richards
The Florida Panthers originally drafted Anthony Stewart with the 25th pick. Needless to say that Mike Richards would have been an excellent for the Panthers. Originally drafted at the number 24 spot, Richards has helped the Los Angeles Kings to two Stanley Cups and was a force to be reckoned with. If everyone can forget his little run in with drugs, being released by the Kings and his stint with the Washington Capitals, then this is definitely a solid pick. He was never a big player at 5'11 and 196 pounds, but has always been a solid producer over his career.
5 Los Angeles Kings – Matt Carle
Currently a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Brian Boyle was originally drafted by the Los Angeles Kings at the number 26 spot. He spent the majority of his career with the New York Rangers. Standing in at 6'7'' and 243 pounds, Boyle has played 549 career games and put up 144 points. He has always been a third and fourth line center man. In addition, he only played 36 games in two seasons with the Kings.
4 Los Angeles Kings – Matt Moulson
Jeff Tambellini was the number 27th pick for the Kings in 2003. He played 242 career games and tallied 63 points. His last season was in 2010-11 when he suited up for the Vancouver Canucks scoring 17 points in 63 games. Take out Tambellini and slot in Matt Moulson. He was formally drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins as the 263rd pick in the ninth round. He is a capable goal scorer who had ups and downs in his career. His best season statistically was in 2011-12. He had 36 goals and 33 assists for a total of 69 points. His total career numbers are 337 points in 555 games played. Not too shabby for a player originally picked in the ninth round.
3 Anaheim Ducks – Corey Crawford
2 Ottawa Senators – Lee Stempniak
The Ottawa Senators originally drafted Patrick Eaves at the number 29 spot. Instead, I am placing Lee Stempniak at this pick, although, it is important to note that he is a bit of a late bloomer. Stempniak stands at 5'11'' and 195 pounds. As you can see he was never big but he did have some speed earlier in his career. He had 52 points in 82 games with the St. Louis Blues in 2006-07. After that season he trailed off quite a bit, but is having a slight resurgence in points late in his career. Last season, he had 52 points splitting his duties between the New Jersey Devils and the Boston Bruins.
1 St. Louis Blues – Patrick Eaves
Shawn Belle was the 30th pick in 2003 for the Blues. However, his career was nothing spectacular. He played a total of 20 career games with four teams - the Minnesota Wild, the Montreal Canadiens, the Edmonton Oilers and the Colorado Avalanche. His career points total... 1 assist. Needless to say that this was an easy choice. Having the Ottawa Senators pass up on Patrick Eaves gives the St. Louis Blues a chance to grab him. His style of play would have fit in nicely with the Blues over the years. Perhaps his point production would have been a tad higher if he never played in Ottawa, Detroit or Carolina. Should we mention his five games played in Nashville? In 545 career games played, Eaves tallied 190 points. He has yet to score 100 goals… currently, he is sitting at 99. After settling in Dallas the last two years, he started to put up a few points scoring a total of 25 goals in 101 games played.
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