Every sport has its great draft classes that have a deep amount of talent and multiple potential Hall of Famers that span over all of the rounds. The NFL had the class of 1983, while the NBA has had great ones such as 1984, 1996 and 2004. It’s hard to pick just one draft class in NHL history that stands out as the best, but the deepest one in recent memory has to be the famed 2003 class.
One thing that analysts like to do is look back at the draft and see how teams would have made their selections if they were given a second chance. Often times, people like to do that too early, not letting the players' careers play out. This draft class though , can really be revised, as all the players are established and we know which teams are still struggling 12 years later. It’s tough for the 2003 NHL Draft Class, because there would have been great names all the way from the top to the bottom in the first round.
To give you an idea of how good the first 20 picks were, here are some of the names that didn’t make it in our re-draft: Nathan Horton, Thomas Vanek, Loui Eriksson, Brian Elliott and Tobias Enstrom. That’s really saying something. So how would GMs change their course of action if they could travel back to 2003? Here are what the first 20 picks of that year’s draft might look like in hindsight.
20 Pittsburgh Penguins - Ryan Getzlaf
19 Carolina Hurricanes - Eric Staal
18 Florida Panthers - Shea Weber
17 Columbus Blue Jackets - Marc-Andre Fleury
16 Buffalo Sabres - Corey Perry
15 San Jose Sharks - Zach Parise
14 Nashville Predators - Brent Seabrook
13 Atlanta Thrashers - Corey Crawford
12 Calgary Flames - Dustin Byfuglien
11 Montreal Canadiens - Patrice Bergeron
10 Philadelphia Flyers - Ryan Suter
9 New York Rangers - Dion Phaneuf
8 Los Angeles Kings - Dustin Brown
7 Chicago Blackhawks - Jimmy Howard
6 New York Islanders - Mike Richards
5 San Jose Sharks - Joe Pavelski
4 New Jersey Devils - David Backes
3 Washington Capitals - Ryan Kesler
2 Anaheim Ducks - Jeff Carter
1 Minnesota Wild - Jaroslav Halak
Minnesota got some solid production out of Brent Burns, who was their 20th selection in the draft. The Wild did not have a strong goalie rotation at the time, so they would have preferred to have Jaroslav Halak, as Niklas Backstrom would not be signed by the team until 2006. So far in his career, Halak has posted a goalie record of 182-102 with an average goals allowed of 2.39 per game. Halak was named to the 2015 All-Star Game, and won the William M. Jennings Trophy for the lowest GAA during the 2011-12 season.
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