We learned in the 2002 Draft Retrospective the Toronto Maple Leafs had a very good draft in what was known as a very bad draft for the league as a whole. The 2003 Draft, however, is almost universally considered the Best Draft Ever. But just how good was it?
Here’s what the Leafs did on Draft Day 2003:
And here’s how those players turned out compared to their peers:
-Yeah, not too pretty. I guess after three better-than-average drafts, the Leafs were due for a stinker. John Mitchell was the only pick to have a lengthy NHL career, and he was a fifth-rounder. Mitchell has developed into a pretty useful bottom-six centre for the Colorado Avalanche.
-Goaltenders Are Voodoo Part 3789: Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott (recent teammates in St. Louis, weirdly enough) are both 2003 ninth-round picks. Other notable ninth-rounders: Matt Moulson and Tanner Glass. Dustin Byfuglien, Toby Enstrom and Shane O’Brien were eighth-rounders.
-I was really confused when I saw the Penguins selected Andy Chiodo in this draft, when the Islanders already picked him in ’01. Turns out you can re-enter a draft. You learn something new every day.
-The Phoenix Coyotes are the first team I’ve seen so far completely strike out in a draft in this study, going 0-for-8. They were the only team who had a worse draft than the Leafs. (Thanks, ‘Yotes!)
-The San Jose Sharks had quite a remarkable draft, picking Milan Michalek (sixth), Steve Bernier (16th), Matt Carle (47th) and Joe Pavelski (205th!!!). They’ve all played at least 500 games in their respective careers. Interestingly, the only player among that group who still plays for the Sharks is Pavelski.
-Shout-out to the Anaheim Ducks as well, who drafted the two cornerstones of their franchise in the first round in Ryan Getzlaf (19th) and Corey Perry (28th). They did pretty well snagging Drew Miller (186th) and O’Brien (250th) in the later rounds, too.
-I felt guilty not giving the Philadelphia Flyers their own observation so here it is. Like the Ducks, the Flyers grabbed two future All-Stars in Jeff Carter and Mike Richards in the first round. They traded them both away in the summer of 2011, but acquired enough good young players and picks back that they’ve been able to stay competitive.
Top Three Picks
3. Nathan Horton, Florida Panthers
Horton was another highly touted young player who had early success in his career, but hasn’t been able to match that in his later years. From 2005-06 to ’07-08, Horton had seasons of 28, 31 and 27 goals. He didn’t play another full season until 2010-11 when he was traded to the Boston Bruins, scoring 26 goals that year. Horton has dealt with injuries for much of his career, and missed most of 2013-14 recovering from shoulder surgery. He was signed to a huge seven-year deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets last offseason, and they’ll be hoping he can come back next season fully healthy and ready to contribute.
2. Eric Staal, Carolina Hurricanes
Like Horton, Staal had his best offensive season when he was young, scoring 45 goals and 100 points as a 21-year-old in ’05-06. That also happened to be the year his Hurricanes won the Stanley Cup. After that, Staal has enjoyed some individual success with six straight seasons of 70+ points and his only other 40-goal campaign in ’08-09. The ‘Canes, however, have missed the playoffs the last five seasons and Staal had a tough 2013-14, putting up his lowest scoring numbers in an 82-game season since his rookie year.
1. Marc-Andre Fleury, Pittsburgh Penguins
A lot of goalies from this draft have had good careers, and Fleury is one of them. However, he hasn’t been the dominant force you would expect a first overall pick to be. Fleury has a decent .910 save percentage in 531 career regular season games, but that number deflates to .905 in the postseason. The Penguins’ recent playoff failures have a lot of people calling for sweeping changes (the general manager is already out and a decision has yet to be made on the head coach), and one of those changes might be in goal. A change of scenery could do the 29-year-old veteran some good.
2003 NHL All-Draft Teams
C- Ryan Getzlaf
RW- Corey Perry
LW- Zach Parise
D- Ryan Suter
D- Shea Weber
G- Jaroslav Halak
C- Eric Staal
RW- Thomas Vanek
LW- Loui Eriksson
D- Dustin Byfuglien
G- Jimmy Howard