NHL Draft 2023: Reflecting on the 2003 Draft Class, 20 Years Later
The 2023 NHL Draft in Nashville commemorates the 20th anniversary of what is considered the greatest draft class of all time, which took place in the same city. The 2003 draft produced numerous legends and a handful of future Hall of Famers.
The 2003 draft class began with Marc-Andre Fleury and Eric Staal as the top two picks, but the future NHL All-Stars continued to be selected even late into the draft. In total, an astonishing 27 future All-Stars were chosen in Nashville 20 years ago.
It’s worth noting that this number doesn’t even include players like Nathan Horton, Braydon Coburn, Eric Fehr, Mark Stuart, Patrick Eaves, Kevin Klein, and Matt Carle. Despite their long and successful careers, they never made it to an All-Star Game.
Not only did the 2003 draft class boast star power, but it also had remarkable longevity, with 11 players still active in the 2022-23 season. The draft class was filled with NHL-caliber talent, and it may be a while before we witness another class like it.
Let’s take a closer look at the 27 All-Stars produced by the 2003 NHL Draft and see how their careers unfolded:
Marc-Andre Fleury | G
Drafted: 1st overall by the Pittsburgh Penguins
All-Star Appearances: 2011, 2015, 2018-2019
Fleury, the last goalie to be selected first overall, had a slow start in the NHL but eventually found his footing. He played a crucial role in leading the Penguins to three Stanley Cups and won the Vezina Trophy in 2021.
Eric Staal | C
Drafted: 2nd overall by the Carolina Hurricanes
All-Star Appearances: 2007-2009, 2011, 2018, 2020
Staal had a breakout season in his second year, scoring 45 goals and winning the Stanley Cup with the Hurricanes in 2006. He went on to have a successful career with multiple teams, including reaching the Stanley Cup Final with the Florida Panthers.
Thomas Vanek | LW
Drafted: 5th overall by the Buffalo Sabres
All-Star Appearance: 2009
Vanek established himself as a consistent goal scorer, surpassing 20 goals in each of his first 10 NHL seasons. He ended his career with 373 goals and was known for his lethal power play abilities.
Milan Michalek | LW
Drafted: 6th overall by the San Jose Sharks
All-Star Appearance: 2012
Michalek had a solid career, scoring consistently and reaching the 35-goal mark in the 2011-12 season. He played for multiple teams and retired in 2017.
Ryan Suter | D
Drafted: 7th overall by the Nashville Predators
All-Star Appearances: 2012, 2015, 2017
Suter played nearly two decades in the NHL, primarily with the Predators and the Minnesota Wild. He was known for his defensive prowess and played a key role in Nashville’s playoff success.
Dion Phaneuf | D
Drafted: 9th overall by the Calgary Flames
All-Star Appearances: 2007-2008, 2012
Phaneuf made an immediate impact in his rookie season, scoring 20 goals and finishing third in Calder Trophy voting. He was known for his physicality and offensive contributions from the blue line.
Jeff Carter | C
Drafted: 11th overall by.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about NHL Draft
Q: What is the NHL Draft?
A: The NHL Draft is an annual event where NHL teams select eligible ice hockey players to join their teams. It is a way for teams to acquire new talent and build their rosters for the upcoming season.
Q: How does the NHL Draft work?
A: The NHL Draft follows a predetermined order of selection, with teams taking turns choosing players in a “snake” format. The order is based on team performance from the previous season, with the team finishing last having the highest pick. Each team gets one pick per round, and the process continues until all rounds are completed.
Q: Who is eligible for the NHL Draft?
A: Eligible players for the NHL Draft are typically amateur ice hockey players who are at least 18 years old and have not been drafted previously. This includes players from various leagues and countries who meet the league’s eligibility criteria.
Q: What happens after a player is drafted?
A: Once a player is drafted, they are generally signed to an entry-level contract by the NHL team that selected them. The player may then join the team’s development program, play in their minor league affiliate, or potentially make the NHL roster, depending on their skill level and development needs.
Q: Are all draft picks guaranteed to make it to the NHL?
A: Not all draft picks make it to the NHL. Some players may require more development time, face injuries, or fail to meet expectations. The NHL Draft is a way for teams to identify and acquire promising talent, but success in making it to the NHL ultimately depends on various factors and individual player performance.