Hockey Night in Canada


NHL Draft: Can this year's class rival 2003?

Once Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel are selected Friday night along with 28 others in the first round of the NHL Draft, only time will tell if this year's will be considered the deepest crop of 18-year-old picks ever, or at least since 2003.

Fleury, Staal, Parise, Getzlaf, Perry chosen in 1st round 12 years ago

From left, Marc-Andre Fleury (No. 1 overall), Eric Staal (No. 2), Ryan Getzlaf (No. 19) and Corey Perry (No. 28) were first-round picks in what is considered the deepest NHL draft ever of 18-year-olds in 2003. Down the road, this weekend's event in Sunrise, Fla., headlined by Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel, could rival that 2003 draft.

Canadian hockey fans had barely digested the names of 2014 first-round NHL draft picks Leon Draisaitl, Sam Bennett, William Nylander and Nikolaj Ehlers before talk began about a talent-filled 2015 event.

Ontario Hockey League star Connor McDavid and Boston University standout Jack Eichel immediately were deemed the headliners for this weekend's draft in Sunrise, Fla.

But once this dynamic duo is selected Friday night along with Noah Hanifin, Dylan Strome, Mitch Marner, Ivan Provorov, Lawson Crouse and many others in the first round, only time will tell if this draft will be considered the deepest crop of 18-year-old picks ever, or at least since 2003.

The 2003 draft in Nashville featured goalie Marc-Andre Fleury (still with Pittsburgh) as the No. 1 overall selection, followed by centre Eric Staal (still with Carolina) forward Nathan Horton (picked by Florida, now an injured Toronto Maple Leaf) Nikolay Zherdev (by Columbus, now out of the NHL) and winger Thomas Vanek (by Buffalo, now with Minnesota).

Later on, the host Philadelphia Flyers grabbed Jeff Carter at No. 11, New Jersey picked Zach Parise 17th overall and Anaheim chose future stars Ryan Getzlaf (No. 19) and Corey Perry (No. 28).

Ten of the 30 players in the first round competed in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, 21 are current NHL regulars, eight played at least one NHL game within eight years of the draft and 24 have appeared in at least 300 career regular-season games.

Below is a recap of the first round from 2003:

  1. Marc-Andre Fleury, G, Pittsburgh
  2. Eric Staal, C, Carolina
  3. Nathan Horton, C, Florida
  4. Nikolay Zherdev, RW, Columbus
  5. Thomas Vanek, LW, Buffalo
  6. Milan Michalek, LW, San Jose
  7. Ryan Suter, D, Nashville
  8. Braydon Coburn, D, Atlanta
  9. Dion Phaneuf, D, Calgary
  10. Andrei Kostitsyn, LW, Montreal
  11. Jeff Carter, C, Philadelphia
  12. Hugh Jessiman, RW, NY Rangers
  13. Dustin Brown, RW, Los Angeles
  14. Brent Seabrook, D, Chicago
  15. Robert Nilsson, C, NY Islanders
  16. Steve Bernier, RW, San Jose
  17. Zach Parise, LW, New Jersey
  18. Eric Fehr, C, Washington
  19. Ryan Getzlaf, C, Anaheim
  20. Brent Burns, F/D, Minnesota
  21. Mark Stuart, D, Boston
  22. Marc-Antoine Pouliot, C, Edmonton
  23. Ryan Kesler, C, Vancouver
  24. Mike Richards, C, Philadelphia
  25. Anthony Stewart, RW, Florida
  26. Brian Boyle, C, Los Angeles
  27. Jeff Tambellini, LW, Los Angeles
  28. Corey Perry, RW, Anaheim
  29. Patrick Eaves, RW, Ottawa
  30. Shawn Belle, D, St. Louis


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