The 2003 NHL Entry Draft was held at the Gaylord Entertainment Center in Nashville, Tennessee on June 21-22, 2003. It was famous for being one of the deepest pools of talent in any NHL draft.
Several All-Star-caliber players were drafted in the 2003 draft. It was a draft deep enough so that a great deal of talent fell to the second round. It is a fascinating draft, even to fans whose teams were not the primary beneficiaries, such as the Washington Capitals.
The first overall pick was Marc-Andre-Fleury. The Florida Panthers, who held the first pick overall, traded the pick and their 73rd pick to the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for the third pick overall, the 55th pick, and winger Mikael Samuelsson.
The Penguins used that pick to choose Fleury. Fleury went on to win three Stanley Cups with the Penguins before getting chosen by the Vegas Golden Knights before the 2017-18 season. Fleury was also part of two teams who lost the Stanley Cup Finals, once with Vegas in 2018 and the other time with the Penguins in 2007.
Photo: Pittsburgh Trib Live
20 years after that draft, eleven players from that draft were still active during the 2022-23 season, which included seven first-rounders and four from later rounds. The active players were:
- Marc-Andre Fleury (Pick #1),
- Eric Staal (Pick #2),
- Ryan Suter (Pick #7),
- Jeff Carter (Pick #11),
- Zack Parise (Pick #17),
- Brent Burns (Pick #20),
- Corey Perry (Pick #28),
- Patrice Bergeron (Round 2 — Pick #45),
- Joe Pavelski (Round 7 — Pick #205),
- Jaroslav Halak (Round 9 — Pick #271), and
- Brian Elliott (Round 9 — Pick #291). The only active player who remains with the team that drafted him is Patrice Bergeron.
As it turns out, all the first-round selections played at least one game in the NHL, although to the everlasting embarrassment of the New York Rangers, right-wing Hugh Jessiman, who they selected with the twelfth pick overall, played just two games in the NHL, as they left talents like Ryan Getzlaf, Brent Burns, Corey Perry, and Patrice Bergeron on the board.
Overall, 130 of the 292 players drafted played at least 1 NHL game. The St. Louis Blues drafted a bust in the first round by choosing Shawn Belle who played just 20 NHL games.
Photo: Getty Images
2003 was truly the year to have multiple picks in the first round. One of the winners in that draft was the Anaheim Ducks. They drafted center Ryan Getzlaf with pick #19 and right-wing Corey Perry with pick #28. Both were, coincidentally, Canadian forwards, who were born in May of 1985. They were important parts of the Ducks’ Stanley Cup-winning team of 2006-07 and were long-term stalwarts on the team. Getzlaf became their captain and played for the Ducks until his retirement after the 2021-22 season. Perry played with them through 2018-19 until he was bought out. He was still active in 2022-23.
The Philadelphia Flyers were another team who had two first-round selections that year, choosing center Jeff Carter with pick #12 and center Mike Richards with pick #24. Both were important parts of a perennial contending Philadelphia Flyers team until they were traded after the 2010-11 season, Carter to the Columbus Blue Jackets and Richards to the Los Angeles Kings. They were both part of the Kings team who were Stanley Cup winners in 2012 and 2014 and Western Conference Finalists in 2013 and 2015, joining Dustin Brown, the Kings’ own first draft pick from 2003 (#13 overall) who was their Captain. Carter was still active in 2022-23. Richards eventually played his last season, 2015-16, with the Capitals.
The Los Angeles Kings had two other first-round picks besides Dustin Brown: Jeff Tambellini (Pick #26) and Brian Boyle (Pick #27). Tambellini never established himself as a regular in the NHL and last played in the NHL in 2010-11 before playing overseas. Boyle played in the NHL through 2021-22 but was never part of any of the Kings’ Stanley Cup-winning teams. He played for the New York Rangers in 2013-14, the year the Rangers advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals but lost to the Los Angeles Kings.
Within that draft, 16 players from that draft have played in 1000 NHL games with the most being played by Eric Staal (1365) and Ryan Sutter (1362). Six players have scored more than 400 career goals: Eric Staal (455), Joe Pavelski (449), Jeff Carter (431), Zach Parise (429), Patrice Bergeron (427), and Corey Perry (417). Four players have topped 1000 NHL points: Eric Staal (1063), Patrice Bergeron (1040), Ryan Getzlaf (1019), and Joe Pavelski (1001). The assists leader was Getzlaf (737), followed by Bergeron (613) and Staal (608). 48 players from that draft played in at least 500 games while 69 played in at least 200 games and 82 had played in at least 100 games.
The goaltender playing the most games was Marc-Andre Fleury who had nearly 1000 regular season games to his credit. Other goaltenders playing in a substantial number of games were Corey Crawford. Jimmy Howard, Brian Elliott, and Jaroslav Halak. Crawford played 488 games while the other three played between 500-600 games.
The only draftee of the Washington Capitals who played for them was Eric Fehr. He played 419 games for them and 652 for his career. His career was hampered by numerous injuries, including a back injury and shoulder injuries. There is the everlasting regret that they missed out on Ryan Getzlaf who was chosen with the very next pick.
By Diane Doyle