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Can this year’s draft stand up to the lore of the 2003 draft’s player-finding bonanza?

More than a few scouting types have suggested that this year's draft class reminds them of the 2003 draft class, but the Globe and Mail's Eric Duhatschek's "ten years later" article about the '03 draft suggests that players like Nathan McKinnon, Seth Jones and the like have a long way to go to live up to what was an utterly "silly good" pair of days in Nashville:

The hometown Predators essentially built their defence for close to a decade around three players they landed that year – Ryan Suter, Shea Weber and Kevin Klein. The Anaheim Ducks drafted two cornerstones, Ryan Getzlaf at 19 and Corey Perry at 28, while the Philadelphia Flyers plucked Jeff Carter at 11 and Mike Richards at 24 and essentially helped put the finishing touches on the Los Angeles Kings’ 2012 Stanley Cup winner.

NHL draft gurus like to talk about draft years the way oenologists talk about wine vintages. Most of the hockey variety will say the 1979 draft, which was a double cohort because of the NHL-WHA merger was the deepest and most profoundly influential draft class in NHL history.

But once you get past 1979, there are those who believe 2003 might be the next greatest, a year in which future Hart and Norris Trophy candidates were drafted, Stanley Cup champions, dozens of Olympians and many, many cornerstone players.

“At every draft, you hear the same thing from teams – that you’ve got to get players who will play in the NHL,” said former Calgary Flames’ general manager Craig Button, now a draft analyst for TSN. “The players that came out of the 2003 draft didn’t just play. These guys were captains, won gold medals, won Stanley Cups, won major awards – and we’re talking about key contributors at key times. Eric Staal became a big-time performer when Carolina won. Ryan Getzlaf was a big-time performer when they won. Even though Zach Parise fell a little with New Jersey (in 2012), they were riding on his back.

“When you think about the offer sheet on Weber, the biggest offer sheet in history was on Shea Weber, another one from that draft. We’re talking about front-line players at every turn.”

Salary is not always a good measure of impact, but among the NHL’s top-paid players for the upcoming 2013-14 season in terms of actual dollars paid, four of the top six were drafted in 2003 (Weber, Zach Parise, Suter and Eric Staal). By salary-cap average, it is even higher: Six crack the top 10 (Perry, Staal, Getzlaf, Weber, Parise and Suter) and Thomas Vanek is at No. 15.

By any measure, that is a significant bounty of talent, one that changed the fortunes of a number of teams, including the host team Nashville.


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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.

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