“Unfortunately, we lost Suter (to free agency), but that draft set us up for the last six or seven years because the foundation of our team was Suter, Weber and our goaltender (Pekka Rinne).”
Of course, as with every draft, there were memorable hits and misses. Fleury went first overall to the Penguins and won a Stanley Cup with them, before his game went off the rails in the past two post-seasons. Nikolai Zherdev went to the Columbus Blue Jackets fourth overall and never found his way in the NHL, despite tons of talent. It was the same with Andrei Kostitsyn, No. 10 to the Montreal Canadiens. Perhaps no team fumbled the ball worse than the New York Rangers, who took Hugh Jessiman from Dartmouth at No. 12, passing on the likes of Dustin Brown, Brent Seabrook, Parise, Brent Burns, Ryan Kesler and others.
That same spring, the Ducks got to the Stanley Cup final and lost to the New Jersey Devils in seven games. Under today’s amended draft rules, that would have put them 29th in the draft order (because teams that advance to the conference final are automatically placed at the end of the first round). However, back then, the Ducks were able to stay at 19, because they only had the seventh best record in the conference, which is how they came to draft Getzlaf. As for picking Perry at No. 28, the Ducks traded up to get that pick, giving a pair of seconds to the Dallas Stars. Perry won an MVP award, the Stars actually did OK with their seconds, drafting Loui Eriksson as a decent consolation prize along with B.J. Crombeen.
The champion Devils meanwhile made an astute trade, moving up from No. 22 (a pick acquired from the St. Louis Blues) to No. 17, which is where the Edmonton Oilers were selecting. To move down five places, the Oilers received an extra second-round pick. New Jersey took a future superstar in Parise; Edmonton settled for Marc-Antoine Pouliot at 22 and J.F. Jacques at 68. Not a good day for the Oilers.
David McNab, the Ducks’ senior vice president of hockey operations, says he told his friend, Devils’ David Conte, the Devils’ executive VP of hockey operations: “This isn’t the way the draft is supposed to work. You guys won the Stanley Cup – and you get Zach Parise. When you think about it, the two teams in the finals got Getzlaf, Perry and Parise.
Pretty great, actually.
According to McNab, the Ducks’ scouts had a group of players they wanted in the first round “and the last guy in that group was Corey Perry. So I give our scouts credit. We zeroed in on Corey Perry. It wasn’t as if we traded up get a first-round pick and then just take who was there. It was ‘we only would have made the trade if Corey Perry was there.’ So every time somebody picked and Perry didn’t go, Bryan Murray (the Duck’s GM) went to the next team and made an offer. And that’s sometimes a tough time to get a team to make a trade because the scouts are ready and anxious to make a pick and then the GM says, ‘OK, we’re moving the pick.’”
The story of how the Predators happened to land Weber 49th overall began with a pick that worked out far less well for them. Two years before, Nashville spent a second-round pick on Tomas Slovak, a Czech who came to North America and ended up playing for the Kelowna Rockets of the Western Hockey League. Slovak was a top-four defenceman on the Rockets in 2002-03 and so the Predators spent a lot of time in his second draft year, watching him and seeing if he was worth signing. Spending all that time in Kelowna, they also had a chance to see a smallish defenceman playing on the third pair who seemed to have great hockey sense and a fierce competitive streak.
Weber is 6-4 and 234 pounds now, but he was considered undersized in his draft year.