To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first NHL Draft, NHL.com assembled a 13-member panel to select the best first-round picks of all time, based on selection number. NHL.com will feature one of the top first-round picks each day, beginning with the best No. 30 pick on June 1 and culminating with the all-time No. 1 pick on June 30, the day of the 2013 NHL Draft.
Take a look at the rosters from any NHL All-Star Game after 2005, or the rosters from the 2010 Olympics. Or examine the rosters from the past half-dozen Stanley Cup champions, or the list of NHL award finalists from the past few years. One of the things you will find with absolute certainty is someone from the famed 2003 NHL Draft class in a prominent spot.
The NHL.com Dream Draft is no different, with eight players from the first round of that historic year earning a vote, and five of them being named the best at their draft slot.
However, only one was a unanimous selection: Corey Perry of the Anaheim Ducks, voted by all 13 members of the NHL.com Dream Draft panel as the best No. 28 first-round pick.
The Ducks went into the 2003 draft with one first-round pick, No. 19, which they used on center Ryan Getzlaf. But the Dallas Stars made the Ducks an offer that would give Anaheim the No. 28 pick in exchange for the Ducks' two second-round picks. Anaheim GM Bryan Murray said yes, and at No. 28 selected Perry, a big power forward with the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League.
Perry spent two more seasons with London, scoring 87 goals in 126 games, then made the Ducks' roster to start the 2005-06 season. He had an assist in his NHL debut -- Oct. 5 against the Chicago Blackhawks -- but after scoring one goal in 15 games was sent to Anaheim's American Hockey League affiliate, the Portland Pirates.
He returned nearly two months later better equipped for the NHL and finished his rookie season with 13 goals and 25 points in 56 games, and three assists in 11 Stanley Cup Playoff games.
He continued his growth the following season, totaling 17 goals and 44 points in 82 games, but his play took off during the playoffs. Placed on a "Kid Line" alongside Getzlaf and rookie Dustin Penner, Perry finished tied for second on the team with 15 points in 21 games to help the Ducks win their first Stanley Cup.
Perry skated in the first of his three NHL All-Star Games the next season, had his first 30-goal season in 2008-09, then helped Canada win gold at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.
He found another level to his game in 2010-11. While Getzlaf was drawing much of the attention, Perry stole the spotlight, finishing with a League-best 50 goals and winning the Hart Trophy as League MVP.
He followed his breakout season with a team-best 37 goals in 2011-12, and this season tied Getzlaf for the team lead with 15 goals and was second with 36 points. Perry also received an eight-year contract extension reportedly worth $69 million.
The 28-year-old continues to be arguably the game's best power forward, and for the 13 members of NHL.com's Dream Draft panel, was an easy choice as the best pick at No. 28.
"It really came down to Perry and Justin Williams, who went to the Flyers at No. 28 in 2000," NHL.com senior writer Dan Rosen said. "But really it was a no-contest. Williams is a clutch player who has won the Stanley Cup twice, but Perry was the hands-down winner for me. He has turned into a game-changer for the Ducks, a Hart Trophy winner, a Rocket Richard winner and a Stanley Cup champion. They got great value in Perry at No. 28 -- and now they're paying him for it."