The 2015 NHL All-Star Weekend doubled as a class reunion.
Eleven members of the NHL Draft Class of 2003 were in Columbus, and a 12th was originally selected but could not participate because of injury. That's more than double any other draft class, and another example of the exemplary talent that extraordinary draft cycle produced.
"We actually talked about that on the bus," Minnesota Wild defenseman Ryan Suter said on All-Star media day. "Guys were asking what draft other guys were in and who was in that draft, and we've got a lot of good players from that draft. It is pretty cool."
The accompanying pie chart breaks down the players who were invited to the 2015 Honda All-Star Game by draft class (not including the rookies who did not play in the game Sunday). The Class of 2003 produced 25 percent of the players invited to Columbus.
Players who were drafted in 1979 or 1988 might argue the point, but the Class of 2003 is trending toward becoming the greatest in the history of the sport. It is certainly the deepest, with all-star level talents sprinkled throughout the final eight rounds to buttress what was one of the greatest first rounds any sport has encountered.
There have been 27 all-stars from the Class of 2003, including 16 of the 30 players selected in the first round and four from the eighth or ninth round (the NHL Draft only has seven rounds these days).
"I've had a pretty good run with the guys I've been seeing for a lot of years," Anaheim Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf said. "We got to the draft and you had seen everybody at all the Canada events, all the USA guys, everyone had been together a lot since we were 15, 16 years old. We've been able to grow up together and experience a lot of things together and playing against each other."
To Getzlaf's point, eight players at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics for Canada were '03 alums, while five members of Canada's roster at the 2014 Sochi Olympics and seven United States players at the tournament were from that draft class.
This particular reunion in Columbus was all about the class's depth. Only five of the 12 players invited were from that fabulous first round. Four of the six goalies who played in the game, and five of the eight invited were drafted in 2003. They ranged from Marc-Andre Fleury at No. 1 to Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott, who were both ninth-round selections (Elliott went second-to-last, 290 picks after Fleury).
It is a draft class that keeps on giving as well. It was the first All-Star appearance for five of the '03 representatives: Patrice Bergeron, Brent Seabrook, Corey Crawford, Halak and Elliott.
"I'm just happy to be here, trying to soak everything in," Bergeron said. "It's another thing I can say that I was part of and I lived the experience, and I know how it's like. Definitely something that when I'll look back on my career, I'll be happy that I've done it."
DISCLAIMER: While the Super 16 is NHL.com's weekly power rankings, it focuses more on the "power" than the "rankings" when determining the order. It's not always going to look like the League standings and likely will take more of a long view than a short one. If two teams are close the tiebreaker almost always is this: If the two teams started a seven-game series right now, who would prevail? Stop by to see where your favorite team ranks, but stay for the information. All rankings, records and statistics are through the games played Wednesday night.
1. Chicago Blackhawks (30-16-2)
The Blackhawks are in the midst of maybe the hardest road trip for any team this season. A three-game swing through California with stops in Minnesota, St. Louis and Winnipeg tacked on at the end. They may scrimmage the Eden Hall varsity team in the middle just to stay sharp.
MUST READ: Bill Petti of The Hardball Times writes a two-part series on the state on analytics in baseball. Replace "baseball" with "hockey" and almost all of it applies to this sport right now as well.
2. St. Louis Blues (29-13-4)
Maxim Lapierre has been a drain on puck possession for several years on several teams. This season he, Steve Ott and Ryan Reaves have been getting caved in while the rest of the Blues flourished. Every other player on the team with at least 30 games played is at 50 percent or better in Corsi-for percentage, while each member of the fourth line is at 43.3 percent or worse. Some of the WOWY numbers are staggering. Marcel Goc will help, a little bit at the very least.
MUST READ: In honor of Martin Brodeur's retirement, check out a great archived profile by Michael Farber for Sports Illustrated.
3. Nashville Predators (31-10-5)
Ask someone for a list of the top people who are making the Predators great this season. The answers are likely to include Pekka Rinne, Peter Laviolette, Filip Forsberg and Shea Weber, because they're all in contention for major awards. James Neal, Roman Josi and Mike Ribeiro will probably all get named before Colin Wilson as well, but maybe no one beyond Rinne and Laviolette has been more important for Nashville.
The top line has been great, but Wilson has been a possession driver with every player on the roster and provided a huge offensive punch while typically skating on the second line. He's leading the team in points per 60 minutes at even strength.
MUST READ: Braden Thompson of On The Forecheck writes about some potential tweaks to Nashville's player usage in the second half of the season.
4. Anaheim Ducks (32-10-6)
The Ducks won by three or more goals four times in the first eight games of the season, then only once after that until Jan. 14. Anaheim has now won four of the past five games by three goals or more, finally showing it can separate from teams.
MUST READ: Doug Johnson from Puck Buddys sits down with Finland's ambassador to the United States for an interesting chat about #TeemuForever and other Finns who play hockey.
5. Detroit Red Wings (28-11-9)
The Red Wings continue to be the masters of suffocating shot attempts. Detroit is allowing 3.2 fewer per 60 minutes than second-stingiest Tampa Bay. For an idea of how clustered the middle is in this area, that's about the difference between 6th and 19th.
MUST READ: Donna Spencer of The Canadian Press writes about Gordie Howe's continuing remarkable recovery after a stem cell treatment.
6. Tampa Bay Lightning (30-15-4)
Teams like the Blackhawks and New York Islanders are near the top in puck possession as high-event teams, and the Red Wings are there in part because of their ability to play low-event games. The Lightning are in the middle, ninth in shot attempts per 60 minutes at even strength and 18th in shots goal per game, but are also top-five in Corsi-for percentage and first in goals per game.
MUST READ: Matt Crossman of Bleacher Report writes about some wild nights in the trenches with NHL dentists.
7. New York Islanders (32-14-1)
The Islanders didn't miss Kyle Okposo against their rivals from Midtown, but their depth up front is going to face a stern test. Not only is Okposo out, but Ryan Strome and Anders Lee are about to go through the "dog days" of an NHL season for the first time. Every forward logged between 11:18 and 17:48 of ice time against the Rangers.
MUST READ: Mark Hermann of Newsday writes about how stars around the League have noticed the Islanders and Rangers returning to contender status.
8. Winnipeg Jets (26-15-8)
If anyone doesn't believe in the Jets at this point, maybe a scouting report from Los Angeles Kings star Anze Kopitar will help.
"They have a lot of meat on that team," Kopitar said. "They play hard and they play fast. They come after you. It reminds me a lot of our team. We have lots of big bodies and we want to play fast and play a puck possession game and that's what they're doing."
MUST READ: Jacob Stoller of Arctic Ice Hockey writes about a big area of need for the Jets and possible solutions.
9. Los Angeles Kings (21-15-12)
The puck possession numbers are back, but the Kings are 4-4-5 since the holiday break. They are 1-0-0 since Tyler Toffoli returned from a bout with mononucleosis and Mike Richards was sent to the American Hockey League. They're about to embark on a five-game road trip, and 10 of the next 15 are away from Staples Center.
"We've played a lot of hockey the past few years and maybe fatigue has been a factor, but we're all professional and we need to get ready for each and every game," Kopitar said. "We've had some spurts when we played pretty good and up to our potential, but we've also had some moments when we didn't play good at all.
"We realize we're going to have to play better in the second half of the year. We have a big road trip coming up and this is a good time to get things turned around."
MUST READ: Sheng Peng of Jewels From The Crown writes about a potentially troublesome decline in part of Kopitar's game.
10. Pittsburgh Penguins (27-13-8)
The Penguins have dealt with a myriad of injuries, but getting Patric Hornqvist back is going to help. He has been their top shot generator on a per-minute basis this season, particularly on the power play but at even strength as well with Pascal Dupuis out for the season.
MUST READ: Justin Bourne of The Score writes about how technology is changing the sport and the NHL.
11. New York Rangers (27-14-4)
Rick Nash won the Rocket Richard Trophy in 2003-04, tying with two others at 41 goals. That was the lowest total to lead the League in a full season in 41 years. Now Nash has another chance to lead the League, and if he does so the 11 years apart would be an NHL record. The longest anyone has gone between scoring titles is seven years, after Mario Lemieux won in 1988-89 and again in 1995-96.
MUST READ: Chris Boyle of SportsNet writes about where the goals are coming from for Nash.
12. Boston Bruins (25-16-7)
Tuukka Rask's career save percentage is .926, but he's only at .919 after a slow start to the season and then a rough start to December. Since allowing 10 goals in his first two December starts, Rask has played 19 times. His save percentage during that span is .926.
MUST READ: Rob Vollman of ESPN.com writes about a runaway leader in the Selke Trophy race [Hint: the placement of this article is a pretty good clue who he is writing about].
13. Montreal Canadiens (30-13-3)
The 2008 draft was billed as a potential all-timer for defensemen, and despite a few misfires, it has a strong chance of holding up as such. Drew Doughty, Erik Karlsson, Alex Pietrangelo, TJ Brodie, John Carlson, Travis Hamonic, Jake Gardiner, Zach Bogosian, Tyler Myers … it is a deep and talented group.
The group of defensemen from one year prior isn't too shabby either. It includes Kevin Shattenkirk, Ryan McDonagh, Jake Muzzin, Karl Alzner, Brendan Smith, Alec Martinez, and the headliner of the bunch, P.K. Subban. Alzner has played the most games and Shattenkirk is only six points behind Subban, but the guy who went 43rd to the Canadiens would have a pretty strong case to go no worse than second in a re-draft today.
MUST READ: Andrew Berkshire of Eyes On The Prize writes about finding ideal fits with centers and defense pairs.
14. Washington Capitals (25-14-9)
Alex Ovechkin has eased out in front of the goal-scoring race with seven goals in five games. If Ovechkin wins the Rocket Richard Trophy outright, it would be the third straight year and fifth time in his career. The only players in NHL history with five outright goal-scoring titles are Wayne Gretzky and Gordie Howe. Phil Esposito and Bobby Hull have six (Hull tied for the lead once as well).
That's as rarefied as the air gets when it comes to goal scoring in NHL history.
MUST READ: Muneeb Alam of Japers' Rink writes about who takes and draws penalties for the Capitals and how.
15. San Jose Sharks (25-17-6)
At one point the Sharks had won nine of 10 and looked like the San Jose of early 2014. They are 6-6-2 since, and the underlying indicators are slipping a little. Whenever this team isn't rolling, there is going to be unease given what has transpired since taking a 3-0 lead in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in April.
MUST READ: Kevin Kurz of CSN Bay Area writes about the Sharks and the playoff bubble as the stretch run commences.
16. Vancouver Canucks (26-17-3)
Dan Hamhuis just returned after missing nearly two months and now Kevin Bieksa is out 6-8 weeks with a hand injury. The Canucks play Buffalo on Friday, then 17 of the next 20 games are against teams still very much chasing a playoff spot. If Bieksa's timeline is accurate, he's gone until after the 2015 NHL Trade Deadline, so new general manager Jim Benning won't have him back before it is decision time on roster alterations.
MUST READ: Jim Jamieson of The Province writes about three areas the Canucks could stand to improve in.