|Stephen Weiss takes a photo after being selected with the fourth overall selection in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft at then National Car Rental Center in Sunrise, FL.
Back in 2001, the Panthers held the fourth overall selection. What made the process even more special was the fact that Florida was the host city for the draft.
After Ilya Kovalchuk (Atlanta), Jason Spezza (Ottawa) and Alexandr Svitov (Tampa Bay) were selected with the first three selections respectively, the Panthers stepped up to the podium and announced the name of Stephen Weiss
, a center from the OHL's Plymouth Whalers. Weiss was the third ranked North American skater according to Central Scouting Service after potting 40 goals and adding 47 assists for 87 points in 62 regular season games and 23 points (seven goals) in 18 playoff games.
Ten years later, Weiss is the franchise's longest tenured player after calling Florida his home for his entire nine-year NHL playing career. Weiss, who moved into fourth all-time on the franchise all-time game played list during the 2010-11 season, reflects back on the June afternoon when his name was called as well as the entire draft process on his way to becoming a Panther. Floridapanthers.com: Heading into the draft, what were your expectations?Weiss:
"For me, I was rated decently high so I had sort of an idea of where I was going to go, hopefully somewhere in the top 10. But again, you never know so you're nervous about that. You're nervous about what team you're going to go to and you're nervous for your family as well. They're there with you and you can tell that they're super nervous and excited. Those are the emotions going through just before it gets started."FP.com: What were your thoughts on coming down to Florida for the draft? Was it your first time in the area?Weiss:
"I actually had been down, I think once, to meet with the management and get a tour of the rink and stuff. Obviously they were one of the teams picking at the top of the draft so I got to see a little bit of the city and really enjoyed it. Then when we got down to the draft, I actually had a lot of family here so we just hung out and enjoyed the weather and tried to just keep it as loose and calm as possible, not really think too much about what was to come and just enjoyed the time with the family down here. It was more of a vacation than anything. I really enjoyed the area around the rink, the mall was really cool, and the restaurants and down by the beach obviously were neat. We had a blast down here."FP.com: Did you get to do anything fun like an airboat ride or head up to Orlando during your time off?Weiss:
"No. I had a bunch of interviews with a lot of teams so I was still kind of doing that stuff on the side. Other than that, we just hung out by the beach and by the pool and did the dinners and stuff like that with the family."FP.com: In your pre-draft meetings, did Florida seem to be interested or where they playing "coy"?Weiss:
"I remember the meetings went really well. My meetings went well with every team. I don't think I had any team where the meetings didn't go well. Florida went real well and meeting with Chuck Fletcher (current Minnesota GM), I thought he was a really smart hockey mind. I didn't know much of him and he was a little bit younger at the time. I really liked him a lot and Florida was one of the teams that I really wanted to go to, because of him and Duane Sutter at the time as well. I really liked Duane a lot too."FP.com: Waiting for the fourth pick and your name to be called, what was that like to have to wait hear your name?Weiss:
"It was a piece of cake really. Just three picks and then me so I was ecstatic to go where I went. (Ilya) Kovalchuk was one and then (Jason) Spezza and then (Alexandr) Svitov went third. Some pretty darn good players that went ahead of me and I was fourth. I was on cloud nine when they called my name. My agent actually tipped me off. Somebody from Florida kind of turned back and winked at him just before the pick and he leaned over to me and said get ready to go. I had a bit of a heads up, maybe about 30 seconds before the pick was announced, so it was cool."FP.com: Being drafted in the home city, what kind of reception did you get?Weiss:
"It was great. There was a lot of people there and there was a lot of noise and then afterwards going downstairs and meeting all the people from the staff and some fans and you get to make a phone call to somebody back home. All that was pretty cool. There was just a lot of people around that wanted to meet you and get your autograph and shake your hand. As an 18-year old, it was pretty overwhelming that's for sure. When you get your family down there and they're obviously a little emotional and pretty pumped as well. You get all of the pictures taken. It's just very overwhelming, the whole day. FP.com: Is there one thing you'll remember the most about the whole draft process?Weiss:
"Yeah definitely. I think just the initial part when your name gets called. I think over the years, you watch the draft always and you see the guys stand up and hug their family and give their mom and dad a hug and a kiss and do the same for all of the people that are there, so that's probably the best moment, when you get picked and you can finally let loose and give everyone a hug and a kiss. It's as much of a relief for them as it is for you to get it all over with."FP.com: Where's your draft jersey now?Weiss:
"I'm pretty sure it's all framed up and back home. My mom has got all that tucked away."FP.com: Any advice for the kids that are going through the draft process now?Weiss:
"Just relax and enjoy it. It's easy to say now, but at the time it's pretty nerve-wracking. Keep yourself as calm as you can and relax and just enjoy the whole process. Don't be too concerned about how high you're getting picked, where you're going, what team you're going to. That's all out of your control. The only thing in your control is what you can do during the season and afterwards it is what it is. It doesn't matter if you're first overall or 200th overall. Everyone has pretty much the same chance to make it. You still have got to put the work in in the summer and come to camp and make the hockey club and go from there. You look at Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen and Pavel Datsyuk and guys like that that went in the sixth-seventh round and they're the best players in the world.