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All-Star Weekend A Reunion for '03 Draft Class

by Jay Levin / Nashville Predators
The league is on break for the NHL's All-Star Weekend (Friday through Sunday in Raleigh, NC), and one can’t help but think this weekend will have a very familiar feel for many of the players. After all, seven and a half years ago, 10 of this year’s All-Stars, including Preds All-Star rep Shea Weber, were participants at another major league event, the 2003 NHL Entry Draft hosted by the Nashville Predators and Bridgestone Arena.

The ’03 Draft has been very fruitful for the Preds on the ice – Weber, Ryan Suter, Kevin Klein, and Alexander Sulzer were all members of Nashville’s ’03 Draft Class, not to mention current Preds defenseman Shane O’Brien (Anaheim’s 8th Round pick in ’03). But the legacy of that June weekend in Nashville, TN has been felt throughout the league.

What If...
What if the 2003 Draft Class was allowed to take on the rest of the NHL in an All-Star Showdown. Who might earn spots on the ’03 squad?

Backes, Carter,
Eriksson, Getzlaf, Kesler, Parise, Perry, Mike Richards, Staal, Vanek, LA Kings Captain Dustin Brown, Boston’s Nathan Horton, the No. 3 overall pick in the ’03 draft, NY Islanders star Matt Moulson, San Jose ’10 playoff star Joe Pavelski, and Phoenix sniper Lee Stempniak provide a strong selection pool at forward.

Nashville’s Weber and Suter are one potential d-pairing; Atlanta’s Byfuglien and Enstrom are a second potential pairing, with Burns, two-time All-Star Dion Phaneuf and Canadian Olympian Brent Seabrook filling out an impressive selection pool on defense.

Fleury, Halak, and Howard, along with Chicago rookie Corey Crawford (the 52nd overall pick in ’03) provide solid options in net.

--Jay Levin,
The first two picks in the ’03 Draft – Marc-Andre Fleury and Eric Staal – will both be participating in this weekend’s All-Star Game. Both were also key components to Stanley Cup Championship teams. First rounders Brent Burns (Minnesota, 20th overall), Ryan Kesler (Vancouver, 23rd overall), and Corey Perry (Anaheim, 28th overall) will also be at All-Star Weekend, as will three members of the ’03 second round (David Backes – St. Louis, Loui Eriksson – Dallas, Shea Weber – Nashville). Late round gems Dustin Byfuglien (8th Round, 245th overall) and Toby Enstrom (currently injured -- 8th Round, 239th overall) round out the contingent.

Only the 2005 Draft class (seven All-Star representatives this year) comes close to matching the group from ’03. No other draft class has produced more than three of this year’s All-Stars.

Including this year’s participants, the '03 draft has now sent 17 players to an NHL All-Star Game, but the ’03 Draft also boasts some of the more notable All-Star “snubs” this season. First rounders Tomas Vanek (5th overall pick, ’09 All-Star Game participant), Ryan Suter (7th overall pick, 2010 US Olympic Team standout), Jeff Carter (11th overall pick, ’09 All-Star Game participant), and Mike Richards (24th overall pick, ’08 All-Star Game participant) can all make a strong claim for inclusion in this year’s game. Goaltenders Jimmy Howard (2nd Round, 64th overall) and Jaroslav Halak (9th Round, 271st overall) both had impressive resumes, while Zach Parise (17th overall pick) and Ryan Getzlaf (19th overall pick) were both All-Stars in the past, and likely would have drawn major consideration if not for injuries this year.

"It was a great draft," 2010 All-Star Game captain Eric Staal told "We had a lot of skilled guys and a lot of great players. It's neat to see a lot of those familiar faces you get to see growing up, playing juniors, the World Juniors, that sort of thing. It's neat to see everyone here again."

With the NHL tweaking the match-up process for the All-Star Game --- Team Captains Nicklas Lidstrom and Eric Staal are picking sides from an All-Star pool this year --- wouldn’t a ’03 Draft Class vs. The World match-up have an enticing hook for a future All-Star Game?

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