Originally written on Inside Smashville  |  Last updated 11/18/14

In 2003, the National Hockey League’s Entry Draft was held in Nashville, Tennessee. Every player drafted in the first round has played at least one game in the NHL, the last member of the class to do so was Hugh Jessiman, drafted 12th overall by the New York Rangers. Jessiman made his NHL debut last February playing two games for the Florida Panthers.

When New Jersey was in town to play the Predators in October, Zach Parise, drafted 17th overall in 2003 remarked after the morning skate that it was hard to believe the Predators picked up both Ryan Suter and Shea Weber in the same draft.

“To get two franchise defensemen in one draft is unbelievable. They are two of the best young defensemen in the League right now. Weber is obviously a Norris Trophy finalist, but Suter is just as good. They are tough to play against defensively. You need to know when they are out there, because both of those two are game changers,” he said before noting that it was cool to be a part of such a good draft class.

Ryan Suter was picked 7th overall in the first round. Weber was chosen in the middle of the second round, 49th overall.

Wednesday night, the Predators will face the Anaheim Ducks for the second time this season. Last time the two teams met was on October 29th when the Predators shutout the Ducks 3-0 in what was a physical battle ending with 42 penalty minutes including 3 double minors and 2 fights.

Each time Anaheim and Nashville meet, the 2003 draft is showcased. Last year’s Hart Trophy winner Corey Perry and Ducks Captain Ryan Getzlaf are also products of the Music City draft.

Both players are considered to be elite forwards among the most talented in the League, both are Canadian Olympians and both have fond memories of their draft class.

Perry calls his draft one of the strongest ever. “A lot of guys have gone on to have successful careers who were drafted in 2003. It was just one of those things where a lot of talent came out of one group. It was such a strong group of players, a lot of careers have really taken off” Perry said adding about Weber and Suter, “They are pretty good players. They are two of the top defensemen in this League. They play a lot of minutes and are big and strong.”

Getzlaf recalls how special the day was because knew a lot of the players who he was drafted alongside. “It was great to be a part of something like that. A lot of kids who also got drafted that year were people I grew up with and played with at the World Juniors and stuff like. We knew each other a lot. It was a talented group and it shows today,” he said.

When Predators alternate captain Ryan Suter thinks back to the draft he comments at the amount of players who have made it into the NHL, but also says Perry and Getzlaf in particular are hard to defend against. “Looking back at that draft, you have a lot of guys playing in the NHL now. Perry and Getzlaf are two really good players in the League. It is very difficult to defend against them. They are very skilled, physical and are tough.”

Weber echos Suter’s sentiments on the difficulty of defending against the offensive power Perry and Getzlaf bring to the table. “That line is one of the best in the League. They can make plays and score goals.” he said.

Weber, like the others, note the number of players from 2003 who have made it in the NHL and have sustained careers in the League. “It was pretty good. There were some good NHL players in that draft class who have had good careers so far.”

Besides good careers,the draft produced a number of the NHL’s leaders on the ice. Seven players drafted in 2003 are currently their team’s captain, including Carolina’s Eric Staal, Toronto’s Dion Phaneuf, Los Angeles’ Dustin Brown, St. Louis’ David Backes, as well as Parise, Getzlaf and Weber. Mike Richards was the captain of the Philadelphia Flyers before being traded to the Kings.

While there is much talk of Suter and Weber around the League, Predators defenseman Kevin Klein was also drafted in the second round in 2003, 37th overall. Klein, like Parise, says Nashville really lucked out in shaping the future of its roster when picking players at Bridgestone Arena 8 years ago.  “It was really good especially for our organization,” Klein says of the draft. “There were a lot of skilled players in the first and second round that came out of that draft, very dominate players throughout the League.”

Photo credit: Getty Images

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