2003 Draft: One of the Bestby Ryan Torrie | August 13, 2017, 11:21 AM ET
If the 2002 SICHL entry draft is one of the worst in league history, then the 2003 entry is one of the better drafts. The 2003 entry draft would see a first overall pick that would spend the majority of his career with one team and almost every franchise hitting on a pick in the first round.
The Fredericton Express made forward Eric Staal the first overall pick of the 2003 entry draft. The Express had a choice between the forward and future star goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. Either player would have been an excellent selection.
Eric Staal made his SICHL debut with the Fredericton Express during the 2004-2005 season. He would play 12 games and record 2 points. But he would not have his first breakout season until 2006-2007 when he scored 32 goals and tallied 38 assists for 70 points. That same season, Staal made his playoff debut, scoring 4 goals and 4 assists for 8 points in 13 games. Throughout his SICHL career, Staal has played in 124 playoff games accumulating 107 points. He sits 28th overall in career playoff points.
In 2012-2013, Staal had the best season of his career. That season he would score 35 goals and tally 57 assists for 92 points. He also led the Express to a Continental Cup Victory. During that playoff run, he had 9 goals and 10 assists for 19 points. The following season he topped his assist total from the previous season with 65 assists. He would win the Mario Lemieux Award for most assists in a season.
The following season 2014-2015, the team captain that led the Express to their first major trophy, was traded to the Stockholm Cougars. Staal is the Express team leader in points (602), goals (239), assists (363), powerplay goals (60), game-winning goals (43) and is second in plus/minus with a plus 136.
After leaving Fredericton, Staal has continued to produce for the Cougars. In his first full season, Staal would score 30 goals and tally 50 assists for 80 points. Last season he would play all 82 games and accumulate 36 points. It would be the first time since 2006 that he accumulated less than 40 points.
Staal has accumulated 756 total points over his career, which puts him outside of the top 50, but it is more than likely he will enter the top 50 sometime this season.
The 2003 draft is one of the best drafts on record in terms of players having an impact in the SICHL. Several players in the top 10 have had impactful careers including Marc-Andre Fleury (2), Nathan Horton (3), Zach Parise (4), Thomas Vanek (6), Dion Phaneuf (8), Braydon Coburn (9) and Milan Michalek (10). Players outside the top 10 that have had an impact include: Ryan Suter (11), Dustin Brown (12), Ryan Getzalf (13), Jeff Carter (14), Brent Burns (21), Patrice Bergeron (23), Brent Seabrook (28), Ryan Kesler (32), Loui Eriksson (33), Corey Perry (37), Shea Weber (62), Dustin Byfuglien (70) and Joe Pavelski (216).
Homerun: Joe Pavelski (216th overall) Philadelphia Fire Ants (630 games played, 228 goals, 240 assists and 468 points)
Bust: Hugh Jessiman (18th overall) Boston Hitmen