Recently, I’ve been diving into David Poile’s draft history as general manager of the Nashville Predators. Since he’s been the franchise’s only GM, he’s been at the helm for every draft since 1998. Beginning with that first draft, I’m working forward to the present, with this installment covering the 2003 Draft. For reference, here are the drafts I’ve covered so far:
- 1998: Franchise’s Inaugural Draft
- 1999: Erat Leads to Forsberg
- 2000: Scott Hartnell and Nothing Else
- 2001: Hamhuis and Tootoo
- 2002: What was Poile Thinking?
The 2003 NHL Draft is one of the best in history and Marc-Andre Fleury got it started when the Pittsburgh Penguins picked him first overall. Of the 30 first-round picks, only two played fewer than 100 NHL games, an almost impossible level of success. Through 2018-19, nine played in at least 1,000 regular-season games, five goaltenders made more than 400 appearances, and the first round produced 17 Stanley Cups. The draft didn’t just provide a large quantity of NHL players, but also a high level of quality with seven scoring at least 300 goals and 16 totaling at least 500 points.
For the first time in franchise history, even the Predators got involved in the productive drafting. With 13 selections, including eight in the first three rounds, they had plenty of opportunity to pick quality prospects. Given that number of picks, only four making the NHL isn’t very successful. However, when you consider that three of the picks played in more than 600 NHL games, it was a successful draft. They got things started with the seventh-overall pick after they finished fourth in the Central Division and 18 points out of the playoffs.
Early Rounds (1-3)
Round 1, 7th Overall – Ryan Suter, D (U.S. National Team Development Program)
With the seventh-overall pick, Poile drafted defenseman Ryan Suter from the U.S. National Team Development Program. With the U18 team, he had nine goals and 31 points in 51 games his draft season. He also captained the squad to a fourth-place finish at the U18 World Championships and played on the U20 team at the 2003 World Juniors Tournament. After being draft, Suter followed in the footsteps of his dad, Bob, who won gold at the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics with Team USA, by attending the University of Wisconsin.
He turned pro in 2004-05 with the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals. He reached the NHL in 2005-06, immediately becoming a full-time player and played with the Predators through 2011-12. He served as the team’s alternate captain from 2009-10 through 2011-12. He played in 542 games with the Predators and totaled 38 goals, 238 points and 46.0 point shares.
In July 2012, he departed via free agency, signing a 13-year, $98-million contract with the Minnesota Wild and was with them through 2018-19. For his career he has totaled 1,073 games played, 82 goals, 540 points and 111.2 point shares. He’s finished top-five in Norris Trophy voting three times, including a runner-up finish in 2012-13, and is a one-time All-Star.
In addition to playing in junior tournaments, Suter has represented the United States at the World Championships five times, at the Olympics two times, winning silver in 2010, and once at the World Cup of Hockey. Off the rink, he is an owner of the USHL’s Madison Capitols, where his brother Garrett is the general manager and head coach.
Missed Opportunity: None
Round 2, 35th Overall – Konstantin Glazachev, W (Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, Russia)
With the first of three second-round picks, Poile drafted Russian winger Konstantin Glazachev from Lokomotiv Yaroslavl. The Predators acquired the pick, originally the Buffalo Sabres’ selection, in June 2002 when they shipped a 2002 second-round pick to the Sabres for a 2002 third and this pick. In his draft season, Glazachev played in 13 games with three goals and seven points. He also represented Russia at the U18 Tournament, where he had five points in six games. The Predators never signed him. In fact, he never left the KHL, or its predecessor, the Russian Superleague. As of 2018-19, he was playing in the KHL for Admiral Vladivostok, where he was the team’s captain.
Missed Opportunity: None
Round 2, 37th Overall – Kevin Klein, D (Toronto St. Michael’s Majors, OHL)
With the Predators’ second pick of the second round, this time their own selection, Poile drafted defenseman Kevin Klein from the OHL’s Toronto St. Michael’s Majors, the predecessor to the Mississauga Steelheads. With the Majors, Klein had 11 goals and 44 points his draft season. He played one more OHL season, splitting it between the Majors and the Guelph Storm, and represented Canada at the World Juniors Tournament.
He turned pro in 2004-05 with the Admirals and made his NHL debut in 2005-06. He became a regular NHLer with the Predators in 2008-09 and stayed in Nashville until they traded him to the New York Rangers in Jan. 2014 for fellow defenseman Michael Del Zotto. In Klein’s nine seasons with the Predators, he accumulated 403 games played, 16 goals, 82 points and 16.5 point shares. He played three-and-a-half seasons with the Rangers, playing with them through 2016-17. Afterwards, he left North America to play in Switzerland’s NLA with the ZSC Lions, where he was captain in 2018-19. In his NHL career, he totaled 627 games, 38 goals, 154 points and 33.4 point shares.
Missed Opportunity: Patrice Bergeron, C – Drafted 45th overall by the Boston Bruins
Although Klein was a productive pick, the Predators should have drafted Bergeron, drafted eight spots later by the Bruins. They picked him out of the QMJHL’s Acadie-Bathurst Titan and reached the NHL the next season. He quickly developed into one of the game’s best two-way centers, and as of 2018-19, had won four Selke Trophies and was a finalist a record-breaking seven straight times. Through 15 NHL seasons, he had 1,028 games played, 321 goals, 813 points and 96.2 point shares. He also won the 2011 Stanley Cup with the Bruins, is a two-time Olympic gold medalist and a member of the Triple Gold Club, having won gold at the World Juniors Tournament and at the World Championships. His career will have him enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame someday.
Round 2, 49th Overall – Shea Weber, D (Kelowna Rockets, WHL)
With the Predators’ final second-round pick, a compensatory selection, Poile got a steal by drafting defenseman Shea Weber. With the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets, he had two goals and 18 points his draft season. He played two more seasons in the WHL before turning pro and reaching the NHL in 2005-06. He became a full-time NHLer the following season and immediately made an impact with 17 goals and 40 points in 79 games. He was a Predator for 11 seasons and had a great tenure with 763 games, 166 goals, 443 points and 89.1 point shares.
He finished runner-up in Norris Trophy voting in 2010-11 and 2011-12 and was top-five three more times. He was also a four-time all-star with the Predators and served as the team’s captain from 2010-11 through 2015-16. He may be best known for his booming slapshot that once went through the net during a qualification game at the 2010 Winter Olympics. On June 29, 2016, the Predators traded Weber to the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for P.K. Subban in one of the biggest deals in recent memory.
Through 2018-19, Weber had played three seasons with the Canadiens, including 2018-19 as their captain. For his career, he’s played in 925 games, scored 203 goals and 534 points and has been worth 108.4 point shares. He’s had nine seasons with at least 15 goals and nine with at least 40 points. He’s represented Canada at two Olympics, two World Championships, one World Cup of Hockey and one World Juniors Tournament.
Missed Opportunity: None
Round 3, 76th Overall – Richard Stehlik, D (Sherbrooke Castors, QMJHL)
The Predators had four third-round picks in the 2003 Draft. With the first pick, their own, Poile selected defenseman Richard Stehlik of the QMJHL’s Sherbrooke Castors. He posted eight goals and 24 points in 43 games his draft season and represented Slovakia at the World Juniors Tournament where he had three assists in six games. He played one more season in the “Q” with the same franchise, although they moved to Lewiston, Maine and became the MAINEiacs between 2002-03 and 2003-04 (they later returned to Sherbrooke and are currently the Phoenix).
After the 2003-04 season, Stehlik returned to Slovakia and played professionally there and in the Czech Republic from 2004-05 through 2006-07 before signing with the Predators and joining the Admirals for 14 games in 2007-08. Those were his only professional games in North America, having returned to the Czech Republic partway through the 2007-08 campaign. He spent the rest of his career in Europe, playing in Russia, Sweden, Austria, Finland and France before retiring after the 2017-18 season.
Missed Opportunity: Alexandre Picard, D – Drafted 85th overall by the Philadelphia Flyers
The Flyers selected Picard nine spots after Stehlik and drafted him from the QMJHL’s Halifax Mooseheads. He reached the NHL in 2005-06 and played seven NHL seasons across six teams. He accumulated 253 games, 19 goals, 69 points and 12.0 point shares. He left North America after the 2011-12 season to play in the KHL. Since then, he also played in Austria, Germany and Switzerland. As of 2018-19 he was playing for Düsseldorfer EG of Germany’s DEL.
Round 3, 89th Overall – Paul Brown, W (Kamloops Blazers, WHL)
The Predators’ second third-round pick was acquired from the Washington Capitals in June 2002 when they swapped Petr Sykora for the pick. With the pick, Poile drafted winger Paul Brown from the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers where he had 21 goals and 56 points in 67 games. He played one more junior season before turning pro in 2004-05. He spent that season with the Admirals and with the ECHL’s Trenton Titans. Brown’s career lasted two more seasons and he never advanced beyond the AHL. He retired after the 2006-07 season.
Missed Opportunity: None
Round 3, 92nd Overall – Alexander Sulzer, D (Hamburg Freezers, DEL)
Like the previous pick, this third-round pick was also originally another team’s. This time it belonged to the Toronto Maple Leafs, and in June 2002 the two teams swapped third-round picks – the Maple Leafs receiving the Predators’ 2002 third-round pick and the Predators receiving this selection. With the pick, Poile drafted German defenseman Alexander Sulzer from the DEL’s Hamburg Freezers. He split his draft season between the DEL and Germany’s second-tier league and totaled four goals and eight points in 44 games. He also represented Germany at the World Juniors Tournament.
He played four more seasons in the DEL before moving to North America and playing the 2007-08 season with the Admirals. He made his NHL debut in 2008-09 but struggled to find consistent playing time with the Predators. He played parts of three seasons with Nashville and totaled 53 games, one goal, six points and 1.6 point shares. The Predators traded Sulzer to the Florida Panthers in Feb. 2011 for the ever-vague future considerations.
He played in the NHL through 2013-14, also playing for the Vancouver Canucks and Buffalo Sabres. For his NHL career, he accumulated 131 games, seven goals, 22 points and 6.2 point shares. In 2014-15, he returned to Germany, and as of 2018-19, he was playing for Kölner Haie of the DEL. He has also represented Germany at two Winter Olympics and four World Championships.
Missed Opportunity: None
Round 3, 98th Overall – Grigori Shafigulin, C (Lokomotiv Yaroslav, Russia)
The Predators’ last third-round pick was also another team’s, this time the Detroit Red Wings, the result of a pick swap in June 2002. Poile used this pick on Russian center Grigori Shafigulin from Lokomotiv where he had one assist in 11 games his draft season. He also represented Russia at the 2003 U18 Tournament. He never left Russia and instead played in the Superleague and KHL through 2015-16, after which he retired.
Missed Opportunity: Jan Hejda, D – Drafted 106th overall by the Buffalo Sabres
Eight spots after the Predators drafted Shafigulin, the Sabres drafted Czech defenseman Jan Hejda from HC Slavia Praha. The Sabres traded his rights to the Edmonton Oilers in July 2006 and he made his NHL debut with Edmonton in 2006-07. He played nine NHL seasons for the Oilers, Columbus Blue Jackets and Colorado Avalanche. He totaled 627 games, 25 goals, 135 points and 29.8 point shares. He retired after the 2015-16 season.
Middle Rounds (4-6)
Round 4, 117th Overall – Teemu Lassila, G (TPS, Liiga)
The Predators only had two picks in rounds four through six, both in the fourth round. The first of the two picks belonged to the Los Angeles Kings and came to the Predators via a March 2002 trade when the Predators traded Cliff Ronning to the Kings. Poile used the pick on Finnish goaltender Teemu Lassila. He played for TPS of Finland’s Liiga where he had a 1.92 goals-against average (GAA) and a .929 save percentage (SV%) in 21 appearances his draft season. He never left Europe and, as of 2018-19, was playing in Austria’s EBEL with Orli Znojmo. He also played in the KHL, Sweden’s SHL and in Slovakia prior to playing in Austria.
Missed Opportunity: Kyle Quincey, D – Drafted 132nd overall by the Detroit Red Wings
Defenseman Kyle Quincey was drafted 16 picks later by the Red Wings. They drafted him from the OHL’s London Knights and he turned pro in 2005-06. He became a full-time NHLer in 2008-09 with the Kings and played 13 NHL seasons for six teams, including another stint with the Red Wings. He totaled 586 games, 36 goals, 158 points and 34.2 point shares. After the 2017-18 season, he left North America for the Liiga’s HIFK where he spent the 2018-19 season.
Round 4, 133rd Overall – Rustam Sidikov, G (CSKA Moscow-3, Russia3)
The Predators’ last fourth-round pick was a compensatory pick and Poile used it on another goaltender, this time Russian Rustam Sidikov. He was drafted from CSKA Moscow-2 of Russia’s third-tier league. He also represented Russia at the 2003 U18 Tournament where he had a 2.10 GAA and a .918 SV% in six games. The Predators never signed him and he played in Russia through 2004-05. He played the 2007-08 and 2008-09 seasons in Estonia and retired after 2008-09.
Missed Opportunity: Joe Pavelski, C – Drafted 205th overall by the San Jose Sharks
The Sharks drafted Pavelski in the seventh round and he’s become one of the better seventh-round draft picks in recent memory. They drafted him from the USHL’s Waterloo Black Hawks and he reached the NHL in 2006-07. As of 2018-19, he’s played 13 NHL seasons, all with the Sharks, and has totaled 963 games, 355 goals, 761 points and 95.0 point shares. He’s also a one-time all-star, a five-time 30-goal scorer and has reached the 60-point mark eight times. He’s spent four seasons as the Sharks’ captain, helped the team reached the Stanley Cup Final in 2016 and has represented the United States at two Winter Olympics, one World Championship and captained the country’s World Cup of Hockey team.
Late Rounds (7-9)
Round 7, 210th Overall – Andrei Mukhachyov, D (CSKA Moscow, Russia)
The Predators also had two seventh-round picks. The first was also originally the Kings’ and they used it on Russian defenseman Andrei Mukhachyov. He played for Russia’s CSKA Moscow and had three goals and 10 points in 50 games his draft season. The Predators never signed him and he never left Russia, playing there through 2012-13, after which he retired.
Missed Opportunity: None
Round 7, 213th Overall – Miroslav Hanuljak, G (HC Litvinov U20, Czech U20)
The second seventh-round pick was originally the Boston Bruins’ and Poile used it on Czech goaltender Miroslav Hanuljak. They drafted him from the Czech junior league where he played for HC Litvinov and had a 3.22 GAA and an .870 SV% in 20 appearances his draft season. He too never signed with the Predators and played his entire career in Europe. As of 2018-19 he was playing for Mostecti Lvi in the third-tier Czech league.
Missed Opportunity: Dustin Byfuglien, D – Drafted 245th overall by the Chicago Blackhawks
In the eighth round of the 2003 Draft, the Chicago Blackhawks picked defenseman Dustin Byfuglien from the WHL’s Prince George Cougars. He reached the NHL in 2005-06 and won the 2010 Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks. In June 2010, he was traded to the Atlanta Thrashers, moved with the franchise to Winnipeg, and as of 2018-19 was an alternate captain for the Jets. He’s totaled 869 games, 177 goals, 525 points and 85.6 point shares. He’s reached 15 goals in seven seasons and 40 points in seven seasons.
Round 9, 268th Overall – Lauris Darzins, LW (Lukko Jrs., Finland)
With the Predators’ final pick of the 2003 Draft, Poile selected Latvian left winger Lauris Darzins from Finland’s Lukko Jrs. In his draft season, he had 16 goals and 30 points in 26 games. He spent the next season in Finland and then played two seasons in the WHL. He never signed with an NHL team and instead returned to Finland in 2006-07. He played his entire career in Europe, mostly in the KHL, and as of 2018-19 was captaining Dinamo Riga. He’s also represented Latvia at nine World Championships and two Winter Olympics.
Missed Opportunity: Jaroslav Halák, G – Drafted 271st overall by the Montreal Canadiens
Three spots after Darzins was drafted, the Montreal Canadiens drafted Slovakian netminder Jaroslav Halák from Slovakia’s junior league. He reached the NHL in 2006-07, and as of 2018-19 had played 13 NHL seasons with five teams. He accumulated a 254-161-52 record, 47 shutouts, a .916 SV%, a 2.49 GAA and 88.8 point shares. As a member of the St. Louis Blues, he split the 2011-12 Jennings Trophy with Brian Elliott for allowing the fewest goals in the league, and spent the 2018-19 season with the Bruins.
Overall Grade: B+
Poile and the Predators yielded four quality defensemen in the draft, including two who became foundational pieces of the blue line. Add in that Weber became the team’s captain and was used to acquire Subban, and it was a strong draft for the team. The only thing preventing me from giving the draft an “A” is that less than a third of the team’s picks yielded NHL players. In 2003, the front office may have gotten better at finding quality prospects, but they still needed to improve their success rate.