The 2003 NHL draft is shaping up to be one of the best classes ever, and I don't think that's an exaggeration. Take the first round for example, where 27 of the 30 players selected have already played at least 100 games in the NHL. Hugh Jessiman, selected 12th overall by the New York Rangers, is the only player that has yet make his debut.
With four of the top 50 picks that year, the Nashville Predators emerged with two building blocks along the blue line -- defensemen Ryan Suter in the first round (seventh overall) and Shea Weber in the second round (49th overall). Weber has already established himself as an elite defenseman, finishing fourth in the voting for the Norris Trophy in 2008-09, while he's combined with Suter to form one of the better defensive pairings in the league.
According to Dirk Hoag of On The Forecheck, Weber and Suter were the second highest scoring defensive pairing in the league, finishing behind the Nicklas Lidstrom-Brian Rafalski duo in Detroit.
This past season was the best of Weber's young career, as the 23-year-old rearguard tallied 23 goals, which was tied for second among all defensemen in the NHL, trailing only Washington's Mike Green. He led the team with 192 hits, and was one of only two defensemen (Edmonton's Sheldon Souray being the other) to lead his team in shots on goal, registering 251.
Draft Year: 2003
As already mentioned, the 2003 draft was simply loaded with All-Stars and franchise-type player. Weber was selected 49th overall, one spot before Ivan Baranka and one spot behind Dmitri Chernykh. Just as an example as to how deep the talent pool was in '03, here's a quick list of the other players selected in the second round: Loui Eriksson, Patrice Bergeron, Matt Carle, B.J. Crombeen, Patrick O'Sullivan, Maxim Lapierre, and David Backes.
Why He's On My List
A top-pairing defenseman that can score, hit and fight. He has a booming slap shot from the point, and is extremely physical (sometimes to a fault). He's not only emerged as a top-shelf player in the NHL, he's also dominated on the International stage, scoring four goals to go with eight assists during the World Championships.
Obligatory YouTube Video
Shea Weber vs. R.J. Umberger
Note: Check back on Thursday for an interview with Shea Weber.