As I mentioned last week when discussing Nashville defenseman Shea Weber, the 2003 NHL draft produced more front-line talent than any class in recent memory. One of the teams that benefited the most is the Philadelphia Flyers. Thanks to their own first-round picks (No's 11 and 24) the Flyers came away with a pair of top centers in Jeff Carter and Mike Richards, and later the No. 7 overall pick, Braydon Coburn, in a one-sided trade (for Alexei Zhitnik!) with the Atlanta Thrashers. Six years later, Philadelphia has one of the best 1-2 punches in the league down the middle.
There were rumors swirling at last year's trade deadline that involved the Flyers reportedly sending Carter (and a first-round pick) to the Toronto Maple Leafs for puck-moving defenseman Tomas Kaberle. As good as Kaberle is, consider this an example of the best trades sometimes being the ones you never make.
Not only did Carter have a breakout season for the Flyers in 2008-09, scoring 46 goals, second only to Washington's Alex Ovechkin, the first-round pick was used to select defenseman Luca Sbisa, who was sent to Anaheim at this year's draft for hulking defenseman Chris Pronger.
Apparently, some Maple Leafs fans are still regretting that the rumored trade didn't go through. Check out the recent edit (the first sentence) to Carter's Wikipedia page:
Of course, Carter is locked in with the Flyers through the 2011 season, and it's doubtful his name comes up in trade rumors anytime soon.
Draft Year: 2003
Carter was the Flyers' first pick in 2003, No. 11 overall, sandwiched between Montreal's Andrei Kostitsyn and New York's Hugh Jessiman.
Why He's On My List
A player that's clearly on the rise, everything is trending in the right direction for the 24-year-old center. Another season like his 2008-09 campaign and he's higher on my list. His per-game and per-minute averages have increased every year he's been in the league, and he possesses one of the quickest, and hardest shots in the NHL. Carter looks like he'll be a solid bet for 35-40 goals (if not more) every season.
Obligatory YouTube Video
Jeff Carter's Maxim.com "William Tell Challenge."