When fans of the Anaheim Ducks watch games such as Thursday night’s thrashing of the Calgary Flames in Game 1 of their playoff series, there’s a good chance they thank their lucky stars that Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry are under contract for the next four seasons. (Oh, and if you happen to have both of them in a playoff pool, you’re probably clicking your heels together today as well. Click-click.)
They’re also probably pretty happy that Perry had such a poor showing in the CHL Prospects Game in 2003 and that Getzlaf was likened to “a poor man’s Patrick Marleau,” in THN’s Draft Preview that year. Because if not, Getzlaf would not have tumbled to 19th and Perry to 28th in that year’s draft and the Ducks would not have had the chance to take them.
It has been well documented that the 2003 draft is one of the best, if not the best, in the history of the NHL. The standard bearer for drafts is still the 1979 draft, which boasts five Hall of Fame players, a total that would have bumped to seven if Wayne Gretzky had been included in that group and Dino Ciccarelli hadn’t been passed over. But that since that was the first year of the 18-year-old draft, it represented a combined cohort of 18- and 19-year-old prospects.
But the 2003 group is close and gaining on 1979 with every passing year. The first round was an embarrassment of riches, but considering the subsequent rounds included the likes of Patrice Bergeron, Shea Weber, Joe Pavelski and Dustin Byfuglien, it makes you wonder whether there wasn’t something in the formula for those kids born in the later months of 1984 and in 1985.
Perry and Getzlaf, meanwhile, are rapidly becoming the best of the best. And they’re also making the case for being the best 1-2 team punch in draft history. Ever. Depending upon what these two accomplish over the rest of their careers, they’re certainly going to be prominent in the conversation.
The interesting thing about it is that in that same draft, the Philadelphia Flyers got Jeff Carter 11th overall and Mike Richards 24th. Carter and Richards have won two Stanley Cups to Getzlaf’s and Perry’s one, but Getzlaf and Perry have won two Olympic gold medals compared to one each for Carter and Richards. We’re going to give the edge here to Getzlaf and Perry on the strength of future potential.
The best 1-2 draft picks for any team in NHL history still belongs to the New York Islanders, who picked Clark Gillies fourth and Bryan Trottier 22nd in 1974. They followed that up three years later by taking Mike Bossy 15th and John Tonelli 33rd, which explains why the started winning Stanley Cups three years later.
The Edmonton Oilers got Kevin Lowe 21st and Mark Messier 48th in 1979 – then managed to pick up Glenn Anderson 69th. The Calgary Flames took Al MacInnis 15th and Mike Vernon 56th in 1981 and the Boston Bruins went with Raymond Bourque eighth and Brad McCrimmon 15th in 1979. The Bruins also got Reggie Leach third and Rick MacLeish 14th in 1970. (Honorable mention to the Quebec Nordiques, who got Mats Sundin first and Adam Foote 22nd in 1989.)
Getzlaf and Perry, meanwhile, provide perfect examples of the vagaries of scouting. Back in 2003, scouts saw in Perry a player who had a lot of competitiveness, but whose skating needed work. And if you can believe it, some scouts were miffed that he didn’t seem terribly interested in the CHL Prospects Game that year. “You wonder when a guy doesn’t show up with all of us in the stands,” one scout was quoted as saying in THN’s Draft Preview that year, a publication in which Perry was ranked as the 29th-best prospect.
Getzlaf, who was ranked ninth in Draft Preview, was described by scouts as a guy who, “goes to the net with reckless abandon,” which doesn’t exactly fit his profile as an NHL player. Like Perry, scouts were concerned about his skating. Aside from comparing him to Marleau, we also had this to say about him: “Others believe he’s more in the Brad Isbister mold.”
Ugh. As Wile E. Coyote once said, “Even a genius can have an off day.” And you don’t see fans of the Anaheim Ducks complaining about it 12 years later.