Top 5 draft hauls since 2002

Updated: December 28, 2012, 8:13 AM ET
By Grant Sonier

In the past 10 years (11 total drafts) more than 2,500 players have been drafted into the NHL, but arguably the best group of talent entered the league in the legendary 2003 class. Every single first-round selection from 2003 reached the NHL -- yes, even Hugh Jessiman -- with Eric Staal, Thomas Vanek, Milan Michalek, Dion Phaneuf, Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, Zach Parise, Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf among some of the most notable names. It was a pretty epic draft.

Of course, as a team, you can snag only so much of that available talent. And to maximize a draft's impact on your franchise, you have to correctly identify NHL potential throughout the entirety of the draft class & not just the first round. When a team does correctly peg its later picks, the talent pulled from a single draft class can dramatically impact a franchise. And that's particularly true when a non-first-round pick blossoms into a superstar.

In 2003, Nashville drafted a defensive duo that became its top pairing through the 2011-12 season. In Ryan Suter (No. 7 overall) and Shea Weber (No. 49 overall), the Preds snagged two of the rarest NHL commodities in a single swoop -- mobile, puck-moving, shutdown defensemen. It made for one heckuva draft, but does it rank among the best hauls over the last 10 years? Where would Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins picks from 2005 rate?

Based on NHL production, I looked back to 2002 and ranked the top five draft hauls in the last 10 years. Over that span, there have been some pretty amazing drafts -- picks that have come to define franchises in 2012. While not all those picks are still with the team that drafted them, it is nonetheless impressive that the front offices and scouting departments were able to size up so much NHL talent in a single draft. I ranked my list based on that criteria.

While we may see more recent draft hauls rise on this list in time, here are my best five draft hauls by individual teams since 2002.

1. Anaheim Ducks (2003)