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Edmonton Oilers 1st Round Pick, 2003

Marc Pouliot, 22nd overall
The 2003 NHL Entry Draft is a draft regarded by many scouts, both before and after as one of the deepest in history. Only one player out of the first round has not played in the NHL- the 12th overall pick, Hugh Jessiman, regarded as a project power forward. The Oilers actions at the draft are occasionally ridiculed, as it was perhaps the worst draft of the Kevin Lowe era.

To date, the players taken in the 2003 draft have combined for 352 GP and 67 points. The most prolific offensive player has been 7th round overager Kyle Broziak. 23 different players selected in the draft have scored more points than all of the Oilers choices combined (among them, the 148th pick, Lee Stemniak, and the 205th pick, Joe Pavelski).

It didn’t start out well. With the 17th overall pick and 11 picks overall, Kevin Lowe had lots of assets to work with. The speculation was that Edmonton was interested in Robert Nilsson, and for awhile it looked like it would work out that way. Than, at 15th overall, the New York Islanders selected Nilsson (which was met with much anger by Pierre McGuire, who insisted that the Islanders should have draft Parise). I remember following along from home in my copy of THN’s draft preview, reasoning to myself that the highest ranked player remaining was Parise, and that the Oilers should take him. It was not to be.

Lowe dealt the 17th pick to New Jersey for the 22nd pick and a second round draft choice, who turned out to be J-F Jacques. With the 17th pick, New Jersey snagged Parise, and when it came time for Edmonton to select, they chose QMJHL forward Marc-Antoine Pouliot, who had showed tremendous leadership on a barren Rimouski team.

Contrary to the statements some make, this selection wasn’t a reach. Pouliot was the 13th-ranked North American skater. In three Sports Illustrated Mock Drafts he went 15th, 17th and 16th overall. He was a consensus mid-first round pick in most of the publications, and deservedly so. His two-way play, intelligence, grit and leadership were some of the qualities that the scouts raved about.

Injuries are yet again a key factor in Pouliot’s development. Here is his injury history, from Lowetide’s excellent site (since I was too lazy to try and dig it all up myself):
- Injured at the Top Prospects game in 2003 when Dion Phaneuf leveled him with a vicious (and imo clean) check.
- In the summer of 2003 he got hurt at the Canadian WJC camp in Calgary (hip) and that had a major impact on his 18-year old season. It also hurt his performance at the Oilers rookie camp just two months after being drafted.
- In November 2003 he suffered an abdominal injury and missed the Q/Russia prospects game and he played on 42 QMJHL games that season, finally having surgery in Montreal in summer 2004 to repair the abdominal tissues.
- He played 3 weeks with a broken wrist during the 2003-04 season.
- Mono just before the Stanley run.

Pouliot’s 2003-04 season was limited to 42 games as the various injuries added up, and the effect of these injuries was no doubt increased due to the fact that it was a key development year for Pouliot.

Among the players chosen between the 17th-30th picks were Ryan Getzlaf, Brent Burns, Ryan Kesler, Mike Richards and Corey Perry, all of whom have a significant jump on Pouliot in terms of length and quality of career.

Still, Pouliot has developed into a quality two-way player who has done all that he can do at the AHL-level and has to be considered at least 75% sure of playing in the NHL next season, with the Oilers or otherwise.

Things could be worse. He could be Hugh Jessiman.