How Alex Ovechkin Nearly Became a Florida Panther

Every hockey fan knows Alex Ovechkin as one of the greatest, if not the greatest goal scorer of all time, but few people know that Ovechkin was a mere 48 hours away from being a member of the Florida Panthers.
The 2003 NHL Draft is known as one of the most talented draft classes of all time. Superstars and future hall of fame players such as Marc-Andre Fleury, Eric Staal, Jeff Carter, Brent Burns, and Ryan Getzlaf, all were selected in the first round. Alex Ovechkin was thought of as the can't miss prospect playing in Russia that year. However, the birthday cut off to be draft eligible that season was September 15, 1985. Ovechkin was born just two days after the cutoff on September 17th.
The Florida Panthers held the 3rd overall pick in the 2003 NHL draft and were in desperate need of goal-scoring support. They were eyeing Ovechkin months before the draft and wanted him to be a Panther. Knowing that Ovechkin was two days underage for that year's draft, the Florida front office tried to make an argument to the NHL, in an attempt to make Ovechkin draft eligible.
The Panthers attempted to plea the idea that if you exclude leap-years, Ovechkin would be draft eligible that summer. Although the argument does have just a slight bit of logic to it, the NHL declined the point, keeping Ovechkin as underage.
In that draft, the Florida Panthers selected Nathan Horton with the 3rd overall pick. Although Horton had a solid career, we can only imagine what would have happened to the Panthers if they were able to draft Ovechkin.

Would the Panthers be a different franchise? How different would the Washington Capitals look if they did not have Ovechkin on the table to pick in the 2004 NHL draft? It is worth noting that the second overall pick in the 2004 NHL draft was Evgeni Malkin by the Pittsburgh Penguins. All we know is that the NHL would not be the same if Ovechkin was drafted in 2003.

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