Eric Staal was selected 2nd overall in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft by the Carolina Hurricanes, behind number 1 pick Marc-Andre Fleury. He had played for the Peterborough Petes of the OHL the year before, scoring 98 points in 66 games. Staal played his first season in the National Hockey League right after being drafted. In 2004, Staal played in the Young Stars game as part of the 2004 NHL All-Star festivities.
On October 28, 2005, Staal had his first career hat-trick against the Philadelphia Flyers. Staal led the Carolina Hurricanes in points during the 2006 Stanley Cup Playoffs with 28 points. Staal was fourth in voting for the Hart Trophy that same year. He finished the 2005-2006 regular season with 100 points in 82 games (45 goals and 55 assists).
On July 1, 2006, Staal signed a three year $13.5 million contract with the Hurricanes. The 2006-2007 season saw a drop in production for Staal, as he scored 70 points in 82 games (30 goals and 40 assists).
Staal certainly had pundits making lofty predictions for his career, but very few of them expected this much, this soon. He has been used in all situations, from the power play to the penalty kill, and excelled offensively in all areas. Staal is also a great skater and can make moves in tight and at high speeds, making him hard to defend against. He is highly creative and should enjoy a long prosperous career playing at a top level in the NHL.