SAN JOSE – When it comes to this year's NHL Draft, San Jose Sharks general manager Doug Wilson can't help but think of the stellar class from 2003.
So it's no wonder Wilson can't wait for Sunday's draft to get underway at Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. The Sharks own four of the first 60 picks, No. 20 in the first round and three second-round selections.
"This is viewed as just a really, really strong draft," Wilson said Monday during a news conference. "You're going to get really good players all the way through the second round. You go back to the '03 draft, the quality of players and where they were picked."
How strong was the 2003 draft? Well, Sharks forward/defenseman Brent Burns went to the Minnesota Wild at No. 20. Patrice Bergeron (Boston Bruins) and Shea Weber (Nashville Predators) lasted until midway through the second round. Ryan Suter (Nashville), Zach Parise (New Jersey Devils), Ryan Getzlaf (Anaheim Ducks), Ryan Kesler (Vancouver Canucks), Corey Perry (Anaheim), Dustin Brown (Los Angeles Kings) and Marc-Andre Fleury (Pittsburgh Penguins, No. 1) were part of a star-studded first round.
Wilson stockpiled picks for this draft as the NHL Trade Deadline approached and he began an organizational "reset/refresh," trading three veterans who were in the final year of his contract: Ryane Clowe (New York Rangers), Michal Handzus (Chicago Blackhawks) and Douglas Murray (Pittsburgh). Those deals give Wilson more draft-day ammunition than he's had in years.
"We have the extra second-round picks to jump up if we want," Wilson said. "If things fall the way they have, we might not need to. If you can get quality and quantity, that's your ultimate goal. We're in a really good position for that, and we think next year's draft is going to be pretty good too. But this year in particular, it factored into the decisions we made prior to the trade deadline. To lose some players and not get really valuable picks in the year of a strong draft would have been a double whammy."
Wilson said he's fielded plenty of calls from other GMs trying to get their hands on some of the Sharks' picks.
"It's a deep draft," Wilson said. "That's the key. There are certainly good players at the top. I think there are good players all the way a lot deeper than normal.
"I think there's always the elite of the elite. But this one just goes really, really deep. You'll be in the second and third rounds and teams will still be looking to move up and get picks."
Last year, the Sharks used their top four picks on forwards, including Tomas Hertl, taken at No. 17. Hertl signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the Sharks earlier this month, and Wilson said expects the 19-year-old to make a strong push in training camp for a roster spot.
This year's draft, Wilson said, is packed with prospects who could make immediate impacts in the NHL.
"Go back to the '03 draft, go back and take a look through it and you'll see," Wilson said. "There are a lot of teams that are looking to acquire picks. There are, I think, only five teams that have four picks in the top 60 like us. We're getting a lot of calls. The second-round picks have a lot of value too. It's just a really strong draft."
Wilson has been busy preparing for the draft and making other moves since the Sharks bowed out of the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a loss to the Los Angeles Kings in Western Conference Semifinals.
The Sharks re-signed forward Raffi Torres, keeping him off the free-agent market, and, according to multiple reports, reached an agreement with Logan Couture on a five-year, $30 million contract extension. Wilson confirmed reports he has extended coach Todd McLellan's contract, but declined to provide details on the length or salary.
There had been speculation the Sharks would use a compliance buyout on forward Martin Havlat, but that's no longer an option because Havlat has undergone surgery to repair a groin injury that sidelined him for most of the playoffs. Injured players aren't eligible for compliance buyouts. He has two years remaining on a six-year, $30 million contract.
"He had a bi-lateral pelvic floor reconstruction," Wilson said. "There's no timeline for his return to play."
Although Wilson said Havlat's injury is not uncommon in hockey, he's not sure if he'll be ready for training camp.
"There's a lot of work to be done prior to that point," Wilson said.
Does Wilson expect Havlat to be on the team next year?
"It depends on his recovery," Wilson said. "If he's healthy, obviously he's a healthy player at that point and we'll make that decision."
Wilson said he doesn't expect to use a buyout on any player this offseason.
"No, I don't see us doing that," Wilson said. "We're trying to build on the momentum of how our team played down the stretch, certainly after the trade deadline. We like that we've become a team. Everybody's important. The key now is to build on that."