had to face facts: he wasn’t going to make it in Philadelphia. He had the talent. Anyone who watched the Flyers’ speedy third-round draft pick (95th overall in 2001) could see that he had the skills to produce in the National Hockey League. But there were too many established players ahead of him and not enough ice time to go around.
Even so, having to leave Philadelphia definitely stung.
“Getting traded turns your entire world upside-down on and off the ice,” says Sharp. “Your life changes in an instant and I had a hard time adjusting to it.”
Sharp began his professional career in 2002 when he signed with the Flyers after his sophomore season at the University of Vermont and was assigned to their American Hockey League affiliate, the Philadelphia Phantoms. He made an immediate impact with the Phantoms, registering 33 points (14 G, 19 A) in 53 games his rookie season.
The Flyers gave Sharp a small taste of the NHL in his first pro season, dressing him in three games. Even though he never cracked the scoresheet and played less than 20 total minutes, Sharp still ranks the experience as one of his greatest hockey memories.
“I had worked my entire life to make it to the NHL,” he says. “Making it there was a dream come true and I wouldn’t trade that for anything.”
As Sharp’s play began to improve, the Flyers gave him what ice time they could. He played a total of 41 games with the big club in 2003-04, tallying 7 points (5 G, 2 A). He also saw his first NHL postseason action, appearing in 12 of the team’s 2004 Stanley Cup playoff games – which included recording his first postseason point on a goal against then-Tampa Bay goalie Nikolai Khabibulin.
Though he showed potential, Sharp saw few opportunities to play. As a center, he was stuck behind NHL stalwarts Jeremy Roenick, Michal Handzus and Keith Primeau on the Flyers’ depth chart.
“I would have loved to have played more but I understand why I didn’t: there were better players ahead of me,” says Sharp. “Still, I learned from the veterans. It taught me a lot seeing guys like Jeremy Roenick, Mark Recchi and Keith Primeau prepare for each game.”