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Draft Flashback: Patrick Sharp

by Adam Kempenaar and Brad Boron / Chicago Blackhawks
On June 26-27, the hockey world will watch as the next generation of NHL players are selected in the NHL Entry Draft. But what is the draft like for the players going through the process? Blackhawks winger Patrick Sharp, Philadelphia's third-round pick in 2001, recently talked to about  his experiences before, during and after draft day.

At what point during your freshman season at the University of Vermont did you really start thinking about the draft and where you might go?

Sharp with Philadelphia in 2003

Probably right as soon as my season ended. Throughout the year you always see ratings and information from Central Scouting, so you have an idea that you’re going to be drafted. But you have to use that season to show people that you deserve it.

After the season is over, you really have nothing to do besides look forward to the draft. I tried to gather as much information as I could; the draft is really a crapshoot as far as where you’re taken unless you’re a guy like Kaner, who went first overall. But I gathered information from agents and people who might know things and just tried to figure out what might happen to me on draft day.

What were your expectations then? Did you have an idea where you might go?

Well, that was the first year that the NHL split up the draft into two days; they had the first three rounds on the first day and the rest of the draft on the second day, and my goal was to be picked on the first day. I was projected to be on the fence as a third- or fourth-round pick, so my family and I decided not to go to the draft and we stayed in Thunder Bay, [Ontario] and watched. Luckily, I went on the first day towards the end of the third round.

So you basically went where you thought you would go.

Looking back, yeah, but when you’re sitting there watching all of those other guys get taken higher than you, obviously you start wondering, “Why did he get drafted? Why haven’t I gone yet?”You hear little things that this team might take you or that team might pick you, and I wound up getting drafted by Philadelphia, who I had never talked to. It all works out.

Did you have any kind of preference where you wanted to go?

I honestly didn’t care at all. As long as I got drafted, I was going to be happy.

You mentioned you didn’t hear from Philadelphia, who ultimately took you. What was the process of talking to teams and having them evaluate you?

There were maybe a dozen teams that I had contact with before the draft. I thought that if I got drafted it was going to be one of three teams. It just so happens that toward the end of the third round, those three teams picked in order and Philly picked right behind them. I watched those three pick other players, and I got so frustrated that I went outside to play basketball with my brother. Philly picked me right after them, so I had to run back into the house to answer the Flyers' phone call.

Ilya Kovalchuk was the first player taken in 2001 by Atlanta. Was he pretty much a lock to go #1, as you recall?

He was the number one pick the whole year. He had a great World Junior Tournament. Jason Spezza went number two. I remember there was big talk at the World Juniors about who’d be first and how those guys would turn out -- Kovalchuk has had a great career so far, but Spezza has too.

What other draft storylines were you keeping an eye on? Anybody else you had an interest in seeing where they went?

You know what -- I can’t really remember too many. I recall just looking at names of guys I remembered playing against. Obviously, you never want to see the competition picked ahead of you.

The Hawks actually wound up taking your Vermont teammate Jeff Miles in the ninth round.

Ilya Kovalchuk in 2000

Jeff and I were roommates in school and we both talked to Chicago. I thought the Blackhawks were one of those teams who would take a long look at me, but a couple of years later they would get me.

The numbers are interesting... you went 95th overall, but do you know how many guys from your class have more goals than you?

Well, Kovalchuk for sure... and Spezza... no, how many?

Only four. Derek Roy and Mike Cammalleri are the others.

Wow, no I didn't know that.

That has to make you feel pretty good, looking back -- that teams missed out on a chance to get you.

You know what -- I’ve never once thought about that. I was happy to be drafted; I was chosen by a good team. As I look back at the draft, I don’t want to say it’s overrated, but there is a lot of hype surrounding it. I can list a dozen players who weren’t even drafted who have become All-Stars and won championships. There’s a lot of emphasis on it when you’re young, but it doesn’t guarantee you anything in pro hockey. You don’t look back or regret anything or want to show certain guys that you should have been drafted higher. I don’t think like that.

[Editor's note: Kovalchuk has 297 goals in 545 games; Spezza has 148 in 404; Cammalleri (49th overall) has 132 in 364; Derek Roy has 108 in 354; Sharp has 101 in 337.]

Do you still enjoy watching the draft?

I still do watch it, but I’m not as excited about it as I once was. I’m always interested to see what my team does, so I’ll be watching for the Blackhawks. I always watch for the trades that go on during the weekend. It’s exciting to sit at home and see what we’re up to.

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