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Vlasic, set for 1,000th game with Sharks, has been 'Steady Eddie'

Will become 17th NHL defenseman to play at least that many for one team

by Ross McKeon / Independent Correspondent

SAN JOSE -- Marc-Edouard Vlasic will become the 17th defenseman in NHL history to play 1,000 games for one team when the San Jose Sharks host the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday (10 p.m. ET; CBC, SN, SN360, SN1, CITY, NBCSCA, NHL.TV).

"It has flown by," the 32-year-old said. "You look back 13-14 years in, it goes by quickly, and have had a lot of fun doing it."

Vlasic was selected by San Jose in the second round (No. 35) of the 2005 NHL Draft, a pick acquired from the Calgary Flames for goalie Miikka Kiprusoff in what was the first trade of a player off the Sharks roster in general manager Doug Wilson's 16-year tenure.

Vlasic entered the NHL at the start of the 2006-07 season after his third and final season with the Quebec Remparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. At 19, Vlasic was the youngest defenseman in the NHL and finished sixth in voting for the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year after he had 26 points (three goals, 23 assists) and a plus-13 rating in 81 games.

"Playing against the players I watched growing up was a highlight for me," Vlasic said. "It's like you want to play in that league, and one day you're playing against them."

Video: SJS@TBL: Vlasic wires a wrist shot past Vasilevskiy

Recognized as an elite defender, it wasn't long before Vlasic was matched up against opponents' top lines, pitting him against the likes of Jaromir Jagr, Joe Sakic, Brendan Shanahan, Keith Tkachuk, Mike Modano, Jarome Iginla and Bill Guerin, who later was a teammate.

"He's Steady Eddie," said forward Patrick Marleau, who has played the most games in Sharks history (1,523). "He goes about his business, works hard each and every night, and is a huge part of this team. And has been for a lot of years."

Now in his 14th NHL season and under contract for six more, Vlasic is in the top 10 in Sharks history in regular-season games (third; 999), assists (sixth; 248), points (eighth; 320), shots on goal (seventh; 1,399), Stanley Cup Playoff games (third; 142) and playoff rating (first; plus-20).

Vlasic, who has consecutive games streaks of 255 and 217, holds the San Jose record for single-season rating (plus-31 in 2013-14).

He credits a lot of his success with always playing with responsible defense partners. The list includes Scott Hannan, Craig Rivet, Rob Blake, Dan Boyle, Brent Burns, Justin Braun and currently Erik Karlsson, a two-time winner of the Norris Trophy voted the best defenseman in the NHL (2011-12, 2014-15).

Video: LAK@SJS: Vlasic fires home long slap shot

"He's a guy who has been around a long time, and he's been a good player in this league for a long time," said Karlsson, who is in his second season in San Jose. "It might have taken a little while to figure out our tendencies, accepting what we are and utilizing each other as the best possible way, but it's going great, and hopefully it stays that way for a long time."

Vlasic has not put up big offensive numbers in his career. His 11 goals in 2017-18 and 39 points in 2015-16 are his NHL highs.

But his defensive-zone play is never in question and is the reason he has been a popular choice for Canada national teams. Vlasic won gold at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, was on the championship team at the World Cup of Hockey 2016, and played for runners-up at the 2009 and 2017 IIHF World Championship.

"He might not get all the recognition in the media and such, but everybody in the hockey world knows what he brings to a team," Marleau said.

That's Vlasic, day in and day out, producing with unwavering consistency.

"I'm the same guy now as when I arrived, just 14 years older," Vlasic said. "I go out there to make the right plays against the best players and just try to win hockey games."

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