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Sharks' talent pipeline keeps flowing

by John Kreiser /
The San Jose Sharks have done a superb job finding talent at all stages of the Entry Draft and developing those picks into legitimate players. Most of the team's roster is home-grown -- on average, 17 of 23 players with the team last season were drafted by San Jose.


Category Rank (Conference)
2007-08 Points 108
(2nd West/2nd NHL)
Change from 2006-07 +1
Home Points 50
(7th West/12th NHL)
Away Points 58
(1st West/1st NHL)
Director of Scouting Tim Burke and his staff have done a good job discovering future NHL players in later rounds, like center Joe Pavelski, a seventh-round pick in 2003 who looks like an emerging star. The Sharks are also willing to wheel and deal on draft day: They went from no first-rounders to two in 2007 and made seven picks in June's draft despite not having a selection until the third round.

Burke said the Sharks' success has been a combination of skill and good fortune.

"You have to get lucky too," he said. "Work and luck -- it's like a goaltender. If it's 80-percent talent and 20-percent luck, you'll be OK. You can't rely totally on luck."

The Sharks also want to get their kids on the ice, even if it's not at the biggest-name programs, but do their best not to rush them to the NHL.

"Coaching is important, but ice time is a huge thing," Burke said. "You have to be able to go somewhere and fail a little bit and keep going out there. At some point, if you're going to be good at anything, someone has to allow you a degree of trial and error.

"We stay right on the course with them. We're talking to them all the time about what they have to do. We tell them, 'This is the blueprint, and you're the one who's signed off on it. This is what you have to do to have a long NHL career.' Your play determines where you're going. Your contract isn't going to determine it, your agent isn't, your coach isn't -- your play is the only thing that's going to determine how long you stay and how quickly you get here."

Here's a look at the Sharks' player development system entering the 2008-09 season.
Logan Couture -- San Jose's first-round pick (No. 9) in the 2007 draft slipped somewhat this past season, scoring 21 goals and putting up 58 points in 51 games with Ottawa of the Ontario Hockey League after a 26-goal, 78-point season (54 games) in 2006-07.

Couture has shown a good hockey IQ and is defensively responsible while showing he can put up good offensive numbers. At 19, he can be sent back to Ottawa for another season, but Burke wouldn't rule out the possibility that he could make the parent club.

"Logan had a little bit of a setback, injury-wise," Burke said. "I think he's back on course. He was impressive in training camp. This kid is a smart hockey player.

"The way things go in this League, I never say never. We have a pretty experienced team, so it would probably lean towards (sending him back to juniors), but you still want people coming to camp believing they can make the team."

Steven Zalewski -- The Sharks signed Zalewski, their fifth-round pick (No. 153) in the 2004 draft, to an entry-level contract this spring after he completed a stellar career at Clarkson. Zalewski led all ECAC goal scorers with 21 in 36 games and was named to the All-ECAC First Team. The 6-foot, 190-pounder finished second on Clarkson in points with 33 (21 goals, 12 assists) and was second in penalty minutes with 36.

"He's been a kid that every time we've had people in to see him, he's been involved in a lot of plays," Burke said. "He's not a player who worries about statistics. He does what the team needs. You get excited about people who have adaptable skills. He'll be able to make a team and then be able to stay on a team. His numbers were good in college; they probably could have been better, but he's not that kind of a player. With guys like Steve, you never have to worry about him going in a (scoring) drought for a week -- even if they're not scoring, they're still going to be important players."

Justin Daniels -- After sitting out the first two rounds of this year's draft, the Sharks traded back up to the top of the third round to nab Daniels, who played with his twin brother Drew (picked by the Sharks in the seventh round) at the Kent School in Connecticut.

Justin, selected No. 62, had 54 points (17 goals, 37 assists) in 25 games, seven more than Drew (12-35-47), a right wing. Both are headed to Sioux City of the USHL for a year, then to Northeastern University in the fall of 2009.

"Justin is 6-2 and Drew is 6-1½ -- these kids have really shot up in the last year," Burke said. "These were the best players in that area, and they really grew a lot. They're pretty good players. The course that they're taking -- the guys who have taken this course, because they needed to add some weight and have success at each level, it's worked out better."

“We stay right on the course with them. We're talking to them all the time about what they have to do. We tell them, 'This is the blueprint, and you're the one who's signed off on it. This is what you have to do to have a long NHL career.'”
-- Director of Scouting Tim Burke

Jamie McGinn -- San Jose's second-round pick (No. 36) in 2006 spent the last four seasons with the Ottawa 67's in the Ontario Hockey League. This past season, the Fergus, Ontario, native led Ottawa with 29 goals and tied for the team lead in points with 58 in 51 games, after getting 46 goals and 89 points in 68 games in 2006-07. He had two assists in eight games with Worcester after completing his junior season.

At 6-1 and 200 pounds, McGinn cycles well and brings lots of energy as well as a scoring touch.

"He's a classic north-south player," Burke said, "a hard-nosed winger who stays around the front of the net. He gives you some physical grit, but he can play with skilled players. He can stay in front of the net on the power play and he won't move. He's also not a bad penalty-killer. It's hard to find left wings in this business."

Lukas Kasper -- San Jose's first-round pick (No. 22) in 2004 has made slow but steady progress in three seasons in the AHL, earning a three-game call-up with the Sharks this past season. The 6-2, 200-pound native of the Czech Republic hit career highs in 2007-08 with 17 goals and 41 points in 73 games.

"I think what's happened is that the coaches in the minors have spent a lot of time with him on his defensive game, and maybe it's taken away a little bit of his creativity," Burke said. I think he's getting it more and more about how important the defensive part of the game is. He had a real good training camp last year and made the team. But what ended up happening is that we had (Jeremy) Roenick and some other guys around, and he wasn't going to be in the lineup every night. So instead of having him in and out of the lineup, we thought he had to keep playing. It will be an interesting training camp for him -- he's that close to making the team. The job is there if he takes it."


"You have to get lucky too. Work and luck -- it's like a goaltender. If it's 80-percent talent and 20-percent luck, you'll be OK. You can't rely totally on luck."

-- Burke on the Sharks' success

Nick Petricki -- San Jose's second first-round selection in 2007 (No. 28) already owns a ring -- he was a member of Boston College's NCAA championship team this past spring. Petricki doesn't put up big offensive numbers; he had five goals and 12 points in 42 games as a freshman. But at 6-3 and 215 pounds, the 19-year-old Schenectady, N.Y., native provides muscle in his own zone. He led the Eagles with 102 penalty minutes and figures to play the role of a defensive defenseman in the NHL.

"We like Nick and he's a good player," Burke said. "He's a big kid, and he's making good progress. He's going to spend at least another year at Boston College. We'll go year by year and see how it goes."
Derek Joslin -- Joslin's first full season as a pro wasn't a bad one. The Sharks' fifth-round choice (No. 149) in the 2005 draft had 10 goals and 34 points with 44 penalty minutes for Worcester. The 6-1, 191-pound 21-year-old put up decent offensive numbers as a junior with Ottawa of the OHL and showed some scoring touch from the blue line in the AHL.

"We think Joslin is really, really close," Burke said. "He'll be in Worcester starting out, but we think he's close to being able to play some games here. The kid is a pretty good player. He's a good offensive player, but he's got a little bit of bite to him, too."

Thomas Greiss -- Greiss, a native of Germany drafted in the third round (No. 94) in 2004, got his first taste of NHL action this season, going 0-1-1 in three games with a 3.26 goals-against average. With Evgeni Nabokov and Brian Boucher in front of him, the 22-year-old appears headed for a third season at Worcester, where he was 18-21-2 with a 3.09 goals-against average and .892 save percentage this past season.

"This kid is really good," Burke said. "He's got to play more. If he was with a lot of other teams, maybe he gets 30 games. It's a little different here.

"He's really close. I think the group we have coming underneath … it's a real good group. We had a lot of people calling about our young goalies."

Tyson Sexsmith -- San Jose's third-round pick (No. 91) in the 2007 draft appears ready to turn pro after a second straight outstanding season with the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League. In 62 games, he posted a 1.89 GAA and nine shutouts while going 43-11-6 and making the WHL All-Star team. At 19 and with a boatload of goaltenders, the Sharks can afford to be patient with Sexsmith.

"He's on the World Junior tryout (roster), so hopefully that will be another step forward for him," Burke said.   

Taylor Dakers -- The Sharks are awash in goaltenders, which could make life tough for Dakers this season. After finishing his junior career with back-to-back 30-win seasons with Kootenay of the WHL, Dakers had his ups and downs in his first pro season, going 7-11-1 with a 3.13 GAA with Worcester and 6-7-2 with a 2.34 GAA and a .920 save percentage with Phoenix of the ECHL.

"He had a great career in the Western League, and he played some great games for us last season, too," said Burke, who expects Dakers to be in Worcester this season. "We're expecting him to have a real big year. We're trying to keep everyone playing."

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