Last week, the Sharks moved forward on a new coach by hiring former Detroit assistant Todd McLellan. This week, the focus is on potential future Sharks as the National Hockey League will begin its two-day draft this Friday (Round 1 starts at 4 p.m. PST and will be televised by Versus).
That’s when Director of Scouting Tim Burke and his staff will take center stage. Helping Burke birddog talent are his underrated group of scouts: Gilles Cote, Pat Funk, Jack Gardiner, Rob Grillo, Brian Gross, Karel Masopust, Cap Raeder and Graeme Townshend.
The group has been instrumental in allowing the Sharks to build a Stanley Cup contender that hasn’t had to look far when roster spots open. On average during the 2007-08 campaign, the Sharks could boast 17 of 23 players who were originally acquired by the organization. That’s a truly amazing number in a sport where a player can declare free agency as early as his 27th birthday.
The jury is still out on the 2006 and 2007 Entry Drafts, but things sure look promising with the production of first rounders Logan Couture
, Nick Petrecki
and Ty Wishart, along with second rounder Jamie McGinn.
The 2005 Entry Draft gave San Jose Devin Setoguchi and Marc-Edouard Vlasic
. The 2004 draft’s first three picks -- Lukas Kaspar, Thomas Greiss
and Torrey Mitchell
-- have dressed in Teal. The 2003 stock pile included Milan Michalek, Matt Carle and Joe Pavelski
, along with Steve Bernier (now in Buffalo) and Josh Hennessy (Ottawa).
2001 may be one of the most underrated Sharks drafts as every player taken, six of six, (the Sharks were without a second or third round pick) landed in San Jose at one point. The players include four skaters who saw playoff action last year: Marcel Goc, Christian Ehrhoff, Tomas Plihal and Ryane Clowe
, along with Dimitri Patzold and Tom Cavanagh.
Burke and his staff have proven to be at the top of their games on draft day, but acknowledge a lot of hard work and disagreements happen along the way.
“We’ve got good chemistry with our scouts,” Burke said. “We have a good time when we get together. We have disagreements, more at the beginning and in the middle (of the process). If you disagree, that means you need to go back and see something again (from both perspectives). If you’re disagreeing too much at the end, it means you probably did not disagree enough in the beginning.”
Burke and his staff will look to find some of the same magic this year. The Sharks don’t possess a pick until the fourth round, but they didn’t have a first round pick in 2007 and ended up with two when the round was complete.
With that, Burke must be prepared to draft from just about any slot.
“We look at everything,” Burke said. “You can’t say you’re not worried about picks 20-60 because you don’t have one. You have to be ready for everything.”
Burke says he likes what he’s seen from the current crop of NHL hopefuls from his hours of scouting across North America and Europe.
“It’s an excellent draft,” Burke said. “People have been talking about it for two years. It’s very deep.”
And for the amateur scouts, this is their version of the intensity of the postseason. Every decision at the draft could have an effect four years later in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
“It is a lot of fun, like the playoffs,” Burke said.
In the few days remaining before the draft, the scouts will look to fine tune their positions.
“They’ll be some interviews,” Burke said. “Things can change on the fly. You have to be flexible.”
Nailing the hockey draft is no easy task. Unlike the NFL, the NHL Entry Draft is an effort to predict the future of 18-year-old kids.
“There are injuries and other things to consider,” Burke said. “Are the guys going to get bigger or are they fully mature? There’s a lot of risk.”
And in a few years, Burke will watch the recent picks perform in the Stanley Cup Playoffs like his past selections have.
“The most exciting part is when a player signs his first contract and comes to the first training camp,” he said. “Everybody dreams of making the League. They’ve heard about it, but when it comes, it’s different.”
Sharks fans looking towards the future can watch it unveil this Friday on Versus.
FIGHTING BLINDNESS LEAGUE
The San Jose chapter of the Fighting Blindness League once against showed off their talents as the San Jose winners (the Avengers) were the best in the NHL. This year, the San Jose event raised more than $23,000 and has totaled more than $425,000 since its inception.
A SHARK IN THE HOCKEY HALL OF FAME?
The Hockey Hall of Fame will announce its 2008 inductees on Tuesday afternoon. Two former Sharks are among the eligibles: Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Wilson, an original Shark who played from 1991-93; and center Igor Larionov, who was part of the infamous “Ov Line” with Sergei Makarov and Johan Garpenlov during San Jose’s first playoff season in 1993-94.