When the San Jose Sharks sip champagne out of the Stanley Cup in the near future, much of the success reached in that culmination of the journey will likely be traced back to Nashville, Tenn. in 2003.
On two lazy, summer days in late June, the Sharks made 11 selections in the NHL Entry Draft, utilizing shrewd maneuvering to move all over the draft board in picking players that Director of Scouting Tim Burke’s crack scouting staff had identified as top-end prospects.
It’s easy to see the fruits of that draft this season. No team in the NHL has received more production from players drafted in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft than the Sharks. Last week, center Joe Pavelski
(7th round, 205th overall) became the fourth player to make the Sharks roster from that draft, joining left wing Milan Michalek (1st round, 6th overall), right wing Steve Bernier (1st round, 16th overall) and defenseman Matt Carle (2nd round, 47th overall) who continue to make their marks after debuting as rookies last season.
Most NHL teams subscribe to the theory that if one or two players make the NHL from each draft, then it was a success. Of the Sharks 25 players on the roster and injured reserve list as of press time, 16 players were drafted and developed by the team. In addition, two others, defenseman Josh Gorges and forward Patrick Rissmiller, were signed as free agents and began their pro careers with San Jose. Eighteen of 25 players are homegrown—an astounding 72 percent of the roster.
The speedy Michalek, talented Pavelski, strong Bernier (pictured at right) and crafty Carle have combined to post 66 points (24-42=66) in 83 games played.
Equally as important as their contributions to date was the ability of the team to acquire center Joe Thornton
from Boston just over a year ago by giving up three NHL-caliber players. Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Wilson was able to part with those players since his hockey staff had identified their replacements as being the aforementioned draft selections.
Michalek was selected through San Jose’s own first round selection. As for the other three, they were acquired through picks from other teams. Boston supplied the choice for Bernier as the Sharks moved from 22nd to 16th overall. Carle, the 2006 Hobey Baker Memorial Award winner, came from Calgary’s second round pick. San Jose sent the Flames their 2003 fourth, fifth and sixth round selections to move up to the 47th overall slot. Pavelski, who helped the University of Wisconsin to last year’s NCAA Championship, was Philadelphia’s seventh round pick that came to San Jose in exchange for a sixth rounder in 2004.
Among second year players (those who played enough games last year to not have rookie status again this year), Michalek and Bernier are among the leaders in scoring, trailing only the likes of Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby and Washington’s Alexander Ovechkin.
The Sharks possess the youngest team in the League, thanks in large part to the crop of 2003 and other excellent draft selections. Among these: 19-year-old defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic
, San Jose’s second round pick in 2005.
The mix of recent draft picks and established veterans has made the Sharks arguably the fastest team in the NHL and one of the most skilled. It is a certain recipe for success that started in the mixing bowl of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft.