When the 30 NHL teams convene at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ to select the future stars of the world’s fastest game, they will have a list of draft-eligible players at their disposal that is being compared to some of the best crops of players in recent years. Many are comparing this year’s group to that of 2003, a year that is largely considered to be one of the best in recent memory.
This year, the Sharks made a few trades at the deadline which sent Ryane Clowe to New York, Douglas Murray to Pittsburgh, and Michal Handzus to Chicago. Coming back to San Jose includes the 49th and 58th selections in this draft, along with a 111th overall pick from Chicago that originally belonged to the Sharks and was re-acquired.
It’s important to note that there is plenty of maneuverability for the Sharks in this draft. They might be able to move upward in the draft to gain position if a coveted player is available and a transaction is possible. For instance, in the 2007 draft year, the Sharks had traded goaltender Vesa Toskala and left wing Mark Bell to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for Toronto’s first round selection (22nd overall), the 2007 2nd round pick, and a 2009 4th rounder. They would send the first and second round selections to St. Louis in exchange for the Blues first round pick, which was 9th overall.
With that 9th selection, the Sharks were successfully able to make Logan Couture a cornerstone of their organization. The Blues wound up drafting Lars Eller and Aaron Palushaj , both who became Montreal Canadiens in return for an excellent starting goaltender, Jaroslav Halak.
Even in the great draft years, there are moves of this nature. In 2003, the Sharks traded the 21st, 66th, and 107th pick to Boston in exchange for the 16th overall selection. The Edmonton Oilers traded the 17th pick to New Jersey for the 22nd and 68th picks. The Florida Panthers traded the 1st overall selection and the 73rd pick to Pittsburgh for the 3rd and 55th overall selections, along with veteran right wing Mikael Samuelsson.
The results of this extraordinary extravaganza included the following: Burgh Hockey drafted Marc-Andre Fleury and Dan Carcillo, Florida took Nathan Horton and Stefan Meyer, the Sharks selected Steve Bernier, the Bruins took Mark Stuart, Masi Marjamaki, and Byron Bitz, the Oilers got Marc-Antoine Pouliot, and Jean-Francois Jacques, and the Devils wound up with Zach Parise.
A lot has already been written about some of the names at the top end of this draft, including where Nathan McKinnon, Seth Jones, Darnell Nurse, Hunter Shinkaruk, Jonathan Drouin, Sean Monahan, John Hayden, Alexander Barkov, Zachary Fucale, or any other top prospects will slot.
One thing is for certain: the Sharks have one of the top scouting staffs in all of professional sports. Tim Burke and his group have consistently done an excellent job in finding players who become excellent NHLers, and nothing less can be expected this year.
Given that we can’t predict trades and don’t have all of the real data at our disposal, I thought it might be interesting to look at this year’s selection from the lens of two great draft classes, 2003 and 1979, and from the history of the NHL and Sharks selections, to see what might be happening in this draft. Let’s go:ROUND ONE: 20th overall
The Sharks have had the 20th overall pick once before, in 2001, when they selected center Marcel Goc from Schwennigen of the DEL. Goc is still playing in the NHL all these years later, in the uniform of the Florida Panthers.
2003: The Minnesota Wild had the 20th overall selection in that great draft year, and they used it to bring a familiar face to the NHL. They took RW/D Brent Burns from the OHL’s Brampton Battalion. Burns, as you know, is now one of the top players on the Sharks.
1979: The Quebec Nordiques had the 20th overall selection in this draft, and they used it to choose left winger Michel Goulet from the WHA’s Birmingham Bulls. Goulet scored 548 career goals, and is in the Hockey Hall of Fame.ROUND TWO: 49th, 50th, and 58th overall
San Jose has never had the 49th or 50th selections in an NHL Entry Draft. With the 58th selection in 1993, they took Ville Peltonen from IFK Helsinki. Peltonen played in nearly 400 NHL games with the Sharks, Nashville, and Florida, and is back in Finland, still with IFK Helsinki at the age of 40.
2003: The Nashville Predators had the 49th selection in the 2003 draft. They selected defenseman Shea Weber, who has been the runner up for the Norris Trophy and is the Predators captain. With the 50th pick in this draft, the New York Rangers picked defenseman Ivan Baranka, just two selections before Chicago picked up Corey Crawford. Pick #58 went to the New York Islanders, who took center Jeremy Colliton, who played 57 NHL games through 2010-11.
1979: The 49th and 50th picks were in the third round back then, and they belonged to Chicago and Los Angeles. Chicago took center Billy Gardner from the OHA’s Peterborough Petes, and he played in 9 NHL seasons with the Blackhawks and Hartford Whalers. With #50, Los Angeles took LW John-Paul Kelly from the New Westminster Bruins, and he played 400 games in a Kings uniform over a 7-year career. The 58th pick belonged to Montreal, and they took goaltender Rick Wamsley, who played for four NHL teams over 14 years and who is currently the goaltending coach in Ottawa.ROUND THREE: No selections
The Sharks’ third round selection, 62nd overall, has quite a history. Florida originally had it, but moved it to the New York Rangers along with Michael Vernace, a former Sharks draft pick. Coming back to Florida: Wojtek Wolski, a skilled forward. The Rangers traded this pick to the Sharks in the Ryane Clowe deal, and the Sharks moved it to Phoenix in the Raffi Torres transaction.
Another Sharks’ third round pick, the 81st overall, was moved to Minnesota in the deal that brought James Sheppard to Northern California.ROUND FOUR: 111th overall
In a case where “you can go home again,” this well-traveled pick originally belonged to the Sharks. Last year, Doug Wilson sent this pick with a 7th round spot to Chicago in exchange for a fourth round selection that turned into prospect Christopher Lalancette. The pick was returned to San Jose by the Blackhawks at the trade deadline in the Michal Handzus deal.
Historically, the Sharks had the 111th pick in 1991, when they took Swedish forward Frederik Nilsson with the selection. In 1999, they had the pick again, and they selected Northeastern University’s Willie Levesque. In 2005, they were close with pick #112, and they took goaltender Alex Stalock.
2003: Vancouver took C Brandon Nolan from the Oshawa Generals of the OHL. Nolan played a number of seasons of pro hockey, including 6 games with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2007-08. His brother Jordan Nolan plays for the Los Angeles Kings.
1979: The Minnesota North Stars took RW Brian Gualazzi from the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. Gualazzi only played 20 games of professional hockey, none in the NHL.ROUND FIVE: 141st overall
With the 141st pick in 1994, the Sharks selected RW Alexander Korolyuk from the Krylia Sovyetov team in what is now the KHL. “Korky” played a number of seasons in the NHL with the Sharks, and spends lots of time in the Bay Area in the off-season, training for his current KHL job with Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk of the KHL. “Neftekhimik,” by the way, is the nickname of the team, and it means the “Petrochemists.” Nizhnekamsk is a city in the Republic of Tatarstan, a so-called “federal subject” of the Russian Federation that is near the Kama River, about 40 minutes away from the Kamaz truck plant and, by way of Kazan and Nizhny Novgorod, a 14 hour drive east of the Kremlin. If you drive 4 ½ more hours east, you get to Ufa, birthplace of former Shark Andrei Zyuzin.
2003: With the 141st pick this year, Florida took RW Dan Travis from Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts. Moving on to the University of New Hampshire (and later, to Quinnipiac University on a transfer), Travis played for four teams in only one season of pro hockey, including 10 games for the ECHL’s Fresno Falcons. Footnote: Just 7 picks later, St. Louis took Lee Stempniak, who is still playing in the NHL.
1979: Only 126 players were taken in this draft.ROUND SIX: No selections
The Sharks had the 171st pick in this round, but they moved it to Nashville in the Scott Hannan deal.
In 1992, San Jose took D Ryan Smith with the 171st pick. No, not Ryan Smyth, the long-time NHL left winger. This Ryan Smith played for the Brandon Wheat Kings, and did not play in the NHL.
But the Sharks have picked some real gems in this ballpark, including Ryane Clowe (175th in 2001), Nick Bonino (173rd in 2007), Tommy Wingels (177th in 2008).ROUND SEVEN: 201st and 207th overall
The 201st pick belongs to the Sharks outright. The 207th pick comes to Northern California by way of Anaheim and Colorado. This is a draft pick that wound up in the Sharks pockets as part of the deal that brought TJ Galiardi to San Jose and Jamie McGinn to the Avalanche.
San Jose has had the 201st pick a number of times, including the year 2007, when they selected defenseman Justin Braun from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.
With the 207th pick in 2009, the Sharks selected defenseman Dominik Bielke. While they’ve never had an NHL player out of the 207th pick, listen to some of the names that have been selected in this ballpark area: Joe Pavelski (205th), Evgeni Nabokov (219th), Mark Smith (219th), John McCarthy (202nd), Frazer McLaren (203rd). In a draft as deep as this one, there is likely to be a diamond in the rough waiting to be discovered here.
So, get your party foods together and get ready to handicap the action. The NHL Entry Draft will take place at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ, on June 30th. You won’t want to miss it!