Much has been made of Sharks Head Coach Ron Wilson stating the likelihood that Marc-Edouard Vlasic
could make the jump to the NHL directly from juniors. However, a history of the Sharks shows that if a player can play, he will find himself on the roster.
Sharks Captain Patrick Marleau
made the move back in 1997, scoring a preseason goal as a 17-year-old and staying with the big club the entire season. Former Sharks Marco Sturm and Andrei Zyuzin made similar jumps the same year.
The very next campaign, Scott Hannan found his way to the San Jose thanks to a strong training camp. The World Cup defenseman for Canada posted a point in his first NHL game and then stuck around for four other contests before returning to Kelowna.
“It is nice to know that if you come and play well, you have a shot,” said Hannan. “All anyone wants is a shot.”
In 2003, Milan Michalek impressively stepped into his first NHL training camp and forced his way onto the opening night roster for a team that eventually reached the Western Conference Finals.
Many teams around the NHL feel younger players should spend more time in juniors or the AHL for the sake of doing it, but the Sharks have a different mind set. If a player can help produce victories, then they belong in San Jose.
From a player’s perspective it is nice to know that they will not be excluded from an NHL paycheck just because someone has a golden rule that can’t be broken.
As for Vlasic, his maturity is a big reason he is still around.
“He has handled everything very well,” said Josh Gorges. “He is so poised at 19, not nervous and squeezing his stick.”
“I think it is good the coaches are giving him a chance to play,” said Michalek. “I’m not old, but it is always good to have young guys in the locker room.”
Vlasic believes that knowing the coaches would play the top performers was an extra incentive.
“With some teams, the young defensemen have no chance to play,” said Vlasic. “I feel fortunate to be here. Whatever their decision is, I’ll do my best.”
While the Sharks have traditionally been a bit more open-minded than some clubs when it comes to younger players, that philosophy is changing around the league.
“It happens more now than in the past with the way the game has changed,” said Hannan. “It would have been tougher as a 19-year-old if it was as physical as before.”
The Sharks will host the Kings at HP Pavilion Friday night at 7:30 p.m. and Calgary Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are still available for both contests at the HP Pavilion Box Office and at www.ticketmaster.com
. The final two preseason games will be carried on 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com.