When Logan Couture
scored his second goal of the game in Calgary on March 13, he made history.
Couture became the first Sharks player to score 30 goals in his first two full seasons in the NHL. It got me to thinking, who are the best players ever drafted by the Sharks? Clearly the sample size with Couture isn’t big enough yet to hand him the crown. But based on the early returns for the 22-year-old, he definitely has a shot to grab the title some day.
For most of us, Patrick Marleau
’s name comes up right away, and with good reason. Drafted second overall in 1997 (behind Joe Thornton
by Boston), Marleau leads virtually every offensive category in team history. In 1,108 games he has 823 career points in the regular season. And in the playoffs he’s added another 88 points in 124 games.
He’s played every minute of his career with the Sharks and never spent a day in the minor leagues. Throw in an Olympic gold medal and more gold at the World Cup and World Championships and you have all the makings of a guy at the top of my list. All that’s missing from the resume is a Stanley Cup.
Speaking of the Stanley Cup, five players drafted by the Sharks have gone on to win it. Ray Whitney (1991), Sandis Ozolinsh (1991), Jeff Friesen (1994), Brad Stuart (1998) and Mikael Samuelsson (1998) had their names engraved on Lord Stanley’s silver chalice after moving on from the Bay Area. Interestingly, four of the five were either first or second round picks, Samuelsson (5th round) being the lone exception.
Whitney, who the Sharks took in the second round of their very first draft, is unbelievably still playing in the league at the ripe old age of 39. “Whitts” is the only remaining player from the Sharks original team still playing. He’s also the most prolific. Whitney’s 995 points in 1,221 games gives him an average of .814 points per game over the length of his 20-year career. That’s just slightly ahead of Marleau’s .742.
Evgeni Nabokov, who just signed a new one-year contract to remain with the New York Islanders, has to make our “best ever draft pick” list too. Selected in the 9th round in 1994, the same year the Sharks picked Friesen, Nabokov went on to become the all-time winningest goalie in franchise history and was the backbone of the team for the better part of a decade.
There’s also used to be something in the NHL called the waiver draft. Back in 1992 the Sharks snagged a pretty decent player from Vancouver named Igor Larionov. Not only did Larionov help the 1993-94 Sharks to the greatest turnaround in League history and a monumental first-round upset of the Detroit Red Wings, but he also went on to win three Stanley Cups in the Motor City and in 2008 became the first former Sharks player to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
How about current Sharks prospects to watch out for down the line? Well how about 20-year-old center Freddie Hamilton
of the Niagra Ice Dogs of the Ontario Hockey League? The Sharks selected Hamilton in the 5th round of the 2010 draft and he’s developing nicely.
He’s second on his team and 9th in the OHL in scoring with 35 goals and 86 points. He’s the brother of Boston first-round pick Dougie Hamilton and was selected to play with his brother for Canada at the most recent World Junior Tournament. The Hamilton boys became the first brothers to play for Canada since Mike and Randy Moeller 30 years ago.
REMEMBERING TIM BRYANT
Before signing off I want to pass along condolences to Teresa and Danny Bryant, the wife and son of Fox Sports Detroit media relations director Tim Bryant, who passed away last week at the age of 53. Long before Tim became the first ever media relations director for the Sharks, he held the same position with the Kansas City Comets of the Major Indoor Soccer League.
That was back in 1984 when I was the play-by-play voice of the San Diego Sockers. Tim was the only PR guy I ever met, to this day, that felt that broadcasters who were on the air live needed just as much if not more service than the beat writers and columnists who wouldn’t be filing their stories until after the game was over. He would sit alongside me whenever we were broadcasting a game live on television from Kansas City and pass me stats and tidbits about both teams, not just his own.
I never forgot that attention to detail and it was no surprise that he went on to have an amazing career in pro sports in the NHL, NBA and eventually with Fox.