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Sharks Are Major Players at 2007 NHL Entry Draft

by Staff Writer / San Jose Sharks
Last February, identifying that his team was on the cusp of Stanley Cup contention, Sharks Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Wilson moved the team’s two first round selections in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft to bring in veteran defenseman Craig Rivet (who recently signed a new four-year deal with San Jose. Click here to read about it) and power forward Bill Guerin.
 
While both played important roles in a Sharks Stanley Cup Playoff run that ended in disappointment via a second round loss to the Detroit Red Wings, the additions came at a high cost as the team found itself on the outside of the first round looking in for only the second time in franchise history.
 
Fast forward to this past June 23 and 24 in Columbus, Ohio.
 
Logan Couture
Couture, a native of Guelph, Ontario, was ranked 7th overall by The Hockey News among all North American skaters.
It was a whirlwind weekend for Wilson, Director of Scouting Tim Burke and their staff. As one of seven NHL teams who entered the draft without a first round selection, Wilson and the Sharks found themselves in the spotlight for the majority of the weekend, making a major trade and twice engineering some creative deals to move the team back into the first round and nab players the organization had targeted.
 
The Sharks fired the first shot across the bow of the NHL the afternoon of the draft’s first round, striking a deal to acquire a conditional 2007 first round selection, a 2007 second round selection and a 2009 fourth round selection from the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for goaltender Vesa Toskala and left wing Mark Bell.
 
If the player San Jose wanted was available in 2007, they had the option of taking Toronto’s pick at 13th overall, or deferring to the 2008 season (depending on Toronto’s record in 2007-08, the pick also could have been deferred until 2009).
 
Those options became moot as Wilson was able to package the 13th overall pick, along with the previously acquired second round selection from Toronto and a third round selection in 2008 to acquire the ninth overall pick from the St. Louis Blues.
 
With that pick, Burke selected center Logan Couture from the Ottawa 67’s of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL). Couture, a native of Guelph, Ontario, was ranked 7th overall by The Hockey News among all North American skaters available and 19th overall by the NHL’s Central Scouting Service among North American skaters. In 54 games with Ottawa, Couture posted 76 points (26 goals, 50 assists), second on the team behind fellow Sharks prospect Jamie McGinn (2006, 2nd round, 36th overall). In five postseason games, he led the team with eight points (one goal, seven assists).
 
Click here to read Rink Report’s exclusive interview with Logan Couture from the NHL Draft.
 
“He was one of the forwards we identified but we didn’t have a pick so we had to weigh where we would have the best chance to get him,” Burke said. “If you look at his season, because he had mono and was injured early, he had a bit of an ‘incomplete’ to the first half of the year and then he really came on. Based on what he did the year before, he was rated pretty high but then fell down from not playing. But our scouting staff really stuck by this guy.
 
“He’s a complete player,” he added. “He’s a playmaker and he’s a player for all situations. He makes the other players better around him. He’s in the plays, not just a player who shows up when he has the puck. He’s a player that can be used in critical times of the game and comes from a good background.”
 
The Hockey News says:
Logan Couture would have been the first overall selection in the OHL Draft in 2005 had John Tavares not been ruled as an exceptional player. Couture is a player with superior vision and playmaking skills.”
NHL’s Central Scouting described Couture as:
“A skilled forward with good playmaking skills…has good offensive instincts and sees the ice well… plays with energy and protects…the puck well using his long reach and good-sized frame…needs to be tougher in traffic as well as in the defensive end… needs to improve his balance.”
McKeen’s Hockey, who ranked Couture 10th overall among draft-eligible players, selected him as the “Smartest Player”, “Hardest Worker” and “Best Defensive Forward” in the OHL.
“I’ve heard a lot of great things about the entire organization,” Couture said. “When I saw them trade up for the ninth pick, I got that feeling that they were going to pick me so I’m really excited.”
Couture was selected to play for the Eastern Conference at the 2007 OHL All-Star Classic and won the shooting accuracy competition for Team East, hitting four targets on five shots and had three points in the game (one goal, two assists). He was one of 40 draft-eligible prospects selected to participate in the 2007 Canadian Hockey League’s Top Prospects Game and competed in the Canada-Russia Challenge in 2006 for the OHL All-Stars.
 
Couture finished second in voting for OHL Rookie of the Year honors in 2005-06 with 64 points (25 goals, 39 assists) in 65 games played and attended the Team Canada Selection camp for the 2006 Junior World Cup, but was left off the team due to an injury sustained at camp.
 
Although he has seen a lifelong dream come to fruition, Couture does not seem content to just sit back and enjoy the moment as he has a big summer planned.
 
“I’m doing some power skating and personal training in London (Ontario),” he said. “I’m going to work on accelerating and my whole stride to try and improve it. I want to try to get stronger and quicker so that I can play at the next level.”
 
Nicholas Petrecki
Petrecki, a native of Schenectady, N.Y., was ranked 15th overall by The Hockey News among all North American skaters.
Later in the first round, Wilson struck again. This time, he worked a deal with the Washington Capitals to acquire the 28th overall pick in exchange for second round selections in 2007 and 2008 and Burke tabbed six-foot-three, 213-pound defenseman Nicholas Petrecki from Omaha of the United States Hockey League.
 
Petrecki, a native of Schenectady, N.Y., was ranked 15th overall by The Hockey News among all North American skaters available, third among defensemen. NHL’s Central Scouting Service listed him 21st among North American skaters, seventh among defensemen.
 
“We had really good reports on him from our scouts,” Burke said. “He was still on the board and we thought he would have been gone. There were some times in past history where we didn’t do something like this but we didn’t want to leave this guy that we had good reports on. We really wanted to get another defenseman. You can never have enough defensemen. We’re going to spend some time with him and he’s going to progress nicely. He’s got a lot of energy to him.”
 
In his second season with Omaha, Petrecki led all team defensemen with 23 points (11 goals, 12 assists) and a plus-16 in 44 games along with 149 penalty minutes.
 
The Hockey News says:
“One scout said:  ‘I think if this kid had played in the OHL, we’d be talking about him as a top-five pick.’  Petrecki already has NHL size and scouts love the elements of meanness in his game. He is a punishing hitter who excels in the trenches and plays a responsible defensive game.’  ‘He’s a real physical specimen’, said another scout.”
NHL’s Central Scouting described Petrecki as:
“A stay-at-home defenseman with excellent speed and lateral quickness… has a strong physical presence on the ice with the ability to make the big hit…is quick to the puck and makes hard and accurate passes…needs to improve the consistency of his decision-making and discipline.”
McKeen’s Hockey, who ranked Petrecki 17th overall and fifth among defensemen among draft-eligible players, selected him as the player with the “Hardest Shot” and “Best Body Checker” among players outside of the Western Hockey League, Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and the OHL. McKeen’s also added:
“Blessed with a hulking frame that he makes the most of with arguably the draft's nastiest mean streak, Petrecki has the potential to be a commanding physical presence on the back end. His mobility is a major asset as he possesses a strong stride that gives him great range on the ice.”
Petrecki is scheduled to attend Boston College this fall.
 
Click here for a recap of the rest of the Sharks 2007 NHL Entry Draft selections.
 
The trade of Toskala eliminated the Sharks logjam in goal after seeing the Finnish netminder split duty with former Calder Trophy winner Evgeni Nabokov over the past two seasons. In many ways, it was truly a tale of two seasons.
 
Nabokov began the 2005-06 season as the team’s de facto No. 1 goaltender, but a series of injuries that year gradually allowed Toskala to increase his minutes as the season progressed. By February, Toskala had taken the opportunity in net and run with it, leading the team into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
 
In 2006-07, both goaltenders agreed to split time between the pipes but as the season progressed, neither could argue with the results. Nabokov experienced a resurgence with good health back on his side, earning shutouts in two of his first three starts on the season. Toskala continued his steady play but was hampered in the second half by a sports hernia injury.
 
Just as Toskala had seized the opportunity a year earlier when Nabokov was hurt, “Nabby” grabbed the reigns for the stretch run, starting in all but two of the Sharks last 25 games and posting a 15-6-4 record. At the end of the season, both players’ numbers were eerily similar:
 
 
 
W-L-O/T
GAA
SV%
 
Evgeni Nabokov
25-16-4
2.29
0.914
 
Vesa Toskala
26-10-1
2.35
0.908
 
Despite the evidence that showed two goaltenders can be successful in a tandem role, Wilson knew the situation could not coexist long term.
 
“We promised both goalies that we would resolve the situation and I think it was remarkable the way they handled it,” Wilson said. “We talked to many different teams and the market had kind of been established. Getting the picks that we did gave us lots of flexibility. There was a lot of interest. The decision came down that we’re pretty happy with where Nabber’s game is, but both guys are No. 1’s in this League.”
 
As for Bell, he leaves San Jose after a disappointing season of unfulfilled expectations. Acquired in a three-team deal from Chicago on July 10, 2006 and expected to add an additional scoring threat for the Sharks, Bell was coming off a 25-goal season with the Blackhawks which followed seasons of 21 and 14 goals.
 
But the big winger never found a permanent home among San Jose’s group of forwards and struggled with his consistency on the ice.
 
“I think Mark will be the first one to admit that he didn’t have a great year,” Wilson said. “But the trade is also a combination of some players evolving up too, like Ryane Clowe, Joe Pavelski and a few others who have stepped in and made an impact.”
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