Through the years, the Sharks have displayed their ability to build through the NHL Entry Draft. Current conversation tends to focus on the 2003 class, which may very well be the Sharks best catch ever. However, what makes a great draft year depends on an individual’s point of view.
For instance, if a draft produces two, third-line players, a back-up netminder and a No. 4 defenseman, is it as good or better than one which yields one player, one who turns out to be a 10-year all-star?
Beginning with the 2003 draft class and moving backwards through time (it is much too early to review later drafts), the Sharks have seen seven classes put five or more players into the NHL, though everyone didn’t appear with San Jose.
The Shark 2003 draft class has already produced five NHLers, including four current Sharks. San Jose players include Milan Michalek, Steve Bernier, Matt Carle and Joe Pavelski
. In addition, Josh Hennessy has played his first NHL game with Ottawa this year. With the four current Sharks just scratching their potential, this could be the Sharks best class based on numbers and overall talent.
While not as prolific, 2001 was also fruitful for San Jose as four prospects reached the NHL, including current regulars Marcel Goc, Christian Ehrhoff and Ryane Clowe
. Prospect Tomas Plihal made his NHL debut last season.
Back in 1998, Director of Scouting Tim Burke and his staff pegged six players who reached the show. Jonathan Cheechoo and Brad Stuart were the high profile players in juniors, but Rob Davison, Mikael Samuelsson and Jim Fahey were or have been NHL regulars at some point and Miroslav Zalesak appeared in 12 games from 2002-04.
The Sharks 1997 class saw less numbers reach the NHL, but the fact that two of three became members of Canada’s World Cup team gives it a little extra juice. Captain Patrick Marleau
and alternate captain Scott Hannan, along with Mark Smith, one of the most versatile Sharks ever, have a combined 26 years of NHL experience and have been stalwarts over the last three seasons – arguably the best in franchise history.
The Class of 1995 was known for the Sharks making big stretches with Teemu Riihijarvi and Peter Roed in the first and second rounds, but in the fourth and fifth rounds, they selected Vesa Toskala and Miikka Kiprusoff. In addition, eighth rounder Ryan Kraft played seven games.
In 1994, the Sharks grabbed five NHLers, including fan favorite Jeff Friesen, Alexei Yegorov, Vaclav Varada, Alexander Korolyuk and long-time netminder Evgeni Nabokov.
San Jose’s second-ever NHL Entry Draft in 1992 saw five players steadily play in the NHL, including the long, under-appreciated defensive duo of Mike Rathje and Marcus Ragnarsson. Rounding out the class were Jan Caloun, Andrei Nazarov and Michal Sykora.
Team Teal’s original draft did manage to find long-term NHLers in Ray Whitney (Carolina, 2006) and Sandis Ozolinsh (Colorado, 1996), both of whom won a Stanley Cup. But the draft will forever be tied to Pat Falloon’s short NHL reign after being chosen second overall.
The best Sharks draft year ever? Again, it depends on one’s viewpoint.