This week leading up to the draft, SJSHARKS.com had the opportunity to discuss the draft process and experience with Sharks EVP and GM Doug Wilson.
SJSHARKS.com: Talk about your role and also talk about the draft when you were a player as well. This is the tenth draft you will be entering with the Sharks, and as a role of your job how would you describe it looking into tomorrow’s NHL stars and identifying who is going to be a part of this franchise going forward? What is this process like for you?
DW: It’s actually one of the most exciting times of the year because you’re bringing everybody together, all of your staff. You’re not only exploring the young players that you can draft with your picks, but you’re also, much like last year, evaluating the trade potentials, ways to improve your hockey team. We always do this. We’re always trying to add and replenish and refresh our organization. But you’re also trying to, while you also have an eye on the future, you’re trying to put the best team on the ice. So, last year when we went through this process, getting a Brent Burns. Because of supply and demand, and knowing there are not a lot of defensemen like him out there, we brought all of our staff together to evaluate what we could get with that pick or what we could do, and we gave up prospects to get a very important player. So, the draft is not just about drafting, it’s about everything we do as far as player acquisition.
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SJSHARKS.com: Of the previous drafts, what particular moment do you think stands out as a remarkable memory whether it’s drafting a specific player, moving up or down, or a particular draft as a whole?
DW: Well I think what you try and do is, your amateur scouts who work so hard, overseen by Tim Burke, put so many hours in and identify the players that you want to get, and then you forecast where you think they are going to fall in the draft. What you try and do is match that up, you don’t want to overpay and take a player that you can get later on. And same thing, you don’t want to walk off and say, “We missed that guy.” So, we have a history of moving up and down, but it’s basically to get the players that we would like to acquire, that our staff has really worked hard to identify that they’re our type of person. Getting players later in the draft, quality guys that are on our hockey team, often that might be the most satisfying.
SJSHARKS.com: Is there a particular time or player where you were really satisfied?
DW: Well, I think when you get guys like Joe Pavelski where you have guys fighting for him you think, “Just don’t let this slide any longer.” They’re very healthy, sometimes heated debates on where people fall. When we moved up to get Logan Couture, we felt that if we didn’t get up to a certain spot there was a team that was going to take him with the next pick, which was actually confirmed after the draft. It’s a little bit of a poker game, but to me it’s like everything that we do: Identify what you want, and go get it. And try to balance so that you don’t overpay with the draft round that you get somebody in, but it’s a fine balance. You’d rather get what you want than walk away wishing that you had done something.
SJSHARKS.com: You credit Tim Burke and his staff. Is that a conversation that you are always having with these guys throughout the year, or is it a certain session where you cram right after the regular season ends?
DW: There’s no cramming. They’re so far ahead of identifying who the players are, monitoring injuries, how they play in a playoff situation. You’re looking at eighteen year old players, so you’ve got to forecast a little bit on the physical growth that they may occur in their bodies, how they see a game, how they play in tough situations, and when things aren’t going well how they react. So you’re always trying to learn and gather information because you only get so many picks. On our staff there’s a great report since we started doing this with our group in 2003. We’re in the top three in the league with the players that we’ve drafted, that have played man games played in this league. That to me, that’s just a reality, and that’s a credit to the work that our amateur staff does.
SJSHARKS.com: What was your draft experience like when you were drafted? Was there anticipation, excitement? You were picked fairly early.
DW: When I was drafted, that was when the WHA (the rival league) was trying to get people to sign prior to the draft, and we did not go to the draft it was done by phone. So I was at home with my family, which to me was really important and cool because those were the people that were there that allowed me to play and to grow and to have that opportunity, so it was a family thing. I was drafted by Chicago, but I was getting calls from the WHA’s Québec Nordiques to sign prior to that draft. No disrespect to the WHA, but my brother played in the NHL and I wanted to follow in his footsteps.
SJSHARKS.com: Was there a bit of satisfaction with that phone call you got from Chicago, notifying you that you were selected? Did you anticipate going at that spot?
DW: I had a knee injury the last year of my junior career, but we went to the Memorial Cup which was the junior championships, so I was able to come back from a knee injury and play pretty well and go to the Memorial Cup. A team that had contacted me was Minnesota, who was drafting right around that range so that’s where I thought I would be going. To go to an Original Six team like Chicago was pretty exciting.
SJSHARKS.com: Is there any big change in the process of how the draft was in that time period versus how it has evolved now?
DW: Well, to me it’s tough. We’re really focusing on who we’re going to acquire. It’s really difficult as a father, who has four kids, to see somebody who’s not getting drafted or falls round after round. Sometimes I wish not everybody was there, but it’s an event. I have such great respect for players and for families, that’s tough to watch. When a guy is rated in the third round and goes in the first round, that’s exciting and everybody is pumped up about that, but guys that are rated and have expectations and fall and sometimes don’t even get drafted is tough to watch.
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SJSHARKS.com: Looking at who you guys are targeting in each draft, there’s obviously a big pool of guys who have the skill set and the talent to perform at this level. This may be a question better suited for Tim Burke and his staff, but as far as the process goes of identifying those intangibles of character, how hard is that to gauge?
DW: Well you gauge that by viewing. Our scouts, we see a lot of games with a lot of DVD’s of how people handle not just success but bumps in the road, or injuries, or failures. That really reveals the character. Hockey sense is really important, and the whole “Hockey Rat” thing that they love to play the game. There are moments that you can see where a guy steps up and he has an opportunity, and he can take the easy way out or he digs down deeper. That’s an intrinsic view into how the way that player is wired and made, and that’s really what you want.