The San Jose Sharks pride themselves on developing prospects from within the organization and they have been very successful thanks to fine drafting and teaching. It was evident this year that a lot of time and effort paid off, as eight players made their NHL debut in 2005-06. San Jose always looks to improve their homegrown talent and one player is getting some valuable experience this week.
Defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic
was selected by the Sharks in the second round (35th overall) of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. Playing for the Quebec Remparts, Vlasic is playing in the equivalent of the Stanley Cup Finals for junior hockey, the Memorial Cup.
The Memorial Cup is the championship trophy of the Canadian Hockey League (CHL). Each year, the Memorial Cup Tournament features the champions from three CHL member leagues (Western Hockey League, Ontario Hockey Leauge, Quebec Major Junior Hockey League) and the host CHL team, competing for the top prize in Junior Men's (Under-21) ice hockey. This season’s Memorial Cup is comprised of the Vancouver Giants from the WHL, the OHL’s Petersborough Petes, the Remparts from the QMJHL and the host Moncton Wildcats.
Perhaps one of the reasons that the Sharks were so successful this season was because of how the rookies played. Players like Josh Gorges and Matt Carle filled in on a blueline that suffered a blow after losing Brad Stuart in a midseason trade. But the fact that both Gorges and Carle had big game experience (Gorges in the Memorial Cup with the Kelowna Rockets in 2003-04 and 2004-05, Carle in the NCAA Frozen Four with the University of Denver in 2003-04 and 2004-05) helped the rookies blossom earlier than most others.
Just like Gorges and Carle, Vlasic is a blueliner who will be looking to find his way to San Jose in the near future. The Montreal, Quebec native enjoyed a fine campaign in 2005-06 with Quebec, registering 73 points (16 goals, 57 assists) in 66 games. His 57 assists tied him for second in the QMJHL, while his 73 points ranked him third and his plus-41 plus/minus rating was sixth best in the league.
The Sharks Steve Bernier is also very familiar with the Memorial Cup. After playing for Moncton of the CHL, Bernier missed the championship series in each of his four years with Moncton. The same year Moncton made their first Memorial Cup run (as the host) was the same year Bernier registered 27 points (14 goals, 13 assists) with the Sharks. Although he’d much prefer playing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs rather than the Memorial Cup, and despite having crossed paths with Vlasic in training camp, the Quebec City native will be rooting for his old squad.
“I know him,” said Bernier of Vlasic. “We were both at training camp together this year. I think he knows who I’ll be rooting for. I may go watch the next game.”
The Memorial Cup winner will be crowned on May 28. Vlasic’s Quebec team is currently 1-1 in the tournament and will play Bernier’s former Moncton teammates on Wednesday. For more information on the tournament, visit http://www.chl.ca/CHLMemorialCup06/home.html