Much like the first blossoms of spring signify the end of winter, the annual NHL Entry Draft marks the beginning of a new season for all 30 teams with the Stanley Cup Playoffs now complete.
Since only one NHL team can fulfill the ultimate challenge of capturing the Stanley Cup each season, the yearly gathering of team executives, general managers, scouts and hundreds of hopeful 18- and 19-year old hockey players in late June can signify change for many people in many different ways.
For hockey fans, it begets a fresh start for each and every team to begin preparing for the coming hockey campaign and that THIS
could finally be the year their team brings home Lord Stanley’s Cup.
For every NHL hockey team, it is the process of selecting new players, adding fresh lifeblood to the team’s reserve list. Whether holding the first overall selection and taking an immediate impact-player such as Joe Thornton
, Vincent Lecavalier or Sidney Crosby, or looking for diamonds in the rough like Gary Suter (180th overall), Joe Pavelski
(205th overall), Henrik Zetterberg (210th overall) or Pavol Demitra (227th overall), the best NHL organizations view draft day as the time when the foundation for championship teams is laid.
It’s also a new beginning for the players and their families who sit anxiously in the stands, desperately waiting for their name to be called. On this day, the culmination of a lifetime of hard work, passion and dedication from the athlete, not to mention sacrifice on the part of the parents, comes to fruition and their professional career begins.
Sharks Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Wilson understands all of these things. Of course, first and foremost, he is a fan of the game. Furthermore, he has sat anxiously as an 18-year old prospect hoping his name would be called by an NHL club (and it was when the Chicago Blackhawks took Wilson with the sixth overall selection in 1977, beginning an All-Star career that would end in San Jose). And of course, he has sat in the head chair at the San Jose table for the past six NHL drafts alongside Director of Scouting Tim Burke, searching for young players who will one day don the Sharks uniform.
“We have always said that the primary means of building our club is through the draft and we look at this year no differently,” said Wilson.
Entering the 2009 draft, the Sharks do not hold a first round selection, opting to include that pick in the trade that netted the team All-Star defenseman Dan Boyle
from Tampa Bay. And although there is a certain glory in walking up to the podium and making those first round selections, it should also be noted that after the Sharks Presidents’ Trophy-winning campaign, the team’s selection would sit at 26th overall, which in some eyes is viewed as a glorified second round selection. After a season of watching Boyle roam the Sharks blueline, it’s safe to say that most would take that trade in a heartbeat.
The Sharks do hold two mid-level second round selections in this year’s draft. Looking at the first two rounds combined, there are approximately 60 selections (the final number will depend on any compensatory selections added by the National Hockey League). While the Sharks may enter the draft proceedings without a pick among the first 30, the Sharks are not one of eight NHL teams who do not have two picks among the first 60 selections, providing the team a degree of flexibility.
“I am completely comfortable where we sit,” said Wilson.
Furthermore, that’s not to say that Wilson could not maneuver a deal to move into the first round should a player that Burke and his scouts covet be there for the taking.
A similar package of assets was utilized to jump into the first round (28th overall) in 2007 to nab top prospect defenseman Nick Petrecki
. Petrecki was recognized as one of the toughest defenseman in the NCAA and after two stellar seasons that culminated in a NCAA National Championship with Boston College in 2008, he recently signed his first professional contract with the Sharks. He will attend his first NHL training camp this September.
The Sharks have also essentially replenished a few of their missing draft selections this year by supplementing their reserve list with several highly sought-after free agents from the Canadian junior leagues and U.S. college sector, including forwards Brandon Mashinter
(Belleville, Ontario Hockey League) and Kevin Henderson (University of New Brunswick), and defenseman Joe Loprieno (Merrimack).
The official record book will also show that the team did not have a first round selection in 2008 but that is a bit misleading.
“In making the Vesa Toskala/Mark Bell trade with Toronto, we had the option of using the first round selection that we acquired in the 2007 or 2008 draft,” Wilson said. “When Logan Couture
was available, we opted to take it in 2007 and we later supplemented that pick with Petrecki, who we had slated much higher. So although we did not make a first round selection in 2008, we made two in 2007 so perceptions can get skewed a bit.”
As everyone knows, drafting 18-year old kids and projecting how their hockey careers will play out five or ten years down the road is far from an exact science. Many NHL hockey people say that if a team can pull two legitimate NHL players from a given entry draft, it can be called a success.
Under that formula, Burke and his staff’s performance on draft day has been tremendous, whether those players hold an active role on the current Sharks roster or have been used as assets to acquire other players.
In 2003, the team “hit” on four of its eight selections: Milan Michalek, Steve Bernier (now with Vancouver) (first round), Matt Carle (now with Philadelphia) (second round) and Joe Pavelski
(seventh round). Josh Hennessy (now with Ottawa) (second round) has had his “cup of NHL coffee,” been a solid AHL prospect and could become the fifth player from this class to establish an NHL career.
The following year, they added Torrey Mitchell
(fourth round) along with Lukas Kaspar (first round) and Thomas Greiss
(fourth round), who are working their way toward becoming NHL regulars after seeing time in the San Jose line-up over the last two seasons. Michael Vernace (seventh round) made his NHL debut last season playing in 12 games with the Colorado Avalanche.
In 2005, the team hit big again, tabbing Devin Setoguchi (first round) and Marc-Edouard Vlasic
(second round) with their first two selections. Derek Joslin (fifth round) is likely to get a hard look at training camp in September to stick with the big club. In addition, San Jose selected Alex Stalock
(fourth round), who recently signed a contract with the Sharks after three stellar NCAA seasons with the University of Minnesota-Duluth. Last season, Stalock won 21 games, finishing first among all WCHA conference goaltenders with a 2.13 goals-against average and a .924 save percentage. He will likely begin his first professional season with Worcester in the fall.
It is still too soon to tell on the draft years that encompass 2006-2008, although 2006 second round selection Jamie McGinn has already begun making an impact in a limited role with the Sharks and will likely soon be followed by Couture and Petrecki and goaltender Tyson Sexsmith
(3rd round, 2007).
Wilson also will have fifth round and seventh round picks to play with on Day 2 of the 2009 Draft and the team is well positioned in 2010, with a first round selection, two second round selections and a third round pick, as well as later-round picks.
2009 Sharks Draft Selections (exact pick numbers to be determined)
Picks the Sharks hold are in bold
1st round – Traded to Tampa Bay in package to acquire Dan Boyle
and Brad Lukowich2nd round – BUFFALO (acquired in Craig Rivet trade)
2nd round – SAN JOSE
3rd round – Traded to Tampa Bay in package for a 2008 3rd round selection (Drew Daniels
4th round – Traded to Los Angeles in package for a 2008 4th round selection (Samuel Groulx)
4th round – Acquired from Toronto in Toskala/Bell trade. Traded to Nashville in package for a 4th round selection in 2008 (Hari Satteri)5th round – SAN JOSE
6th round – Traded to Columbus in exchange for Jody Shelley7th round – SAN JOSE