PITTSBURGH Theyve hit their fair share home runs.
Recent draft picks like Logan Couture and Marc-Edouard Vlasic in the early rounds, coupled with late finds like Justin Braun and Tommy Wingels has given the Sharks top-end, impact players as well as some rapidly developing youngsters.
There have been strikeouts, too. In 2003, the Sharks took Steve Bernier 16th overall, just ahead of players like Zach Parise, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Mike Richards and Ryan Kesler.
Recently, 2007 first round pick Nick Petrecki (28th overall) has spent the last three seasons in the minors, and a pair of NHL scouts recently told me he shouldnt even be considered an NHL prospect anymore.
Such is the nature of the NHL Entry Draft, which takes place over a two-day span beginning on Friday at Pittsburghs Consol Energy Center.
Theres always a degree of luck, but I think you create some of your luck, too, said Sharks scouting director, Tim Burke. I think its more our staff. Some scouts dont see everybody, but sometimes when they see a guy in their area theyre pushing hard for him, we have to go back out and look at him so they get some more support. Its more that, than anything else.
Doug Wilson said: Everybody works hard in this business, but what I like about the scouting staff is the healthy discussion. Burkie deserves the credit for that. Scouts have the opportunity to stand up and fight for their people.
With the pool of players so vast and so young, opinions can change almost overnight. Burke mentioned one player in this years draft, without using his name, as an example. Early on, the Sharks scouts were sky high about this particular player, but their evaluation of him quickly went the opposite direction.
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We got so excited on the guy early, it was like, how did you get to this point? Burke said. Youve got to look at the peaks and youve got to look at the valleys a little bit closer, or you get fooled. Theyre only 18 years old. There might have been something going on in his life.
The Sharks will stick with their philosophy of taking the best player available, as it's pretty unlikely the guy they take at 17 overall is ready to jump into the NHL right away. It typically takes three or four years of seasoning in junior hockey or the AHL before a draft pick is ready for The Show.
The kids are so young, by the time they are ready youve got a different need," Burke said. "It's different looking at it in hockey. In football, the kids are 22 years old. In hockey, not many guys play right away. Needs could change every year.
Since Wilson took over the Sharks just prior to the 2003 draft, the organization has had a generally strong run of success. In fact, Sharks selections have played more than 3800 combined games in the NHL (either for San Jose or another club), which is the most among Pacific Division teams and second only to the Chicago Blackhawks in the conference.
The club lists a staff of 11 scouts, several of whom scour North America and Europe looking for amateur talent. They file reports back to Burke, who oversees the operation and is the principle decision-maker when it comes to the draft.
We keep track of all the reports, where everybodys going and who theyre seeing and we cross check and have people go to tournaments, Burke said.
For the potential high round choices, Wilson is brought into the process.
Were looking at guys all year for different reasons to see if they keep improving or theyre going backwards. But certain guys that are important Wilson sees, and were all in it to make the decision. Some of the decisions, especially in the first round, you better be sure that everybodys on board about it.
That includes the interview, which takes place mainly at the scouting combine in early June and continues in the days leading up to the first round. Burke, 57, is in 15th season as head scout of the Sharks, and experience has served him well when it comes to that part of the process.
The interview, youve got to be careful sometimes, he said. The kid could come off as a real quiet, reserved kid, nervous around adults. Hasnt been in that environment before. And, he could fool you because hes a great interview but its all a bluff. You have to go back to who he is and what he does.
Wilson said: You have some players that are trained for the interview, or packaged for the combine. The work that really carries the most weight is what they see during the season. How players have played maybe in a tough situation.
The draft has become even more of an event recently than the NHL trade deadline, in terms of the opportunity to make drastic changes. So many teams are up against the salary cap in late February, or, with the recent penchant for parity, are still in the hunt. The past two NHL trade deadlines have been relatively quiet as a result.
If youre the GM of an NHL team looking to make a potentially extreme modification to your roster and there are several reports out there that the Sharks are trying to do just that theres no better time than now to do it.
Wilson, who admitted that hes in trade discussions, wont confess to any added pressure, though.
You want to start building your team in the offseason. It takes two sides to make a deal, obviously.
I think a lot of attention comes to today and the trade deadline, and a lot of attention on free agency beginning on July 1, but every day is an opportunity, and you plant seeds. Some deals and discussions take a long time to bring to fruition, but youre always looking at what your needs might be.
Youre trying to put your best team on the ice, and keep an eye on the future to refresh and replenish.