San Jose Sharks Best Draft Class: 2007
The San Jose Sharks’ unique creation – splitting up with the Minnesota North Stars – gave us an equally unique draft. In 1991, the Sharks selected 14 skaters and two goalies from the North Stars, but only after Minnesota protected 14 skaters and two goalies themselves. Then came the draft, where each team alternatively selected players from the rest of the league. Every other team in the league could only lose one player, which is reasonable. But they also got to protect 16 skaters and two goalies.
If you’re complaining about how many players your favourite team lost, you can kinda blame the 1991 expansion draft. You’ll note how many more players were protected compared to the 7/3/1 or 8/1 lists in recent years? It took San Jose a decade to get their first .500 season, and they had 28 wins in their first 164 games. After three consecutive expansions followed by years of failure – and two relocated franchises – the league smartened up and gave expansion teams better conditions. But that’s not the drafts we’re talking about, here. So after a quick nod to Jeff Hackett, let’s look at the real team building the San Jose Sharks best draft class did for them.
Haute Couture, Rolling the Bones, and More Brains Than Braun
Logan Couture – 1st round, 9th overall
Logan Couture is trouble. Not right now, right now he’s great. And not when he got his call-up in 2009-10. Certainly not during his remarkable playoff appearances, where he’s scored 48 goals and 101 points in just 116 games. And not when he was named the team’s 10th captain for the 2019-20 season. Except, that kind of is the year where he’s going to be trouble, signing an eight-year, $64 million deal at 30 years old.
No mistaking us here, Couture was a rock-solid pick. Only five players from that draft class have more career points, and only three have more goals. And one of them was the blind-luck 5th-round pick Jamie Benn. He’s either reached or been on pace for 25 goals in every one of his seasons, and he’s played all of them for San Jose. But he’s also 32-years-old, making $8 million a year for the next six seasons and has a no-trade clause that limits potential trades to three teams. Hopefully, he comes close to earning his deal all the way through. Otherwise, his very good one-team career can come to an ignominious end.
Nick Bonino – 6th round, 173rd overall
Four trades and two free-agent signings later, Nick Bonino will finally play for the team that drafted him. It took him a while to get going, playing just 35 games in his first two seasons with the Anaheim Ducks. Even so, he established himself as a solid bottom-six option and has built a 12-year, 681-game career from it. The repeated trades show his value, with winning teams adding him for depth scoring and losing ones wanting a steady, veteran centre on-hand. Over his career, Bonino has been just under .50 points per game, and that holds in the playoffs. His 19 goals and 48 points in 105 playoff games have helped bring the Pittsburgh Penguins two Stanley Cups and kept him in demand.
Justin Braun – 7th round, 201st overall
Another late pick, another 700+ game player, ho-hum. Defensive defencemen are never the sexiest role players on the team, but any time your team gets a genuine player in the seventh round you celebrate them. He spent much of his Sharks time in a shut-down pair with Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and they were effective. Taking the worst matchup roles is a thankless job, and while Justin Braun has a good frame that wasn’t how he worked. Instead, he used his reach and anticipation to break up plays. That’s not to say he got outmuscled a lot – dude is still 6′-2″ and 205 pounds, after all. But he’s been mostly healthy and contributing for 11 seasons in part because of his low-impact play.
Frazer McLaren – 7th round, 203rd overall
The other player of note – outside of two cups of coffee – was Frazer McLaren. The big, scrappy McLaren played 102 NHL games between San Jose and the Toronto Maple Leafs, picking up four goals, 11 points, and 264 penalty minutes.
The Runner-Up: 2003
The Sharks best draft class ever might come down to math: who played longest? They have selected some seriously durable players over the years! In 2003, that included the 205th overall pick Joe Pavelski. Pavelski doesn’t just have durability on his side, but competence, too. Last season he played 56 games and scored 25 times. As a 36-year old. Which is ridiculous. San Jose must have had an inkling because they traded up in the draft – moving a sixth-round pick the next year to the Philadelphia Flyers – to get him.
While 2003 was a very good draft year, the Sharks’ earlier selections weren’t exceptional. First-round selections Milan Michalek and Steve Bernier had decent careers, as did second-round defenceman Matt Carle.
The Wonder Years
While that 1991 expansion draft wasn’t great, their first-ever draft pick was… also a miss. Pat Falloon played 575 games in the league, but with Scott Niedermayer and Peter Forsberg waiting? They made up for it in the second round, however, getting 1300-game forward Ray Whitney 23rd overall. Whitney did a lap of expansion/relocated teams, playing for the Sharks, the Florida Panthers, Columbus Blue Jackets, Carolina Hurricanes, Phoenix Coyotes, and eventually ended his career with the Dallas Stars in a nice bit of narrative closure. This was a good year for the Sharks, as they also got the dynamic defenceman Sandis Ozolinsh with their third pick.
Then there’s 1997. The Sharks got 1000+ player Scott Hannan 23rd overall, which is always nice. But they also selected the utterly ridiculous Patrick Marleau as the draft’s second overall pick. The 41-year-old is as yet unsigned, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be before October. He joined the Sharks as an 18-year-old out of the WHL and re-signed with them last season. He used his veteran experience in a fourth-line role mostly, scoring four goals and nine points in 56 games. Thus far – that has to be added here – he has played 1,779 NHL games over his career. And we’re ending this here because I have to go lie down now. Good Lord.