SAN JOSE - Last week, Sharks general manager Doug Wilson and scouting director Tim Burke met with a group of local media to discuss the upcoming NHL Entry Draft in Philadelphia, which kicks off with the first round on Friday night (4 p.m. PST) and wraps up on Saturday.
Some of what came from the lengthy session can be found here in our draft preview, but there were a few nuggets of that weren’t included in that piece.
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Burke was asked if he likes sitting at 20th overall in the first round, where the Sharks are slotted to choose for the second straight season.
“You never like where you’re sitting. It’s one of those numbers, you always like to get a little higher,” Burke said.
Wilson explained what happened at last year's draft, when Mirco Mueller was apparently rated high enough on the Sharks' list that they surrendered a second round pick and their own first round pick to Detroit in order to move up just two places to choose the lanky defenseman at 18th overall.
That was done "so you don’t leave the draft with something you really didn’t want,” Wilson said.
The Sharks have gained a well-earned reputation of finding key players in later rounds. Since Wilson became the general manager in 2003, Sharks draft picks have played in 6,003 total games, second-highest total in the league despite routinely picking late.
“We’ve been able to acquire some really good players later in the draft. The quality of your draft, to me, is not always predicated on what you do in the first round. It’s later on,” Wilson said.
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Some other notable picks at 20th overall: Larry Robinson (Montreal, 1971), Brian Sutter (St. Louis, 1976), Michel Goulet (Quebec, 1979), Martin Brodeur (New Jersey, 1990) and Brent Burns (Minnesota, 2003).
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One theme surrounding the Sharks lately is mental toughness, and a perceived lack of it in the dressing room from management and the coaching staff.
Is that something that can be identified with 18-year-olds?
“There are some things,” Burke said. “Stability, consistency, body language, how he handles the score of the game, what he does when they’re up versus what he does when they’re down. There’s some things. But, there’s also the other side of it. I’ve seen a lot of guys overcome bad body language, spoiledness with environment. They can be dragged in a positive way.”
The biggest factor for Burke, though, is consistency.
“Assuming that the skating and the raw skills are there, it’s how many plays is he [involved] in that game? Our guys go in and see him, and we don’t want holes in his resume,” Burke said.
“If he has a deficiency, we don’t want it to be in his consistency.”
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The NHL game is continually evolving, with minor tweaks to the rulebook on a fairly consistent basis, even since the end of the 2004-05 lockout when major changes opened up the game.
Wilson offered some insight on where he thinks the game is now, and where it's headed.
“Your third and fourth lines now are built differently than they might have been built 10 years ago,” said the general manager. “How your defense is built is differently than it used to be. It used to be three offensive guys, three stoppers. You’re seeing more teams go to four puck movers and two stoppers. A lot of that is based on the rules. Forecasting where it’s going to go, you want to be ahead of the curve, and not behind it.”
Teams are seeking the perfect balance of playing fast but being physical, according to Burke.
“There are teams in this league that are fast that can’t be successful because it gets heavy, and there are teams that are just heavy. There’s got to be a mix in there,” he said.
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Although NHL front offices are focused on this year’s draft, according to Burke, there is more talk about next season’s prospect pool. Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel are the two players at the head of that class.
“Those two players is what more teams are talking about than anything else,” Burke said.
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The Sharks are holding a draft party at Stanley’s Bar at Sharks Ice in San Jose beginning at 3 p.m. Alumni scheduled to appear include Jamie Baker, Owen Nolan, Kyle McLaren and Mike Rathje.