The Value of First Rounders
It is only a matter of time before the festivities of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft begin in Sunrise, Florida. The event marks an exciting time for fans as they watch teams select their future one by one.
And for the prospects, their affiliation with an NHL organization is a dream realized because of their perseverance, hard work, and skill. It all begins here.
For the teams however, draft day is one of the most high-pressure and hectic times of the year. Every name said has the potential to make history, either in fame or in infamy.
Intelligent first-round selections are the foundation of a solid franchise. Take the Chicago Blackhawks and the Pittsburgh Penguins, for example: they took advantage of their high picks in the 2000s and are now annual contenders for the Stanley Cup.
The opposite is true as well though. If a team struggles year after year, it is because their top picks failed to be as successful as they projected.
The Florida Panthers have had seven, top-five picks since the year 2000, but have only made the playoffs once in that span. This is because they consistently drafted players who did not pan out to be among the League’s elite.
Making wise—and often lucky—decisions in the first round is critical to a successful organization. One or two strong selections have the potential to turn a group around in a short amount of time. A first-pick dud is a missed opportunity, and other teams will surely convert on what is given to them.
San Jose’s History of Firsts
The San Jose Sharks have a shaky history in the draft, though they have selected a number of great names as well. As a reference, here is every first-round pick the Silicon Valley franchise has ever made:
[Overall Pick – Name, Position (Points, Games, +/-)]
#2 – Pat Fallon, Forward (322 points, 575 games, -66)
#3 – Mike Rathje, Defense (180 points, 768 games, +26)
#10 – Andrei Nazarov, Forward (124 points, 571 games, -69)
#6 – Victor Kozlov, Forward (537 points, 897 games, -3)
#11 – Jeff Friesen, Forward (516 points, 893 games, -8)
#12 – Teemu Riihijarvi, Forward (0 points, 0 games, 0)
#2 – Andrei Zyuzin, Defense (120 points, 496 games, -40)
#21 – Marco Sturm, Forward (487 points, 938 games, +59)
#2 – Patrick Marleau, Forward (988 points, 1329 games, +10)
#23 – Scott Hannan, Defense (217 points, 1055 games, +2)
#3 – Brad Stuart, Defense (335 points, 1050 games, +10)
#14 – Jeff Jillson, Defense (41 points, 140 games, -9)
#20 – Marcel Goc, Forward (188 points, 636 games, -21)
#27 – Mike Morris, Forward (0 points, 0 games, 0)
#6 – Milan Michalek, Forward (428 points, 697 games, +15)
#16 – Steve Bernier, Forward (224 points, 609 games, -16)
#22 – Lukas Kaspar, Forward (4 points, 16 games, -2)
#8 – Devin Setoguchi, Forward (249 points, 471 games, -6)
#16 – Ty Wishart, Defense (6 points, 26 games, +5)
#9 – Logan Couture, Forward (287 points, 379 games, +46)
#28 – Charlie Coyle, Forward (79 points, 189 games, +9)
#17 – Tomas Hertl, Forward (56 points, 119 games, +6)
#18 – Mirco Mueller, Defense (4 points, 39 games, -8)
#27 – Nikolay Goldobin, Forward (0 points, 0 games, 0)
San Jose has drafted some spectacular names in the first round over the years. Viktor Kozlov, Patrick Marleau, and Marco Sturm have all been important to the franchise. Without them, the Sharks may not have had some of the regular season success they earned since their inception.
However, San Jose also has an outstanding number of first-round failures. Between the years 1999 and 2012, the team selected just one elite skater: Logan Couture.
Over those 13 drafts, the club went four years without a top-30 pick, as they elected to trade their premier selection for other assets during the seasons. Those four choices became Marcel Hossa (2000), Tyler Ennis (2008), Kyle Palmieri (2009), and Zach Phillips (2011).
Even though a name like Tyler Ennis pops out in this list, these picks were traded, not given. San Jose received something in return in all of these deals, with some of them being well worth the price they paid.
But what really stings are the wasted picks on Mike Morris, Lukas Kaspar, and Ty Wishart. Instead of moving the selections and getting decent players out of a trade, the Sharks drafted three people who never made a mark at the NHL level. They combined for a total of 10 points in 42 games.
Jarret Stoll, Cory Schneider, and Claude Giroux were all selected after the Sharks’ three duds in their respective years. What a waste.
At least Wishart was eventually packaged for Dan Boyle.
Another Opportunity Awaits
San Jose currently holds the ninth-overall selection in the upcoming draft, the same spot Couture was chosen in 2007. By looking at the talent available in this class, there is a stellar chance that this pick will become a franchise player, especially if the Sharks can snag one of the three elite blueliners projected to go in the top 10 (Noah Hanifin, Ivan Provorov, and Zach Werenksi).
The Bay Area organization has chosen a number of underperforming players in the first round of the draft, but have been fortunate enough to pick well in the later rounds. Both Joe Pavelski and Evgeni Nabokov were selected upwards of 200th overall in their years.
However, the amount of skill present in the top-30 is often unmatched. This is where many of the elites are picked, and missing out on them is a painful and regrettable experience. Too many times has Team Teal passed by impact players in favor of duds. If the Sharks want to win a Cup, they need to be wise with their decisions.
This team can no longer squander the opportunities given to them.
Drew Weber is a columnist for the San Jose Sharks at The Hockey Writers. He previously wrote articles and appeared on podcasts for Teal Town USA (formerly Pucknology) and contributed briefly to Fear the Fin. You can follow him on Twitter at @puck_over_glass.