San Jose Sharks’ Remarkable 3rd Round Draft Anguish

In the offseason, we typically cover subjects which aren’t quite as serious or perhaps a bit quirky. In keeping with this spirit, we’ll review one of the quirkiest and most frustrating of all San Jose Sharks histories.

We’ll start at the beginning of the franchise, before the team had ever played a game. In their 1991 inaugural draft, Dody Wood was the team’s third round draft pick. Few Sharks fans remember Wood. He played 106 NHL games, all for the Sharks, collecting 18 career points. As an enforcer, he earned 471 penalty minutes, some more memorable than others.

Wood also represents something else. He is the high water mark among Sharks third round draft picks as measured by games played for San Jose. Its hard to imagine it’s been downhill even since — but it’s been downhill ever since.

This is not a story of the good, the bad and the ugly because, well, good is pretty much absent. Just a lot of bad and ugly. Few things have been more of a disaster for San Jose than their third round draft picks.

The Best of San Jose’s 3rd Rounders

Beginning with Wood in 1991, the Sharks have selected 19 players in the third round. The picks have ranged as high as 45th overall (the 1991 pick for Wood), and as low as 94th.

The second most games played for the Sharks by one of the team’s third round picks belongs to Ville Peltonen (1993). In 59 games played for San Jose, he posted four goals and equaled Wood’s 18 points. Wood and Peltonen are the all-time co-leaders among points tallied for the Sharks among the team’s third round picks.

The best player to emerge from the Sharks third round picks is goalie Thomas Greiss (2004), the 94th pick in his draft year – ironically, the lowest of all the Sharks third round picks. His 44 games played for San Jose trail only Wood and Peltonen. Greiss has put together a solid career, though his meaningful seasons came after he left San Jose (notably handling the starting job for the New York Islanders). Greiss is the only Sharks third round pick to participate in a Sharks playoff game. And it was just one game, a relief stint in 2010.

Thomas Greiss
Thomas Greiss in San Jose. (Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports)

There is one more name to add to the list, the fourth and final player who the Sharks drafted in the third round and played for San Jose. Alexei Yegorov (1994) managed six points for San Jose in 11 games — spread over two seasons. Bizarrely, all his goals came is a single game, a hat trick against Calgary in 1996.

One might wonder if the Sharks have recouped some value along the way through trades. The answer is a little bit. Wood was traded to New Jersey in 1997 for a minimal return. Neither Greiss or Peltonen were traded, so there was no recouping value in their departure. Peltonen returned to Europe after his two-year stint with the Sharks, later joining the Nashville Predators (with only slightly mores success) and the Florida Panthers (where he had his best seasons).

And this, folks, is the complete list of Sharks players who they drafted in the third round and played for the team. A grand total of 220 games played for San Jose with a meager 15 goals. Yikes!

For the most damning statistic, a drumroll please. The San Jose Sharks have won over 100 playoff games in franchise history. But no Sharks third round pick has ever played for the team in a winning playoff game.

What If?

By the time the NHL draft hits the third round, talent levels drop, so one might wonder what happened right after the Sharks draft pick. I reviewed each draft and asked the question, “if the Sharks had selected the person taken immediately after their pick, how would things have turned out?”

In 1991, the Sharks took Wood and the subsequent pick was Rich Brennan (Quebec Nordiques), who made it to the NHL, but remarkably, managed to have a career slightly less productive than Wood. I’ll call it a push (the pick after Brennan, Yanic Perrault, was a different story, with over 500 NHL points in his career).

Among the 19 selections by the Sharks and the subsequent selection by another team, several were a push, with neither team getting much of anything (seven times). There are three Sharks third round picks still in the system. Two are long shots to ever make the NHL.

Among those where I can count a winner, I get seven ‘wins’ for for the subsequent pick and two ‘wins’ for the San Jose’s pick. While some wins were small (including both Sharks wins), some weren’t.

The two clear wins for the Sharks were Peltonen in 1993 and Greiss in 2004. Both made it to the NHL while the subsequent pick didn’t. Still, these were very small ‘ wins’, given what each player produced for San Jose.

Thomas Greiss
Thomas Greiss is having a solid NHL career, mostly with the Islanders. He only played 44 games  for the Sharks. (Robert Duyos-USA TODAY Sports)

A number of players taken with the subsequent pick have had, or are having, modest NHL careers. Goalie Manny Fernandez (1992) managed over 300 NHL games. Another goalie, Jason LaBarbera (1998) tended goal in 187 NHL games. Two current players, Michael Chaput (2010) and Brett Lernout (2014) have made the NHL teams, though neither has done a whole lot.

Alas, the wins for the subsequent pick get larger from here. Niclas Havelid (1999) was the subsequent pick taken by the Anaheim Ducks, and he played over 600 games. Frans Nielsen (2002) is still going, having played 764 games in a good career, mostly with the Islanders.

Frans Nielsen
Frans Nielsen was drafted by the Islanders and played most of his career with the team (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

But now is when it gets worse. Really, really worse. The Sharks 1996 pick didn’t make the NHL, but the subsequent pick did. And remarkably, he’s still playing in the NHL. He’s future Hall-of-Famer Zdeno Chara, selected by the Islanders. Figuratively and literally, one Chara dwarfs everything the Sharks have ever done in the third round.

3rd Rounders in the Sharks System

Will things get better for Sharks third round picks still in the organization? There’s 2018 pick Linus Karlsson and it’s clearly too early to project anything for him. The Sharks had no third round picks in 2016 or 2017, which makes goalie Mike Robinson, the 2015 pick, the most recent third-rounder other than Karlsson. Robinson hasn’t shown much NHL promise. Alex Schoenborn, taken in 2014, hasn’t been able to stick with the organization’s AHL team (San Jose Barracuda), so it’s fair to say his NHL opportunity is slim. And that’s it.

The Sharks have a wonderful history with draft picks after the third round, including Sharks past and present. Marcus Ragnarsson, Ryane Clowe, Joe Pavelski and Evgeni Nabakov are just a few of the fine players selected in later rounds. All this makes the third round aberration something quite bizarre.

Joe Pavelski Sharks
Joe Pavelski, San Jose Sharks, Nov. 28, 2017 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

One wishes Linus Karlsson the best, of course, knowing he is up against some daunting history.

Zeke’s Notes

Both Greiss and Peltonen played in multiple Olympics, for Germany and Finland respectively. Peltonen owns four Olympic medals, three bronze and a silver.

While life has gone well for most of those mentioned in this piece, the end came much to early for Yegorov. He died young, reportedly the victim of a drug overdose while in Russia.