Sharks Identify Then Acquire Core Assets At 2007 Entry Draft

By Larry Wigge | Columnist

After trading up with St. Louis for the ninth-
overall pick,
the San Jose Sharks selected center Logan Couture from the Ottawa 67's.
Wheeling and dealing? Moving and shaking? Or maybe it’s just identifying the value of a player and finding a way to get him -- by hook or by crook.

That’s a philosophy most fans would buy into, even if the annual NHL Entry Draft isn’t a fantasy game. The San Jose Sharks are proof that making a quick trade to move up to get the player you really like does work. They have core players such as Jonathan Cheechoo, Scott Hannan, Matt Carle and Steve Bernier to prove it.

The Sharks moved up again at the 2007 NHL Entry Draft in Columbus -- twice -- in Friday night’s first round.

First, San Jose moved up from No. 13 to No. 9 in order to select center Logan Couture from the Ontario Hockey League’s Ottawa 67s. The Sharks did it again at the end of the first round to obtain defenseman Nicholas Petrecki with the 28th pick.

“I’d rather leave the draft floor with two or three players that we had identified as our type of player rather than six or seven maybes," said Doug Wilson, the Sharks GM. “The toughest part of this business is evaluating 18-year-old kids from very diverse backgrounds and making a conviction on the kids.

“That’s where the trust factor fits. And (Director of Scouting) Tim Burke and our staff definitely have my trust. If they say they want a player, it’s my job to find a way to get him.”
Such aggressive thinking is not confined to the Sharks. Many teams are willing to aggressively go after a player that fits into their organizational structure.

“It’s a year’s worth -- and sometimes 1-1/2 years’ worth -- of work; why not be aggressive for a player you really want," said Craig Button, a scout with the Toronto Maple Leafs. “The bottom line is: If you make a trade up to get a kid, that player knows you really wanted him.”

But, the Sharks have clearly become masters at identifying players they believe to fit best into their system and then finding a way to secure the identified players.

In the deal for Couture, the Sharks swapped first-round picks with the St. Louis Blues and also sent a second-rounder this year and a third-round pick in 2008 to complete the deal. San Jose sent two second-round picks to Buffalo for the Sabres’ pick at No. 28 in the first round to land Petrecki.

Some scouts considered Couture the smartest player, hardest worker and best defensive forward in the Ontario Hockey League. Other scouts said Petrecki might be the hardest-hitting defenseman in this year's draft class.

Couture, who had been rated the No. 1 ranked player by International Scouting Service in the past, had 26 goals and 52 assists in 54 games with Ottawa this season. Those were not the numbers scouts expected, but Couture’s season was pockmarked with a bout with mononucleosis at the start of the season and a knee injury at another point.

“He’s a kid who can play with high-end players,” Wilson said of finding a spot for him in the next couple of years on a team that already has Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau at center and players like Cheechoo, Milan Michalek and Bernier on the wings. “He plays the game fast because he thinks the game so well. We’re hoping the adversity Logan had to play through this season is not unlike the injury Jonathan Cheechoo played through in his draft year.

“Petrecki is just a big, strong defenseman with character off the charts. Our guys have been talking about this guy for more than a month.”

In case you haven’t noticed it already, character is a must for any player the Sharks would consider picking. And knowing what San Jose scouts know on the front-end about a player’s character is what makes Wilson eager to act to acquire the player.

“We want guys who really love the game and want to play and learn,” Wilson added. "To me, you can’t manufacture the WANT in a player. It has to be there. That’s why we make the commitment to stick with them and give them every bit of help we can so they can develop.

“In order to win, you can’t be afraid to fail sometimes. But you work hard not to miss.”

The character the Sharks saw in Couture in a season full of adversity is key. 

Last summer, Couture’s knee was cut open during Canada’s Under-18 championships camp. While dropping down to block a shot, Couture was stepped on by the shooter. He was cut for 29 stitches, and couldn’t walk for five weeks. Then, in October, he contracted mononucleosis.

The Sharks grabbed defenseman Nick Petrecki with the 28th pick in the first
round after trading up with the Sabres.
“His competitiveness kept him from taking time off to get healthy when he was sick and then when he was injured,” said Brian Kilrea, the legendary Ottawa 67 coach. “Personally, I think he’s going to be a great player. I’d take a team full of Logan Coutures. He never puts himself first. It’s all about the team with him.”

Skating is the major concern for scouts who downgraded this Guelph, Ontario, native. To that end, Couture has hired a power-skating guru to improve that part of his game this summer.

“We’re going to work on my overall stride, starts, crossovers and other things," Couture said.

There’s the drive to be better, the character that Wilson spoke so highly of in describing what he liked most about Couture.

“He reminds me of a Bobby Clarke,” one scout said after the draft. “He’s gritty. He’s in your face. He’s just a good solid player.”

The work ethic comes from Couture’s genes. Logan’s father, Chet, is a firefighter and National Lacrosse League referee. His mom, Lori, is a gym teacher.

Petrecki also has a pretty good gene pool. His father, Mark, is a retired police investigator now working in masonry. In fact, less than a week before the draft, Nick was helping his dad haul and pour concrete for his dad’s latest project.

Being picked in the first round of the draft means this 6-foot-3, 215-pound defender has come a long way from the days when he and his dad -- a winger at Division III Babson College -- used to go one-on-one in the driveway.

“I used to school him, too,” said dad.

“The operative words there are used to," laughed Nick.

Some scouts compare this Schenectady, N.Y., native to hard-hitting, passionate St. Louis Blues defenseman Barret Jackman.

No wonder the Sharks scouts have been talking about Petrecki for more than a month leading up to the draft.

Such passion, character and leadership in these players is what makes Wilson, the GM, wheel and deal and move and shake the trees for a trade to get the players his scouting staff really, really wants.
Active? Call it proactive trading.

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