Astute drafting has helped the Sharks evolve into a perennial contender. Although superstars Dany Heatley, Joe Thornton and Dan Boyle came from outside the organization, homegrown players like Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski and Douglas Murray are the foundation on which this team is built.
The Sharks have already begun building the groundwork for the future. Due to the organization’s recent success they have not been merited with early draft picks.
However, Logan Couture (ninth overall, 2007), Jamie McGinn (36th overall, 2006) and Derek Joslin (149th overall, 2005) have played a combined 256 games for San Jose during the last three years.
This means that for three consecutive years the Sharks have drafted a player from the Ottawa 67’s (OHL) that has gone on to make an impact in the professional ranks.
“I’m biased, but I think the OHL is the best junior league in the world,” says Couture, stating that John Tavares (Islanders), Drew Doughty (Thrashers), Taylor Hall (Oilers) and Patrick Kane (Blackhawks) have all had professional success after stints in the OHL.
“It’s a great league, it prepares you to go pro. You play 68 games, you travel…you practice every day, so it prepares you to play pro hockey.”
Established in 1967, the year the NHL expanded from six to 12 teams, many legendary players played junior hockey. Bill Clement, Denis Potvin (Hall of Fame) and Bobby Smith all played for the organization.
“You walk in the dressing room and there’s pictures of all the players who went on to play a game in the NHL,” says Couture. “You look over the years and see some superstars who played in the NHL who played in Ottawa. It’s definitely pretty sweet.”
One major name stands out: Sharks GM Doug Wilson.
The former defenseman who spent his 16-year career with Chicago and San Jose had his No. 7 retired by the organization in October of 1998.
“Logan and myself, we ended up being captains,” said McGinn, who joined the team during former coach Brian Kilrea’s 30th year in Ottawa. “I was captain one year and he followed and we realized how lucky we are because there’s just so many players for that organization to wear the ‘C.’”
Joslin had his picture placed on the wall this year.
“It was definitely pretty exciting when I heard my picture was up on the wall there,” said the defenseman, who also had his first NHL goal this year. “I remember coming in there as a 16-year-old and looking up at all the pictures on the wall and not thinking that one day mine would be up there with them.”
At age 16 all three players left friends and family to join the 67’s.
“It was tough at first,” admits Couture, whose hometown of London (Ontario) is six hours away from Ottawa. “I mean I was 15 or 16 years old and that was the first time I was leaving my family.”
“You have to grow up really quick,” offered McGinn, who hails from Fergus, located two hours northeast of London. “I feel like at that age I was ahead of my buddies at that age because I was already moved out…and everything.”
London and Fergus are located between Detroit and Buffalo. Joslin grew up in Richmond Hill, which is 25 minutes north of Toronto.
“I remember getting a little homesick around November,” echoed Joslin, “but you meet some great guys and they become your new family. You’re with them every day so it definitely made it a lot easier.”
All three players became close in Ottawa and their relationships have carried over at the professional level.
“[It’s] nice to share the experience of playing in the NHL with two former teammates you grew up with in the junior ranks,” says Joslin, who played with McGinn for three years and Couture for two. “It’s great having them here and having a few familiar faces in the organization.”
McGinn and Couture, who were roommates for a year in Ottawa, currently room together on the road.
“[We’re] able to vent to each other because we’re going through the same things,” says McGinn, who has yet to find the back of the net this year. “He’s having a great year, but he’s struggling because he hasn’t scored in a while and I kind of joke with him saying, ‘Look what’s going on with me.’”
All three players returned to Canada’s capital earlier this year when the Sharks played the Senators on Dec. 2.
The storyline was supposed to be Heatley’s return to Ottawa, where he spent four seasons before becoming disgruntled and leaving under terse conditions, but Couture stole the show, scoring two goals in a 4-0 victory.
“I had my billet family there, my coach from Ottawa [Brian Kilrea] was there and our assistant coach and a lot of fans who watched me in Ottawa were there as well. It is something I’ll probably never forget.”
As the Sharks enter the second half of their season, all three players will have to make an impact in order to give San Jose another shot at the Stanley Cup.