On April 29, 1987, Benn Ferriero entered this world blessed with incredible hockey skill.
Well, at least enough to get him some playing time last night on his 24th birthday, when he netted the game winner 7:03 into overtime following a double-minor penalty to Justin Abdelkader, who had struck defensemen Niclas Wallin with a high stick.
“The puck ended up in the corner, Couture and Abdelkader (who had just come out of the box) were fighting for it,” says Ferriero, describing the play. “Cooch poked it away a little bit, and I was able to swing in there and grab it.”
With the puck on his stick, Ferriero spun towards the goal and whipped the puck off of Detroit defensemen Brad Stuart’s stick before it passed goaltender Jimmy Howard for the game-winner.
“For it to be his birthday and the first day of the postseason, what a birthday gift he gave us, really,” said team captain Joe Thornton. “We’re supposed to give him a birthday present, but that was a birthday present for us.”
Ironically, many organizations may never have put Ferriero on the ice.
Although he was a standout at Governor Gummer Academy in hockey-crazed Massachusetts and spent four productive years at Boston College playing against some of the greatest American players in his generation, Ferriero was the 196th overall pick in 2006 and was not signed by Phoenix, the team that originally drafted him.
“It was just another game for me,” Ferriero said earlier this year regarding a contest against the Coyotes. “No bad feelings or anything like that. It was nice to beat them, but it was really nothing there—just another game.”
While Phoenix has made the playoffs the last two years, many players would feel dejected after having an organization that draws less than 10,000 fans a night and is facing bankruptcy and the possibility of relocation indicates that they are not good enough to play for their squad.
Furthermore, many other franchises may have been hesitant to give that player another shot.
However, the Sharks took a chance on Ferriero.
“When Benny showed up we didn’t know much about him,” said Sharks coach Todd McLellan following the game. “He was a late signing on our behalf, I think it was late August [when] he came to camp, and sometimes it’s a good thing not to be talked about.”
It is a good thing only in a certain capacity.
While recent first-round picks Devin Setoguchi and Logan Couture entered camp with incredible hype and had to work hard to meet expectations, they also have had significant playing time since being drafted and ample opportunity to make mistakes.
As a smaller forward (5’10”, 195) who is older than many other players because he spent four years at Boston College, Ferriero could easily get lost in the mix at training camp.
However, it is the Sharks’ keen eye when it comes to talent evaluation that sets them apart from the rest of the league.
Many of their players, including forward Joe Pavelski (who scored the tying goal in the third period), Jason Demers, Ryane Clowe, Dan Boyle, Douglas Murray and Antti Niemi were either overlooked on draft day or, in the case of Boyle and Niemi, were never drafted.
“You’ve got to be ready when you’re called upon,” says Ferriero. “Try to stay lose, try to stay engaged in the game, and when you get your chance, you’ve got to make the most of it.”
His line sounds like something out of Eminem’s 8 Mile.
You better lose yourself in the music, the moment/You own it, you better never let it go/You only got one shot, do not miss your chance to blow/This opportunity comes once in a lifetime
It was a once in a lifetime opportunity for Ferriero.
He was not wanted by the team that drafted him.
He was scratched for the entire first round.
He received only three-and-a-half minutes of playing time that night.
However, he made the most of his opportunity.
On his birthday.
Tom Schreier is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained first-hand or from official interview materials from the San Jose Sharks.