The San Jose Sharks went into the 2008 NHL Entry Draft under unfavorable circumstances not having a pick until the end of the fourth round at number 117. Statistics show, the deeper you go into drafts, the harder it is to convert prospects into NHL players. The move to acquire Brian Campbell for a cup push made things very hard at the draft table.
After trading up, in the third, fourth, and fifth rounds, taking players the team coveted, General Manager Doug Wilson felt better about what he and his scouting staff brought into the fold. Hindsight is always 20/20, but in retrospect the moves as a whole made on draft day five years ago, have to be considered average.
Despite making moves to move up in the draft, it would be the picks made in the later rounds that the Sharks have made count. Seventh round pick Jason Demers has entrenched himself as an NHL player, and it looks like late sixth round pick Tommy Wingels has also now made the jump. The 2008 draft will probably not be remembered as a game changer for the San Jose organization but it did produce.
Justin Daniels, C, Kent School (HS-CT) – 3rd Round, 62nd overall
NHL Games Played: 0
With their first pick in the 2008 NHL Draft, in the third round, the Sharks selected Prep school standout, Justin Daniels. A lanky center, Daniels was considered the 100th overall best North American skater according to the Central Scouting. He was a bit of a draft reach, but the Sharks were happy to take him where they did.
Daniels would play three seasons with the Northeastern Huskies, racking up 38 points in 93 games before electing to turn pro. Having never really solidified himself in any system, Daniels has bounced around leagues, playing in the CHL, SPHL, and ECHL.
The player never really developed his shot that held so much praise at the draft and as such the offensive numbers never came. The most notable name still left on the board was Adam Henrique (NJD), who would be taken 20 picks later.
Despite being taken one round after Daniels, Samuel Groulx was considered by CSS to be a better player (ranked 76th overall) and was considered a gift to have fallen as much as he did. The two-way defenseman fit the San Jose sharks mold perfectly. He was a good puck mover and was defensively responsible at the time of the draft. As he grew, his game never really came together, and by his fifth season in the QMJHL, his chances of making it to the NHL looked grim. After aging out, Groulx took his game to the Atlantic University Sport league where he currently plays with the University of Moncton.
If the Sharks were drafting by position, it is hard to fault their choosing of Groulx. His rookie season in the Q was very impressive, and the kid looked very solid in his own end. The defensemen ranked in this area have struggled equally. T.J. Brodie of the Calgary Flames (114th overall) and Philip Larsen of the Dallas Stars (149th overall) look to be the only NHL caliber defensemen in this range.
Sateri is arguably the only prospect not already in the NHL from this group that still has a shot to make the league. He is a very solid butterfly goaltender with above average quickness and has shown moments of excellence throughout recent campaigns. The Finnish goalie still battles veteran netminder Alex Stalock for starts in Worcester. The fact that Sateri is not the undisputed number one in the AHL is a bit worrying when it comes to his stock, especially when it comes to workload.
The true talents at this position have usually usurped the throne by now—but Sateri looks like a bit of a later bloomer, as evidenced by his draft position. His capacity to actually be a starting netminder in the NHL can be questioned considering 38 is the most games he has played at the professional North American level (he played 58 games, including playoff matches in 2009-10 for Tappara Tampere of the Finnish league). Though, those questions should be tempered as goaltenders often take a long time to develop and the truth is, strategies around the league have changed and most AHL netminders split starting duties to account for the condensed scheduling. There are fewer 55+ starters than the league saw five years ago; last year, for example, only three goalies played more than 50 games.
It is likely however, given his skillset that Sateri becomes more of a backup goaltender than a starter, despite showing brief moments of starter’s potential.
Four goalies taken after Sateri have played at least one game in the NHL: Montreal's Dustin Tokarski (122nd by Tampa Bay), the Islanders' Kevin Poulin (126th), Carolina's Mike Murphy (165th), and Tampa's Anders Lindback (207th by Nashville). Of that group, only Anders Lindback is head and shoulders above the rest in terms of skill, and even at 207 he was sort of an off the board pick. Unless the scouting department had a DeLorean with a flux capacitor, it is unfair to think that a Lindback pick was possible in the 4th round. If the Sharks were looking for a goalie, they made a reasonable selection where they did. If Sateri were selected by any of those other clubs, he would have no doubt already found his way to the NHL.
This is perhaps the single most important factor in determining a player’s progress: situational luck. The role of chance plays a significant role in player’s development. Many of these busts, and successes could have panned out differently if they were selected one spot earlier or one spot later. A player is only as good as his situation, in other words how well his skillset serves the style of play of the team that drafts him and if there is room for him to grow instead of being buried by other more gifted players with the same skillset in the organization. Projecting how these players will contribute to the greater picture is perhaps the bigger struggle than just purely assessing talent.
Julien Demers had always been something of a late bloomer. He also was never fully given the kind of credit he probably deserved and there would be some that might blame politics, but the reality is he just never panned out. Taken in the 15th round in the OHL Priority Selection Draft, he became one of the more prolific Ottawa 67’s defensemen in recent memory amassing 109 points in his tenure. At the time of the 2008 NHL Draft, the physically strong defenseman was an OHL All-Star and considered the 83rd best North American Skater by Central Scouting (this coming off a 64th overall midterm rank). Needless to say he fell in the draft. Team’s questioned his skating ability, but the Sharks were believers.
The 2008 fifth round pick picked used to draft Julien Demers was part of the infamous deal which brought in fierce veteran defensemen Craig Rivet (a solid presence on the back end in his 115 games with the Sharks), that saw the Montreal Canadiens acquiring Josh Gorges and a first round pick what would eventually become Max Pacioretty. Looking forward, this deal stings a bit, but hindsight is 20/20 and to be fair to Demers, it was Rivet that the Sharks were banking on for their failed playoff push, not the throw in pick.
Demers last played in the 2010-11 season for the University of Ottawa Gee Gees. It is safe to say that this pick, despite looking like a steal in 2008, has become a bust. Where he was taken, remember this far into the draft, it becomes increasingly more difficult to convert picks into NHL players, there were not a lot of better choices. Philip Larsen, taken three picks later by the Stars, would have in retrospect been a better pick, but Larsen, the 18th ranked European, was not even the highest ranked Euro defensemen left on the board (Tomi Sallinen of Finland went undrafted). Looking a bit further down the board, players like Cam Atkinson (CBJ), Jared Spurgeon (MIN), and Avalanche pick Jonas Holos might have been better selections, but again, they were ranked considerably lower than Demers at the time. It was a safe pick that just never worked out for the Sharks.
Tommy Wingels, C, Miami University (CCHA) – 6th Round, 177th overall
Status: NHL Player
NHL Games Played: 54
After a few months overseas, Wingels broke camp for the Sharks and over the early part of the season has proven to be a valuable member of the forward group. The Sharks have struggled to find scoring outside of their marquee players, and Wingels’ modest contribution of 1 goal and 4 assists in 16 games is probably coveted a lot more than it would in other years. After 16 games in the NHL this season (54 in total), it looks safe to say that Wingels will be graduating from the prospect class and will become a full-fledged NHL player.
Wingels was never coming onto this team to be considered an immediate offensive threat (the potential is there) he was brought up to contribute in other ways to make his presence felt, and boy has he ever. Wingels leads the Sharks in hits (51) and is constantly one of the hardest workers on the ice for the Sharks. His game still lacks polish and it is obvious he is just shedding his prospect skin, but the hard-hitting checking line forward provides valuable depth for a team that desperately needs it.
Assuming the selection was based on position and the Sharks were looking for a forward, the Wingels pick could be considered flawless. It is hard to imagine Philadelphia’s Zac Rinaldo or St. Louis prospect Stefan Della Rovere (the only other players who have reached the NHL) being comparable to Wingels. Anytime you can get a player from the sixth round of the entry draft, you have done something exceptional.
Jason Demers, D, Victoriaville Tigres (QMJHL) – 7th Round, 186th overall
Status: NHL Player
NHL Games Played: 189
Obviously, the same thing can be said about finding a player in the seventh round. Jason Demers is up to this point the shining light of the 2008 draft for the San Jose Sharks. Having played four seasons with the NHL squad, Demers has become a very solid third pairing defensemen with untapped offensive potential. The talented puck mover does have some holes in his game, his ceiling looks to be a fringe second pairing offensive threat, but the pick could be considered one of the best late round selections in franchise history.
Jason, no relation to Julien, went unranked in CSS rankings, despite leading the QMJHL in defensive scoring. He was actually considered an off the board pick, and perhaps has become a solid contributor to the belief that “statistics” or rather an ability to produce, is just as important in assessing a players future, as are skill assessments and body build. Sometimes all that matters is what a player can do on the ice.
Considering the only player still left on the board at the time of this pick with considerable NHL talent now was Anders Lindback, and the Sharks had already drafted Sateri in the fourth and were organizationally set with their goaltenders of the future, the pick is as good as it gets. Not only has Demers played more NHL games than any of the players drafted after him, you would have to look all the way up into the second round of the draft to find anyone even remotely close to his games played (Derek Stepan (NYR) has played 181). Only twelve players selected in the 2008 draft have played more games in the NHL than Demers, and all twelve, eight of which were defensemen, were first round picks. Demers might not have the star power these other players possess, but he produces on the ice where it counts.
Drew Daniels, RW, Kent School (HS-CT) – 7th Round, 109th overall
NHL Games Played: 0
Drew Daniels, the twin of third round selection Justin Daniels, has always played under his brother’s shadow. The two have played together for most of their hockey lives, and it was not until this season that they would be separated after Justin moved on from the Allen Americans to play in the ECHL.
The lesser talent in terms of offense of the Daniels brothers, Drew grew more into a gritty checking forward. Having never amassed more than 9 points in an NCAA season (24 points in 104 games) Drew never earned a contract from the Sharks. Not every seventh round selection pans out, and looking at the remaining skaters still left on the board, the pick cannot necessarily be faulted (only Della Rovere has played in the NHL to date). If anything the pick should be looked at as an investment into the Sharks highest pick in the draft, especially when you consider the psychological benefits of keeping the brothers together, like Schenn brothers, the Benns, and the Sedins.
Daniels, represents the stark reality of the NHL. Many young men dream of making it to the show, but very few actually make it—and fewer stick around. One thing remains true with each and every person who ever dreams of hoisting the Stanley Cup; the game sticks with them forever. Daniels can be seen sticking up for teammates and blocking shots in the CHL.