San Jose Sharks have little to show from 2009 NHL Draft

By Craig Fischer

Taylor Doherty - San Jose Sharks

Photo: Defenseman Taylor Doherty, currently skating in AHL Worcester, is one of two draft picks from the Sharks 2009 class that is still part of the organization (courtesy of Fred Kfoury/Icon SMI)

The 2008-09 Season was one of great hope for the San Jose faithful. The team finished the regular season with 117 points, a franchise record, and good enough to win their first and only Presidents’ Trophy as the league’s best team after 82 games.

The team was as strong as it had ever been. Management had gone out and acquired big time players to bring the Stanley Cup to San Jose—most notably by trading away their first-round pick in the 2009 NHL Draft along with Matt Carle, Ty Wishart, and a 2010 fourth-round pick  for Dan Boyle and Brad Lukowich; a deal that made a good team a legit contender.

The best team on paper in franchise history lost in six games to the rival Anaheim Ducks in the Conference Quarterfinals. It was a train wreck in terms of the run, but how did the Sharks make out after the dust settled on the draft floor? Not much better.

William Wrenn, D, USA U-18 (USDP) – 2nd round, 43rd overall
Status: Bust
NHL Games Played: 0
Before the 2009 draft, William Wrenn was considered a skilled two-way defenseman with a physical edge. A two year veteran with the USNTDP, Wrenn showed the pedigree and potential to one day play in the NHL. While the selection itself was a bit of a reach considering his final Central Scouting ranking (54th in North America), he fit into the plan of drafting high character, skilled, two-way players. The fact that the Alaskan native grew up in California and wanted to play for a west coast team did not hurt either.

After being drafted, Wrenn drifted from team to team in four different leagues and never really gained his footing on a development path that fit his physical and aggressive style of play. Over the years, the offensive side of his game had withered up, and he was concentrating more on making the big hit than his position play. His inability to adapt his game and the influx of defenders at the AHL level really made things difficult for the sturdy defensemen, and he just never found a home in the Sharks organization. He currently plays on a minor league contract with the Texas Stars, a Dallas affiliate.

Taylor Doherty, D, Kingston Frontenacs (OHL) – 2nd round, 57th overall
Status: Prospect
NHL Games Played: 0

Ever since he was drafted, there has been hype surrounding the lanky Taylor Doherty. Scouts loved his frame and the fact that the largest kid in his draft class could skate well enough and had a rocket of a shot on display in Kingston made him an alluring pick. Early on, he was even considered the best defenseman in the Sharks system.

The thing about Doherty is that he has just never lived up to the potential. He does not play like a young Zdeno Chara like he was unfairly likened too during his draft year. He plays very conservatively and fails to really use his body to his advantage. He is on perhaps a normal trajectory for a defenseman of his stature and it is hard to remember that he is just 22 years old; he still has NHL potential and every year despite how maddening it is at times to watch him play, he does improve. However, the hype has quieted down, and there will never be the same Chara-like projections, even with his size, for if Chara plays like a bear on skates, Doherty is without a doubt a bear cub on a tricycle on skates.
Phil Varone, C, London Knights (OHL) – 5th round, 147th overall
Status: Prospect (BUF)
NHL Games Played: 6

Phil Varone was not ranked very highly by Central Scouting in his draft year (172nd among NA skaters), but the Sharks scouting staff really liked his playmaking ability and what he brought to the offensive spectrum. He was a low-risk, high-reward draft pick, that just never got a fair shake in the organization.

By 2011, the Sharks had failed to sign Varone to a contract, even after the young center posted solid, point-per-game numbers in the OHL. The Rochester Americans swooped in, and instantly, Varone made an impact. In his rookie season he led all Rochester players in scoring. The following year he signed with the Sabres, and has to date played a handful of games in the NHL.

While games played in the NHL, should not be the barometer for success in drafting and developing prospects, Varone is the only Sharks draftee from the 2009 draft to have made it to the show. While he projects to be more of an AHL star than an NHL regular, to date Varone is probably the most intriguing prospect to be selected by the Sharks in the 2009 draft.

Marek Viedensky, C, Prince George Cougars (WHL) – 7th round, 189th overall
Status: Prospect
NHL Games Played: 0

Organizationally, there is still hope for Marek Viedensky. The young Slovak still possesses some of the finest penalty-killing skills a prospect can have, but aside from a return from the ECHL last year, his offense looks quite dismal.

As a one-dimensional player, Viedensky has limited value given the plethora of highly skilled, defensively strong forwards in the system, forwards who can score at least somewhat consistently at the professional level. The big forward is on his last leg with the organization, and his personal success this season with the Worcester Sharks will probably determine the course of his career.

Dominik Bielke, D, Eisbaren Berlin (DEL) – 7th round, 207th overall
Status: Bust
NHL Games Played: 0

Most seventh round selections are a shot in the dark, most of them never ever become NHL players. Bielke, while a solid contributor in the Deutsche Eishockey Liga, does not possess the skill to play against NHL competition. The German defender has NHL size, and has really grown into his body over the years, but he lacks the puck skill and defensive capabilities to outgrow the DEL. It does not help that Bielke has encountered a string of injuries that have greatly affected his game.