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Drafting in the Wilson Years: The First Rounders

What has Doug Wilson done with his first round picks?

2015 NHL Draft - Round One
Timo time!
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

First round draft picks are incredibly valuable in the NHL. It is the best opportunity for teams to add a player who will contribute to the their success on a team-friendly contract.

That said, not all first rounders are equal; the odds of drafting a franchise changing player drop off significantly after the first few picks. Often, it makes sense to trade away a first round pick, if the other team values that pick more highly than they should.

During Doug Wilson’s tenure as General Manager, the Sharks have frequently made trades involving first round picks. Some of these trades have worked out amazingly well—Brent Burns and Logan Couture are members of this team because of such trades. Other trades have, uh, not worked out so well. Let’s take a look at what the Sharks have done with first round picks since Wilson was hired in 2003.

Draft Year: 2003

Was there a trade? Yes and no. This is the no section. The Sharks used their own pick, #6 overall, to draft Milan Michalek

Breakdown: In the run-up to the 2003 draft, the talk was that Marc-Andre Fleury and Eric Staal would go with the top two picks, which is what happened. Behind them, we were told, was a group of four wingers with differing styles, but all with very high upside. As that Sharks were drafting 6th, they were assured one of Nathan Horton, Nikolai Zherdev, Thomas Vanek, or Michalek.

Was It Worth It: Michalek was the safe pick, and he has had a fine career. He had some injuries early on that may have prevented him from reaching his full potential, but this was a fine pick.

Draft Year: 2003

Was there a trade? Yes and no. This is the yes part. At the draft, the Sharks traded picks # 21, 66, & 107 to Boston for pick #16

Breakdown: The 2002-03 Sharks were not good. They traded captain Owen Nolan to Toronto for a package that included the Leafs first round pick, which wound up being #21 in the draft. On draft day, the Sharks moved this pick up to #16 to draft Steve Bernier.

Was it worth it: Not even close. Bernier has had a solid NHL career, but chosen in the spots immediately behind him were Zach Parise, Ryan Getzlaf, and current Shark Brent Burns. If Wilson had grabbed one of those three, then moving up might have been worth sacrificing the later picks. If they had stayed at #21, the Sharks could have taken Ryan Kesler, Mike Richards, or Corey Perry, or possibly Shea Weber, Patrice Bergeron, or Loui Eriksson, all of whom went in the second round. I don't intend for this post to be a rant about who the Sharks passed on, but the 2003 draft was so ridiculously loaded with talent that they would have gotten a good player at any spot. Trading up effectively burned away two draft picks.

Draft Year: 2004

Was there a trade? Yes. In a draft day deal, the Sharks trade picks #28, 52, & 91 to Dallas for picks #22 & 153

Breakdown: The Sharks traded up to draft Lukas Kaspar

Was It Worth It: No. Kaspar played a total of 16 NHL games. I don't know what the Sharks scouts saw in him, but 16 games is a bad result from your first round pick. It's even worse when you give up a second and a third to get that guy.

Draft Year: 2005

Was there a trade? Yes. In another draft day deal, the Sharks trade picks #12, 49, & 207 to 8 to Atlanta for the 8th overall pick.

Breakdown: In the draft at the end of the lockout (the one that cancelled the whole season), the Sharks traded up so they could draft Devin Setoguchi.

Was It Worth It: Yes. Probably. Setoguchi looked really good in his first full NHL season, scoring 65 points. His totals declined each of the next two years, before he was sent to Minnesota for the Brent Burns trade. Giving up a second and a late round pick is a steep price to pay, but there is not guarantee the Sharks would have drafted an NHLer if they had stayed put. Maybe call this a push, but I think it's a narrow win.

Draft Year: 2006

Was there a trade? Yes. On draft day, the Sharks trade picks #20 & 53 to Montreal for pick #16.

Breakdown: For the fourth year in a row, the Sharks move up in the first round. This time they did so to draft Ty Wishart.

Was It Worth It: No. Wishart played 26 NHL games, none of which were for the Sharks. If you are going to give up a second round pick to move up in the draft, the guy you move up to pick needs to become a significant part of your club, otherwise, it's just a waste of two picks.

Draft Year: 2007

Was there a trade? There were several. Sharks trade Jay Barriball, Ville Nieminen, and a 2007 first round pick (originally belonged to New Jersey) to St. Louis for Bill Guerin.

Breakdown: Prior to the start of the 2006-07 season, Sharks acquired New Jersey's 2007 first rounder and Vladimir Malakhov in exchange for Alexander Korolyuk and Jim Fahey. Basically, the Devils gave the Sharks a first round pick for taking on Malakhov's salary. A few months later, the Sharks flipped that pick to the Blues as part of a package for veteran winger Bill Guerin.

Was It Worth It: Not really. In the first full season of the Joe Thornton era, the Sharks were buyers, and tried to make a big playoff push. That didn't quite work out, as the Sharks lost to Detroit in the second round of the playoffs, and Guerin signed with the Islanders as an unrestricted free agent in the offseason. Not a bad idea, but a definite overpayment for a pending UFA.

Draft Year: 2007

Was there a trade: Yup. The Sharks trade their own first round pick and prospect Josh Georges to Montreal for Craig Rivet and a fifth round pick in 2008.

Breakdown: Like I said, the Sharks were buyers prior to the 2007 trade deadline. They traded their own first round pick and a prospect for Rivet in an effort to bolster the blue line. This move made no sense to me at the time.

Was It Worth It: No. On the plus side, Rivet didn't bolt as a UFA after the season, and the Sharks were able to get a few years of decent play out of him, before sending Rivet to Buffalo for two second round picks. As I said above, this deal made no sense to me at the time, as I clearly remember being shocked that Craig Rivet cost not only a first, but a solid prospect in Josh Georges, as well.

Draft Year: 2007 (yes, again)

Yes there was a trade: The Sharks trade picks #13, 44, & 87 to St. Louis for the ninth overall pick.

Breakdown: After trading away the two first round picks that they had, the Sharks commit one of the grandest larcenies ever on draft day. They sent Vesa Toskala and Mark Bell to Toronto for picks #13, 44, & 98. This is after Bell was done being a good hockey player, and was widely seen as a salary dump at the time. The Sharks then use those picks to trade up from #13 to #9 so they can draft Logan Couture.

Was It Worth It: Yes. Yes. A thousand times yes. Turning Vesa Toskala into Logan Couture is the second best thing Doug Wilson has done as GM of the Sharks. The Leafs fan in me is weeping uncontrollably now.

Draft Year: 2007 (seriously)

Is this the last trade of 2007: Yes. At the draft, the Sharks send pick #41 & 2008 2nd rounder to Washington for pick #28.

Breakdown: The Sharks trade second rounders in 2007 and 2008 for a late first in 2007. So despite having traded away two first round picks in February, and not owning any the day before the draft, the Sharks did, in fact, draft twice in the first round of the 2007 draft. They moved up so they could take Nick Petrecki.

Was It Worth It: No. Petrecki played one NHL game. If you are trading up for a guy who plays one NHL game, you are wasting assets.

Draft Year: 2008

Was there a trade? Yes, but just the one. The Shark trade first round pick in 2008 and Steve Bernier to Buffalo for Brian Campbell and a seventh round pick in 2008.

Breakdown: The Sharks were trying to make a big splash and add Campbell to their blue line. Campbell was a revelation, scoring beautiful goals and leading the breakout in a way that no Sharks defenseman ever had.

Was It Worth It: Maybe. This one is close. The pick wound up being very late in the first round, and Campbell played very well for the Sharks. Unfortunately, Dallas eliminated the Sharks in a heartbreaking second round match up (that featured a 4 OT game six) and Campbell signed with Chicago in the offseason.

Draft Year: 2009

Was there a trade? Yes. Sharks trade Matt Carle, Ty Wishart, 2009 first round pick, and 2009 fourth round pick to Tampa Bay for Dan Boyle and Brad Lukowich.

Breakdown: After Campbell walked the Sharks needed a puck moving defenseman, so they sent a significant number of assets to Tampa for Dan Boyle. Also, they had to dump Christian Erhoff in order to have cap room for Lukowich.

Was It Worth It: Yes. Dan Boyle was one of the best players on the Sharks during his tenure, and they certainly missed him after he moved on to the Rangers. He came at a steep price, but he was worth the cost.

Draft Year: 2010

Was there a trade? That’s a negative, Ghost Rider.

Breakdown: The Sharks use their own pick, #28 overall, on Charlie Coyle. For the first time, in eight drafts at the helm, there are no trades involving the Sharks and first round picks.

Was It Worth It: Coyle was a good prospect and a solid pick.

Draft Year: 2011

Was there a trade? Yes. Sharks send Charlie Coyle, Devin Setoguchi, and their first round pick in 2011 in exchange for Brent Burns and a second round pick in 2012.

Breakdown: In yet another attempt to bolster their blue line, the Sharks acquired Brent Burns for a declining Setoguchi, a late first round pick, and an unproven Coyle.

Was It Worth It: Yes. Burns has been one of the Sharks best players since his arrival. None of the assets they gave up in acquiring him will be as good as he is. Acquiring a Norris Trophy finalist for Coyle, Setoguchi, & a 1st is one of the best trades any GM has made in recent years.

Draft Year: 2012

Was there a trade? No

Breakdown: Sharks draft Tomás Hertl with their own pick!

Was It Worth It: Fun must be always.

Draft Year: 2013

Was there a trade? Nope.

Breakdown: Sharks draft Mirco Mueller with their own pick.

Was It Worth It: Mueller has yet to establish himself as an NHL-calibre defenseman.

Draft Year: 2014

The Trade: Sharks trade the #20 & 179 overall picks to Chicago for #28 & 62 picks.

Breakdown: On draft day, the Sharks trade down from #20 to #28 and draft Nikolay Goldobin.

Was It Worth It: Probably. The Sharks got an extra pick and still drafted one of the best even strength scorers in the OHL in his draft year. Goldobin was traded at the deadline this season, along with a fourth round pick, for Jannik Hansen.

Draft Year: 2015

Was there a trade? No.

Breakdown: The Sharks draft Timo Meier with their own pick. This was the Sharks highest own pick since Wilson's first draft in 2003. They skipped over Matt Barzal, who many believe has the higher ceiling, for the Swiss winger.

Was It Worth It: Too early to tell if they would have been better off with Barzal, but Meier was a consensus top twelve pick, so they didn't go too far off board here. He didn’t score much in his rookie season, but Timo did generate shoots at an elite rate.

Draft Year: 2016

Was there a trade? Yes. Sharks send prospect Sean Kurlay and their first round pick in 2016 to Boston for Martin Jones.

Breakdown: At the 2015 draft, the Boston Bruins acted as an intermediary, acquring Jones (along with a 2015 1st round pick & Colin Miller) from the Kings for Milan Lucic. A few days later, the Bruins sent Jones to the Sharks for their first rounder in 2016, which wound up being #29 overall, thanks to that season’s run to the Final. Kurlay was 22 at the time of the trade. He split time between the Bruins and their AHL affiliate last season. The pick was used on Trent Frederic. Last season, he was a freshman at the University of Wisconsin, where he scored 33 points in 30 games.

Was It Worth It: Jones has been above average in his time with the Sharks. At the time, they didn’t have an internal replacement for Antii Niemi, who was about to leave as a free agent. In recent years, we have seen goalies similar to Jones in age and upside traded for late first round picks (think Robin Lehner or Frederik Andersen). The 29th overall for a competent starting goalie is fair. Thankfully the Sharks didn’t wind up drafting in the top ten for a second consecutive season, or this trade would look very bad in retrospect.