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Sharks promote Tim Burke, Doug Wilson Jr. in front office changes

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The Sharks shook up their internal management structure today.

Jun 22, 2018; Dallas, TX, USA; Ryan Merkley poses for a photo with team representatives after being selected as the number twenty-one overall pick to the San Jose Sharks in the first round of the 2018 NHL Draft at American Airlines Center. Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The San Jose Sharks announced a change in their internal management system today, with Director of Scouting Tim Burke being promoted to Assistant General Manager. Doug Wilson Jr., the Director of Hockey Operations, will take Burke’s former position as head scout.

As the Sharks’ chief scout for the last 15 years, Burke has been responsible for the team finding late-round gems like Joe Pavelski, Justin Braun, Joakim Ryan, and Kevin Labanc. Under his tenure, the Sharks have also selected Charlie Coyle, Matt Carle, Timo Meier, Logan Couture, Tomas Hertl, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and Chris Tierney, placing the team among the top drafters in the NHL despite owning the lowest average draft position in that timespan.

There remains, however, a perception that Burke’s drafting has been a bit too conservative in the early stages, especially as the team’s core grows in age without a genuine superstar in the pipeline. Far too often, the Sharks have arguably picked the “safe” pick in the first round with little to show for it, with players such as Lukas Kaspar, Steve Bernier, Nick Petrecki, Marcel Goc, and Mirco Mueller all failing to pan out.

The counter to this argument, of course, is that no team is perfect in drafting and that picking outside the top 10 is largely an educated guess. In fact, very few teams have actually outperformed San Jose in terms of drafting bonafide NHL players at low draft positions, with the selections made under Burke ranking fifth in games played, fifth in goals, eighth in assists, and seventh in points. Moreover, Burke’s high-upside late-round strategy has paid off with startling success, as the Sharks’ late selections have certainly helped the team fill in innumerable holes internally without having to overpay for free agents.

In the wake of Burke’s promotion, Director of Hockey Operations Doug Wilson Jr. will be the new chief scout for the Sharks, making him the go-to guy in the organization for player evaluations and drafting strategy. This is not an unexpected change, however, with the Sharks’ press release noting that this change was made official to better reflect the roles the two had played in the organization as of late. Wilson, as shown in the two-part Shaping the Sharks series, appears to have been the lead scout in charge of this year’s draft. The 32-year-old appears to be much more willing to gamble on early, high-upside picks, as shown by him being the driving force behind the Ryan Merkley selection, and it will be interesting to see how the Sharks draft in the coming years.

Wilson has also propelled the Sharks’ highly-successful unsigned free-agent acquisitions over the last few years, unearthing players like Joonas Donskoi, Tim Heed, Antti Suomela, Marcus Sorensen, and Melker Karlsson. Sharks fans will be hopeful that this success carries over to drafting and player development as well. If his past track record is any indication, San Jose’s scouting department could be in good hands for years to come.