Doug Wilson and the Draft

The 2002-03 season was a nightmare season for the Sharks. The season began with contract disputes with Evgeni Nabokov and Mike Rathje, continued with the trade of captain Owen Nolan, ended with missing the playoffs, and culminated with the firing of General Manager Dean Lombardi. On May 13, 2003 the Sharks' Director of Pro Development, Doug Wilson, was promoted to General Manager.

Since Doug Wilson took over the reigns, the Sharks have been extremely successful on the ice, making the playoffs every year. They only failed to get out of the first round twice in the eight seasons he's been General Manager. There are quite a few teams who haven't even been in the playoffs twice in that same span (off the top of my head: Maple Leafs, Panthers, Blue Jackets, Thrashers/Jets). A lot of this has to do with what Doug Wilson and the Sharks' scouting department does during the draft.

This is not solely confined to drafting players; Wilson has made a name for himself through his willingness to make a trade or five in an effort to improve the team. This philosophy extends to draft day; if Wilson sees a player he really likes, or sees a relative lack of players, he elects to trade up or down in the draft rather than sit still. He is especially active in the later rounds, with the relatively small value of 6th and 7th round picks making them easier to swap.

With nine years of drafts behind him, Doug Wilson has set a definite trend in his actions, one that could possibly predict what he'll do at the upcoming 2012 draft.

First up are the trades made by Wilson during the draft.

Draft Day Trades

Year Trade Up Trade Down Swap + Swap - Player Total
2003 3 0 3 1 0 8
2004 1 2 0 0 0 3
2005 1 2 0 0 0 3
2006 3 0 0 0 0 3
2007 3 0 0 0 1 4
2008 3 0 0 0 0 3
2009 0 0 1 0 0 1
2010 0 0 1 0 1 2
2011 1 1 0 0 1 3

Trade Up is when Wilson moved up in the draft, Trade Down is the opposite, Swap + is when Wilson trades a future pick for a pick in that year's draft, Swap - is when he trades a pick from that year's draft for a future pick, and Player is when there is a player involved.

As you can see, Wilson has always been fairly active during the draft weekend, averaging 3.3 trades for every draft with 30 total draft day trades in the nine years he's been GM. The outliers are his first season at the helm, when he traded eight times, and 2009, where there was only one trade.

Note: the unaccounted for 8th trade in 2003 was listed only as a pick traded to the Rangers for considerations, and was unclear as to whether it was fulfilling part of an earlier trade or something else.

Half of the trades he made were to trade up in the draft, usually for first or second round picks when the scouting staff indicate they really like a specific player (Logan Couture is a recent example of this). Rarely does Wilson swap picks for the future - it was only during his trade-o-rama in 2003 did he ever do that. He also showed an initial aversion to trading players on draft day, but now has traded away five players in three transactions: Mark Bell, Vesa Toskala, Henrik Karlsson, Devin Setoguchi, and Charlie Coyle. The only player he has traded for on draft day is Brent Burns.

Interestingly, Wilson has traded with 20 different NHL teams on draft day, with the (surprise!) Florida Panthers serving as his most common trading partner. The teams he has yet to trade with on draft day (because, let's be serious, he's going to trade with them at some point) are the Sabres, Hurricanes, Red Wings, Oilers, Devils, Senators, Coyotes, Maple Leafs, and Canucks.

A list of the players that Wilson has traded up for: Steve Bernier, Matt Carle, Josh Hennessy, Lukas Kaspar, Devin Setoguchi, Jamie McGinn, Ty Wishart, James Delory, Nick Petrecki, Logan Couture, Tyson Sexsmith, Harri Sateri, Samuel Groulx, Justin Daniels, and Matt Nieto. With the exception of Delory, Groulx, and Daniels, all these players that Wilson traded up to draft have either made the NHL or will likely make the NHL at some point within the next two years. An 80% success rate is extremely successful and indicates that the scouting department is rather accurate when targeting players that they deem must-gets.

A list of players that Wilson traded down and drafted: Thomas Greiss, Jason Churchill, Brian Mahoney-Wilson, Mike Vernace, Derek MacIntyre, Tony Lucia, PJ Fenton, John McCarthy*, Sean Kuraly, and Colin Blackwell. As you can see, it is a much less impressive list; only Thomas Greiss, John McCarthy and Mike Vernace have made the NHL, and they've played/started a total of 111 games.

*John McCarthy's pick was acquired as part of a package to trade down, but it was for the next draft, so there was less certainty in who the Sharks were going to draft.


Next up is a breakdown of all the draft picks the Sharks have used since Wilson became general manager.

Draft Pick Breakdown

Year 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th 9th Total
2003 2 2 0 0 1 0 3 1 2 11
2004 1 0 1 2 1 0 2 1 2 10
2005 1 1 0 1 3 2 0 x x 8
2006 1 1 0 1 1 0 2 x x 6
2007 2 0 2 0 0 2 1 x x 7
2008 0 0 1 2 1 1 2 x x 7
2009 0 2 0 0 1 0 2 x x 5
2010 1 0 1 0 3 1 2 x x 8
2011 0 1 1 0 1 2 1 x x 6
Total 8 7 6 6 12 8 15 2 4 68
Average .9 .8 .7 .7 1.3 .9 1.7 1 2 7*

Note: the average total does not include picks from the eighth and ninth rounds, as those only existed for the first two years of the nine years we're looking at.

Under Doug Wilson the Sharks have either met or exceeded the normal allotted number of draft picks a majority of the time; only 2006, 2009, and 2011 the Sharks have had fewer than the 7 picks they'd have without trades. This has led them to average 7 picks per draft year (7.6 if you include the 8th and 9th round picks from before the draft format changed after the lockout).

The later rounds are also given a large emphasis when acquiring or keeping picks. The fifth, sixth, and seventh rounds have the highest average number of picks outside the first round, and both the fifth and seventh rounds average over a pick per year. The only year where the Sharks didn't have a seventh was 2005, and the year the Sharks didn't have a fifth was 2007. These picks are often thrown in on trades when the values are seen as not quite equal but close.

I'd like to take a moment to discuss the 2009 draft. It was the first draft in Fear the Fin's existence, and it was the worst draft of all time. I may be exaggerating a bit, but it was certainly the most boring draft in recent memory. The President's Trophy-winner Sharks had been unceremoniously dumped in the first round of the playoffs by the Ducks, and had traded away their first round pick in the Dan Boyle deal the previous summer. That draft ended with Wilson only making one trade and making a grand total of five picks, the lowest totals in each.

During the first half of Doug Wilson's tenure, the Sharks always had at least one first round pick, average 1.4 first round picks in the first five years. But as the Sharks became perennial Stanley Cup contenders - rather than just a playoff team - Wilson has chosen to trade away the first round pick more often than not. The Sharks have only drafted one player in the first round since 2008, and they have since traded that player away.


That brings me to the next section: players that Doug Wilson has drafted who have made the NHL.

Drafted NHL Players

Year 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th Total
2003 2 2 0 0 0 0 1 5
2004 1 0 1 1 1 0 1 5
2005 1 1 0 1 1 0 0 4
2006 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 3
2007 1 0 1 0 0 1 1 4
2008 0 0 0 1 0 1 1 3
2009 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2010 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2011 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Total 6 4 2 3 2 2 5 24
Average .7 .4 .2 .3 .2 .2 .6 2.7

Making the NHL in this case does not necessarily mean that the player is an NHL regular, but simply that they have played in an NHL game.

The Sharks have been fairly consistent with their NHLer production - while a 2.7 NHLer per year average doesn't seem like much, if you don't include 2009 on (as the Sharks have lower picks that require more time to develop) the Sharks produce and average of 4 players who make the NHL per draft. That means more than half of the players they draft at some point plays in an NHL game.

The most productive round is, obviously, the first round, with six of the eight first round picks having made the NHL so far. The two that have not, Nick Petrecki and Charlie Coyle, are considered good bets to make the NHL this upcoming season.

The second most productive round is actually the seventh round. The Sharks drafted five NHL players from that round - Joe Pavelski, Mike Vernace, John McCarthy, Justin Braun, and Jason Demers - with only Vernace and McCarthy not reaching regular status. This indicates that Wilson has been able to get good value from these low-valued picks, or at least has been incredibly lucky.

Technically, the round with the second-highest percentage of draft picks to make the NHL is the second round, with 57% of picks making it, but that's not as notable as the Sharks' success in the later rounds.


What does this all mean? It means that this coming Friday and Saturday, we will see at least one trade made by the Sharks - I'd bet on two or three. With the Sharks owning higher draft picks than they have in years, it is easier for Wilson to trade up into the higher part of the first round, which is another likely possibility. Wilson also stated earlier that he expects to have more draft picks by the time the picking actually starts, indicating even more strongly that there will be multiple trades, possibly player trades.

This also means that we will witness at least two players getting drafted that we will see in teal in a few years, at which point we will argue about their effectiveness, playing time, and how good they are in the playoffs.