The 2011 NHL Draft (photo: Bri Weldon)

Sharks' Couture a Steal at 9th Overall in 2007

Confession: I am to be counted among those rabid, obsessive fans who torture themselves by looking back to draft days past and wondering what could have been.

The Sharks could have had Scott Niedermayer.  They took Pat Falloon.

The Sharks could have had Chris Pronger.  They traded down and took Viktor Kozlov.

The Sharks could have had stud D-man Duncan Keith when they picked 52nd overall in 2002.  Instead they picked Dan Spang.  Don’t worry, I did the research for you, and can confirm that this 6’0″ defenseman from Winchester, MA does actually exist.  If you want to watch Mr. Spang in action, you should be able to see him take the ice for the Texas Stars of the AHL again this year, where he will “probably be an important part of the plan down there.”

In 2003, the Sharks took Milan Michalek 6th overall and Steve Bernier 16th overall.  Also in that draft class?  Dion Phaneuf (9th overall), Jeff Carter (11th), Dustin Brown (13th), Brent Seabrook (14th), Zach Parise (17th), Ryan Getzlaf (19th), Brent Burns (20th), Ryan Kesler (23rd), Mike Richards (24th) and Corey Perry (28th).

But why stop the fun there?  Because I would be remiss if I didn’t also point out that in the same 2003 draft, two picks after the Sharks took Matt Carle in the 2nd round, the Nashville Predators would pluck a perennial Norris Trophy candidate off the draft board named Shea Weber.

Don’t get me wrong, Matt Carle is a fine player.  But when he’s not flat out obliterating people, Shea Weber shoots pucks through nets.  In real life.

With all of that said, the Sharks deserve credit where it is due, as they have often drafted well in later rounds (on the current roster alone, Ryane Clowe was drafted in the 6th round, Jason Demers and Joe Pavelski in the 7th, Douglas Murray in the 8th).

And just a few short years ago, the Sharks scouting staff turned in what may be remembered as the best first round pick of the 2007 draft when they took Logan Couture 9th overall.

In order to fully appreciate Doug Wilson’s performance on this particular day, it’s worth remembering that a perennial front runner like San Jose doesn’t end up with a top 10 pick without trading for it.  The Sharks went into the draft on June 22nd 2007 with the 28th overall pick, which they used to select Nick Petreki, a bruising D-man that has yet to develop into a viable NHL player.

But it turned out, the Sharks would be plenty active in the draft before taking Petreki, thanks to a couple of savvy trades.

The first trade went down like this:

Toronto Maple Leafs get: Mark Bell and Vesa Toskala.

San Jose Sharks get: 1st round pick (13th overall), 2nd round pick (44th) and a 4th round pick in 2009.

Then, as they often do, the Sharks packaged two picks in order to move up a few spots on the draft board.  In this case, they flipped the 1st and 2nd rounders they had just received from Toronto:

St. Louis Blues get: 1st round pick (13th overall) and 2nd round pick (44th)

San Jose Sharks get: 1st round pick (9th overall)

Then, the Sharks used their newly acquired pick to take Ottawa 67’s forward Logan Couture.

So, for those scoring at home, the Sharks essentially traded Mark Bell and Vesa Toskala for Couture and a 4th round pick.

But what about the two picks they traded in the process?

With the 13th overall pick, the Blues selected Danish center Lars Eller, and they used the 44th overall selection to select someone named Aaron Palushaj.

Couture is coming off a season in which he put up 32 goals and 56 points en route to a Calder Trophy bid.

Lars Eller, now a product of the Montreal Canadiens, has 19 career points in 84 career games.

Aaron Palushaj, now also a product of the Montreal Canadiens, has 0 points in 3 games.

Now, the career arcs of these three players are not set in stone – not by a long shot.  But one has to think that St. Louis would gladly jump at the chance for a takie-backie.

And when the whole of the 2007 draft class is considered, landing Couture starts to look even more impressive.  After the Blackhawks took Patrick Kane first overall, history might show there wasn’t a better player left on the board than Couture (of the rest of the players taken in the first round, only James VanRiemsdyk, Sam Gagner, Karl Alzner, David Perron, and Kevin Shattenkirk belong in the discussion, regardless of what Kyle Turris‘ agent might tell you.  And of those, only Perron and Shattenkirk were available when the Sharks took the podium at 9th overall).

Of course, it’s possible that Sharks fans expecting Couture to take another huge step forward this year could end up disappointed.  After exploding onto the scene with 9 goals and 19 points in 20 games from Nov. 13-Dec. 21, Couture would score just once in his next 11 games as teams began to key on him defensively.  He eventually adjusted to the increased attention and slipped back into a nice rhythm, scoring at a solid pace the rest of the way.  But to be sure, now that Couture is a known entity around the league, he won’t have any chance of slipping under the radar again the way he might have at the beginning of last year.

Still, even if he falls a little shy of last year’s totals (or as I predict, his goal total drops by a few but he ends up with 5-10 more points), turning Mark Bell and Vesa Toskala into a top-6 forward, especially out of such a paltry draft class, should be enough for even the most critical fan to applaud San Jose’s front office for their work on that June day in 2007.

And who knows?  Maybe Clowe, Couture and Havlat click right from the start and the young center puts up something like 35+35=70.  It’s very possible that this story could continue to look sweeter and sweeter for San Jose as time goes on.

For the sake of the Sharks, here’s to hoping that Couture continues to take a little more of the sting out of that 2003 draft (among others) with another impressive season, and continues on the path to fulfilling his immense potential in teal.

‘Cause seriously.  The Sharks could have had Shea Weber.




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Tags: 2007 NHL Draft Chris Pronger Doug Wilson Draft Kyle Turris Logan Couture Mark Bell Matt Carle Pat Falloon Patrick Kane San Jose Sharks Scott Neidermayer Shea Weber St. Louis Blues Steal Toronto Maple Leafs Vesa Toskala Viktor Kozlov

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