On Saturday, San Jose Hockey Now learned that the San Jose Sharks had declined to offer 2015 fifth-round draft pick Karlis Cukste an entry-level contract.
It got the wheels in my head turning — how often does a drafted prospect who has been passed up by his original NHL team eventually make the NHL?
I dug through 29 San Jose drafts and 232 Sharks picks to answer that question and others — like who was the highest draft pick that the San Jose Sharks never signed? Which was San Jose’s best and worst drafts, in terms of prospects signed?
If a team drafts you, then spends years evaluating you in college or juniors or in Europe, they should have a good sense what your hockey-playing capabilities are. When it comes time to sign you, if they let you go to unrestricted free agency, they likely don’t have high hopes that you’ll ever make the NHL.
And they’re probably right.
By my estimation, the Sharks — or the team that San Jose traded their prospect to — have signed 60 percent of their draft picks. That’s 138 out of 232 draft picks.
That leaves 94 draft picks unsigned.
Just four have made the NHL: Colin Blackwell (2011 Draft Pick #194), Philip Varone (2009 #147), Frazer McLaren (2007 #203), and Kris Newbury (2002 #139). Blackwell and McLaren, instead of signing with the Sharks, agreed to contracts with San Jose’s AHL team. Meanwhile, the Sharks let Varone walk and couldn’t come to terms with Newbury.
Four of 94: Yeah, it’s going to be tough for Cukste to make the NHL.
There’s been just one “Angel” ever drafted by an NHL team.
Angel Nikolov was a Czech defenseman selected 37th by San Jose in the 1994 Draft.
“He impressed us the first time we saw him,” San Jose director of player personnel Chuck Grillo said. (Condon, Mike. “Sharks draft scoring whiz.” Santa Cruz Sentinel, June 29, 1994.)
How about after the first time?
Nikolov is the highest San Jose draft pick never signed by the Sharks, enjoying a long career in Europe before retiring in 2013.
Gabryel Boudreau (2013 #49), William Wrenn (2009 #43), Tero Maatta (2000 #41), and Alexander Cherbayev (1992 #51) were other high picks not signed by San Jose.
Best & Worst Drafts
For a prospect, getting drafted is one stepping stone. Getting signed is another stepping stone.
From an organization’s perspective, that stepping stone is critical. Offering an ELC is a sign that from the time of being drafted, the prospect has significantly advanced his game.
So looking at it that way, the 2001 Draft was a complete win for the San Jose Sharks — every draft pick was signed. That’s Marcel Goc (#20), Christian Ehrhoff (#106), Dmitri Patzold (#107), Tomas Plihal (#140), Ryane Clowe (#175), and Tom Cavanagh (#182). Goc, Ehrhoff, and Clowe also became impactful NHL players.
The 2013 Draft is on the opposite end of the spectrum: The Sharks signed just two of their seven draft picks. Mirco Mueller (#18) and Michael Brodzinski (#141) inked ELCs, while Gabryel Boudreau (#49), Fredrik Bergvik (#117), Gage Ausmus (#151), Jake Jackson (#201), and Emil Galimov (#207) were left in the cold.
Anyway, those are just some of the interesting things I learned — there’s more coming from my research soon.
Here’s the complete list of San Jose Sharks draft picks and whether or not they were signed — obviously, some of the more recent selections are still in the wait-in-see category. Information before 1994 was spottier, so please feel free to correct me if I’ve made any mistakes:
San Jose Sharks Draft Picks, 1991-2019
|2019 Entry||Artemi Kniazev||48||x|
|2019 Entry||Dillon Hamaliuk||55||x|
|2019 Entry||Yegor Spiridonov||108||x|
|2019 Entry||Timur Ibragimov||164||x|
|2019 Entry||Santeri Hatakka||184||x|
|2018 Entry||Ryan Merkley||21||x|
|2018 Entry||Linus Karlsson||87||x|
|2018 Entry||Jasper Weatherby||102||x|
|2018 Entry||Zachary Emond||176||x|
|2018 Entry||John Leonard||182||x|
|2017 Entry||Josh Norris||19||x|
|2017 Entry||Mario Ferraro||49||x|
|2017 Entry||Scott Reedy||102||x|
|2017 Entry||Jake McGrew||159||x|
|2017 Entry||Sasha Chmelevski||185||x|
|2017 Entry||Ivan Chekhovich||212||x|
|2016 Entry||Dylan Gambrell||60||x|
|2016 Entry||Noah Gregor||111||x|
|2016 Entry||Manuel Wiederer||150||x|
|2016 Entry||Mark Shoemaker||180||x|
|2016 Entry||Joachim Blichfeld||210||x|
|2015 Entry||Timo Meier||9||x|
|2015 Entry||Jeremy Roy||31||x|
|2015 Entry||Mike Robinson||86||x|
|2015 Entry||Adam Helewka||106||x|
|2015 Entry||Karlis Cukste||130||x|
|2015 Entry||Rudolfs Balcers||142||x|
|2015 Entry||Adam Parsells||160||x|
|2015 Entry||Marcus Vela||190||x|
|2015 Entry||Jake Kupsky||193||x|
|2014 Entry||Nikolay Goldobin||27||x|
|2014 Entry||Julius Bergman||46||x|
|2014 Entry||Noah Rod||53||x|
|2014 Entry||Alex Schoenborn||72||x|
|2014 Entry||Dylan Sadowy||81||x|
|2014 Entry||Alexis Vanier||102||x|
|2014 Entry||Rourke Chartier||149||x|
|2014 Entry||Kevin Labanc||171||x|
|2013 Entry||Mirco Mueller||18||x|
|2013 Entry||Gabryel Boudreau||49||x|
|2013 Entry||Fredrik Bergvik||117||x|
|2013 Entry||Michael Brodzinski||141||x|
|2013 Entry||Gage Ausmus||151||x|
|2013 Entry||Jake Jackson||201||x|
|2013 Entry||Emil Galimov||207||x|
|2012 Entry||Tomas Hertl||17||x|
|2012 Entry||Chris Tierney||55||x|
|2012 Entry||Christophe Lalancette||109||x|
|2012 Entry||Danny O'Regan||138||x|
|2012 Entry||Cliff Watson||168||x|
|2012 Entry||Joakim Ryan||198||x|
|2011 Entry||Matthew Nieto||47||x|
|2011 Entry||Justin Sefton||89||x|
|2011 Entry||Sean Kuraly||133||x|
|2011 Entry||Daniil Sobchenko||166||x|
|2011 Entry||Dylan DeMelo||179||x|
|2011 Entry||Colin Blackwell||194||x|
|2010 Entry||Charlie Coyle||28||x|
|2010 Entry||Max Gaede||88||x|
|2010 Entry||Cody Ferriero||127||x|
|2010 Entry||Freddie Hamilton||129||x|
|2010 Entry||Isaac Macleod||136||x|
|2010 Entry||Konrad Abeltshauser||163||x|
|2010 Entry||Lee Moffie||188||x|
|2010 Entry||Chris Crane||200||x|
|2009 Entry||William Wrenn||43||x|
|2009 Entry||Taylor Doherty||57||x|
|2009 Entry||Philip Varone||147||x|
|2009 Entry||Marek Viedensky||189||x|
|2009 Entry||Dominik Bielke||207||x|
|2008 Entry||Justin Daniels||62||x|
|2008 Entry||Samuel Groulx||92||x|
|2008 Entry||Harri Sateri||106||x|
|2008 Entry||Julien Demers||146||x|
|2008 Entry||Tommy Wingels||177||x|
|2008 Entry||Jason Demers||186||x|
|2008 Entry||Drew Daniels||194||x|
|2007 Entry||Logan Couture||9||x|
|2007 Entry||Nick Petrecki||28||x|
|2007 Entry||Timo Pielmeier||83||x|
|2007 Entry||Tyson Sexsmith||91||x|
|2007 Entry||Patrik Zackrisson||165||x|
|2007 Entry||Nick Bonino||173||x|
|2007 Entry||Justin Braun||201||x|
|2007 Entry||Frazer McLaren||203||x|
|2006 Entry||Ty Wishart||16||x|
|2006 Entry||Jamie McGinn||36||x|
|2006 Entry||James DeLory||98||x|
|2006 Entry||Ashton Rome||143||x|
|2006 Entry||John McCarthy||202||x|
|2006 Entry||Jay Barriball||203||x|
|2005 Entry||Devin Setoguchi||8||x|
|2005 Entry||Marc-Edouard Vlasic||35||x|
|2005 Entry||Alex Stalock||112||x|
|2005 Entry||Taylor Dakers||140||x|
|2005 Entry||Derek Joslin||149||x|
|2005 Entry||P.J. Fenton||162||x|
|2005 Entry||Will Colbert||183||x|
|2005 Entry||Tony Lucia||193||x|
|2004 Entry||Lukas Kaspar||22||x|
|2004 Entry||Thomas Greiss||94||x|
|2004 Entry||Torrey Mitchell||126||x|
|2004 Entry||Jason Churchill||129||x|
|2004 Entry||Steven Zalewski||153||x|
|2004 Entry||Mike Vernace||201||x|
|2004 Entry||Dave MacDonald||225||x|
|2004 Entry||Derek MacIntyre||234||x|
|2004 Entry||Brian Mahoney-Wilson||288||x|
|2004 Entry||Christian Jensen||289||x|
|2003 Entry||Milan Michalek||6||x|
|2003 Entry||Steve Bernier||16||x|
|2003 Entry||Josh Hennessy||43||x|
|2003 Entry||Matt Carle||47||x|
|2003 Entry||Patrick Ehelechner||139||x|
|2003 Entry||Jonathan Tremblay||201||x|
|2003 Entry||Joe Pavelski||205||x|
|2003 Entry||Kai Hospelt||216||x|
|2003 Entry||Alexander Hult||236||x|
|2003 Entry||Brian O'Hanley||267||x|
|2003 Entry||Carter Lee||276||x|
|2002 Entry||Mike Morris||27||x|
|2002 Entry||Dan Spang||52||x|
|2002 Entry||Jonas Fiedler||86||x|
|2002 Entry||Kris Newbury||139||x|
|2002 Entry||Tom Walsh||163||x|
|2002 Entry||Tim Conboy||217||x|
|2002 Entry||Michael Hutchins||288||x|
|2001 Entry||Marcel Goc||20||x|
|2001 Entry||Christian Ehrhoff||106||x|
|2001 Entry||Dmitri Patzold||107||x|
|2001 Entry||Tomas Plihal||140||x|
|2001 Entry||Ryane Clowe||175||x|
|2001 Entry||Tom Cavanagh||182||x|
|2000 Entry||Tero Maatta||41||x|
|2000 Entry||Jon DiSalvatore||104||x|
|2000 Entry||Michal Pinc||142||x|
|2000 Entry||Nolan Schaefer||166||x|
|2000 Entry||Michal Macho||183||x|
|2000 Entry||Chad Wiseman||246||x|
|2000 Entry||Pasi Saarinen||256||x|
|1999 Entry||Jeff Jillson||14||x|
|1999 Entry||Mark Concannon||82||x|
|1999 Entry||Willie Levesque||111||x|
|1999 Entry||Niko Dimitrakos||155||x|
|1999 Entry||Eric Betournay||229||x|
|1999 Entry||Douglas Murray||241||x|
|1999 Entry||Hannes Hyvonen||257||x|
|1998 Entry||Brad Stuart||3||x|
|1998 Entry||Jonathan Cheechoo||29||x|
|1998 Entry||Eric Laplante||65||x|
|1998 Entry||Rob Davison||98||x|
|1998 Entry||Miroslav Zalesak||104||x|
|1998 Entry||Brandon Coalter||127||x|
|1998 Entry||Mikael Samuelsson||145||x|
|1998 Entry||Robert Mulick||185||x|
|1998 Entry||Jim Fahey||212||x|
|1997 Entry||Patrick Marleau||2||x|
|1997 Entry||Scott Hannan||23||x|
|1997 Entry||Adam Colagiacomo||82||x|
|1997 Entry||Adam Spylo||107||x|
|1997 Entry||Joe Dusbabek||163||x|
|1997 Entry||Cam Severson||192||x|
|1997 Entry||Mark Smith||219||x|
|1996 Entry||Andrei Zyuzin||2||x|
|1996 Entry||Marco Sturm||21||x|
|1996 Entry||Terry Friesen||55||x|
|1996 Entry||Matt Bradley||102||x|
|1996 Entry||Michel Larocque||137||x|
|1996 Entry||Jake Deadmarsh||164||x|
|1996 Entry||Cory Cyrenne||191||x|
|1996 Entry||David Thibeault||217||x|
|1995 Entry||Teemu Riihijarvi||12||x|
|1995 Entry||Peter Roed||38||x|
|1995 Entry||Marko Makinen||64||x|
|1995 Entry||Vesa Toskala||90||x|
|1995 Entry||Miikka Kiprusoff||116||x|
|1995 Entry||Michal Bros||130||x|
|1995 Entry||Timo Hakanen||140||x|
|1995 Entry||Jaroslav Kudrna||142||x|
|1995 Entry||Brad Mehalko||167||x|
|1995 Entry||Robert Jindrich||168||x|
|1995 Entry||Ryan Kraft||194||x|
|1995 Entry||Mikko Markkanen||220||x|
|1994 Entry||Jeff Friesen||11||x|
|1994 Entry||Angel Nikolov||37||x|
|1994 Entry||Alexei Yegorov||66||x|
|1994 Entry||Vaclav Varada||89||x|
|1994 Entry||Brian Swanson||115||x|
|1994 Entry||Alexander Korolyuk||141||x|
|1994 Entry||Sergei Gorbachev||167||x|
|1994 Entry||Eric Landry||193||x|
|1994 Entry||Evgeni Nabokov||219||x|
|1994 Entry||Tomas Pisa||240||x|
|1994 Entry||Aniket Dhadphale||245||x|
|1994 Entry||David Beauregard||271||x|
|1993 Entry||Viktor Kozlov||6||x|
|1993 Entry||Shean Donovan||28||x|
|1993 Entry||Vlastimil Kroupa||45||x|
|1993 Entry||Ville Peltonen||58||x|
|1993 Entry||Alexander Osadchy||80||x|
|1993 Entry||Andrei Buschan||106||x|
|1993 Entry||Petri Varis||132||x|
|1993 Entry||Fredrik Oduya||154||x|
|1993 Entry||Anatoly Filatov||158||x|
|1993 Entry||Todd Holt||184||x|
|1993 Entry||Jonas Forsberg||210||x|
|1993 Entry||Jeff Salajko||236||x|
|1993 Entry||Jamie Matthews||262||x|
|1992 Entry||Mike Rathje||3||x|
|1992 Entry||Andrei Nazarov||10||x|
|1992 Entry||Alexander Cherbayev||51||x|
|1992 Entry||Jan Caloun||75||x|
|1992 Entry||Marcus Ragnarsson||99||x|
|1992 Entry||Michal Sykora||123||x|
|1992 Entry||Eric Bellerose||147||x|
|1992 Entry||Ryan Smith||171||x|
|1992 Entry||Chris Burns||195||x|
|1992 Entry||Alex Kholomeyev||219||x|
|1992 Entry||Victor Ignatjev||243||x|
|1991 Entry||Pat Falloon||2||x|
|1991 Entry||Ray Whitney||23||x|
|1991 Entry||Sandis Ozolinsh||30||x|
|1991 Entry||Dody Wood||45||x|
|1991 Entry||Kerry Toporowski||67||x|
|1991 Entry||Dan Ryder||89||x|
|1991 Entry||Fredrik Nilsson||111||x|
|1991 Entry||Jaroslav Otevrel||133||x|
|1991 Entry||Dean Grillo||155||x|
|1991 Entry||Corwin Saurdiff||177||x|
|1991 Entry||Dale Craigwell||199||x|
|1991 Entry||Aaron Kriss||221||x|
|1991 Entry||Mikhail Kravets||243||x|
Joe Thornton as a Shark: A Hockey Card History
There’s been top-10 lists. Top-five lists. Video highlights.
But here’s a way to remember Joe Thornton’s time with the San Jose Sharks that you can hold with your hand: This is Jumbo’s definitive hockey card history in teal.
Card shown: 1996-97 Upper Deck Black Diamond #160
Purchase price: About $200
The San Jose Sharks didn’t draft Thornton, but a rookie card is the centerpiece of any player’s hockey card history.
Thornton has just three official rookie cards (1996-97 Upper Deck and 1996-97 Upper Deck Ice), but this is the definitive RC because of its scarcity.
Card shown: 2005-06 Parkhurst Season Highlights Facsimile Auto Parallel #591 Joe Thornton (print run: 100)
Purchase price: About $10
On November 30, 2005, San Jose Sharks history changed when they acquired Thornton from Boston for, according to the back of this card, “three players.”
And no disrespect to Marco Sturm, Brad Stuart, and Wayne Primeau — and their distinguished careers — but they were just guys compared to San Jose’s first true superstar.
To underscore Thornton’s offensive impact — and points aren’t everything — but Sturm, Stuart, and Primeau combined to score 454 points in their remaining 23 NHL seasons after the trade. Thornton eclipsed that figure by himself within five seasons in San Jose.
There’s a base version of the card shown without the Facsimile Auto that goes for about $1.
Card shown: 2019-20 Upper Deck Ultimate Collection Ultimate Icons Autograph Jersey #UIA-JT (print run: 65)
Purchase price: About $25
Thornton went on a tear after the trade, putting up 72 assists in 58 games, good for a total of 96 assists.
Per Hockey Reference’s adjusted-by-era stats — those 92 adjusted assists put Thornton in rarified company.
Just five players have registered 90-plus adjusted assists in a season. Three of them are named Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, and Bobby Orr. Jaromir Jagr also achieved this feat with 94 adjusted assists in 1998-99. Along with Gretzky and Orr, Thornton is the only player to surpass this lofty figure twice (92 again in 2006-07).
Per adjusted (and unadjusted) assists, Thornton’s 2005-06 still stands as the more prolific playmaking season of this millennium.
For his efforts, Thornton became the first San Jose Sharks player to win the Hart Trophy.
The card shown depicts Jumbo with both the Hart and Art Ross trophies. There are numerous versions of this card, some unautographed, some autographed with a patch jersey swatch.
Card shown: 2010-11 Panini Dominion All Decade Autograph Jersey #JT (print run: 50)
Purchase price: About $20
Thornton has a good argument for the best center of the 2000’s.
His 823 points and 580 assists topped the entire league during the decade. His 580 helpers were 133 more than runner-ups Daniel Alfredsson and Brad Richards.
The card shown also has different versions, some with just a jersey swatch and some with just an autograph.
Card shown: 2011-12 Panini Pinnacle #119
Purchase price: About $1
For all his regular season exploits, however, the early part of Thornton’s career in San Jose was marred by playoff disappointment after playoff disappointment.
This began to change in 2010, when Thornton and Patrick Marleau finished off back-to-back Western Conference champs Detroit Red Wings in the second round, propelling the San Jose Sharks to their first Conference Finals appearance since 2004.
The next year, Thornton scored the only playoff overtime goal of his career (so far). This Game Six strike carried the Sharks past the Los Angeles Kings in the first round and prompted the iconic celebration depicted on this card. San Jose would advance to the Western Conference Finals once again.
Jumbo & Patty
Card shown: 2010-11 Playoff Contenders Draft Tandems Autograph #12 Patrick Marleau/Joe Thornton (print run: 25)
Purchase price: About $50
Speaking of Marleau, he and Thornton were intertwined in so many ways: Back-to-back opening selections of the 1997 NHL Draft, San Jose Sharks teammates for 13 seasons and 1,111 regular season and playoff games….
In perhaps fitting bookends, Marleau played 58 games with Thornton in 2005-06 after the trade…then Thornton played 58 games with Marleau in 2019-20 before Patty was dealt at the Trade Deadline.
There’s a base unautographed version of the card shown that can be had for about $1.
Card shown: 2013-14 Panini National Treasures Knights in the City Materials Prime #KN-TH Joe Thornton/Tomas Hertl (print run: 25)
Purchase price: About $20
“I’d have my cock out if I scored four goals. I’d have my cock out, stroking it.”
That’s what Thornton interjected in the locker room after he heard the media questioning whether or not 18-year-old Tomas Hertl’s fourth goal on October 8, 2013 — a between-the-legs spectacular — should be considered showboating.
Since there isn’t a trio card depicting Jumbo, Tommy, and a chicken, this card — from Hertl’s rookie year — will do. There’s also a more inexpensive version of the card shown, serial numbered to 99.
Card shown: 2016-17 SP Authentic Authentic Moments Spectrum Autograph #104
Purchase price: About $60
After the 2014-15 San Jose Sharks missed the playoffs, most observers figured their window for contention had closed — and without a Finals appearance for Thornton and Marleau.
And while the Sharks weren’t able to hoist the Cup, reaching the 2016 Stanley Cup Final is still the crowning achievement of the franchise’s history.
There’s also an unautographed version of this card that goes for about $2.
Card shown: 2019-20 SP Authentic Sign of the Times 2 Autograph ST2-BT Brent Burns/Joe Thornton (print run: 25)
Purchase price: About $75
Thornton built so many lasting relationships on the San Jose Sharks, it’s hard to pick out just a few. Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture, Dan Boyle, Evgeni Nabokov, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and Jonathan Cheechoo are among the luminaries that will only get a mention here.
But from walking shirtless in Pittsburgh, barber shop commercials, and posing naked together in ESPN’s The Body Issue, Thornton and his beard buddy Brent Burns became inseparable in the public consciousness.
The last few seasons of Thornton’s tenure in San Jose was the march of passing one milestone after another. Here’s a cardboard celebration of a few of these moments.
On March 6, 2017, Thornton became the 13th player in league history to reach 1,000 assists.
Card shown: 2017-18 O-Pee-Chee #556
Purchase price: About $1
On April 4, 2019, Thornton collected his 1,064th career assist, passing Steve Yzerman. Thornton wore No. 19 as a tribute to his childhood idol.
Card shown: 2018-19 Upper Deck Game Dated Moments #82
Purchase price: About $5
Thornton clocked 1,600 games played on December 12, 2019. In the process, he and Marleau became the first teammates, each with 1,600 games played, to suit up together in a game.
Card shown: 2019-20 Topps Now NHL Stickers #94 Joe Thornton/Patrick Marleau
Purchase price: About $3
On February 4, 2020, Thornton became the 14th player in NHL history to record 1,500 points.
Card shown: 2019-20 Upper Deck Game Dated Moments #49
Purchase price: About $5
Thornton leaves San Jose with a career 1,636 games, 420 goals, 1,089 assists, and 1,509 points.
Next up for the future Hall of Famer? Dave Andreychuk’s 1,639 games for eighth place in all-time games, Paul Coffey’s 1,135 assists for sixth place in all-time assists, and Coffey’s 1,531 points for 13th in all-time points. And hopefully, a Stanley Cup.
Here’s to more Jumbo-sized historic achievements in Toronto!
Mark Letestu & Mark Morris on John Madden the Coach
Everybody knows about John Madden the player.
And why shouldn’t they?
Three-time Stanley Cup champion. 2001 Selke Trophy winner. Three-time Selke runner-up.
But not everybody knows about Madden the coach. Madden was an assistant coach on Kevin Dineen and Gerard Gallant’s staffs with the Florida Panthers from 2013-16. Madden took over as a head coach for the Cleveland Monsters from 2016-19.
Last week, Madden was announced as an assistant coach for the San Jose Sharks. As he did in Florida, he’ll be running the forwards and the penalty kill.
San Jose Hockey Now got some perspective about Madden’s time in Florida and Cleveland from fellow assistant coach Mark Morris and player Mark Letestu.
In 2014-15, Mark Morris worked with Madden in Florida. The Panthers weren’t remarkable on the PK during Madden’s tenure — they finished 30th, 24th, and 24th from 2013-16 — but perhaps Florida’s roster was made up of perhaps too many offensive-leaning players, a mix of too young and too old.
“You do the best with the people you have on the roster. It’s hard to say if there were any stalwart defensively-minded players,” Morris recalled. “Even if they’re veteran players, there’s no guarantee their forte is the defensive side of the puck.”
Morris, a preps/NCAA/AHL/NHL coaching veteran of 27 years by the time he settled in Florida, was impressed by Madden’s PK coaching acumen:
“In the college game, most of the penalty killing is in straight lines. In the pro game, they do what they call a trap-down. That’s where once you get the puck moving in a specific direction, if you’re the forward that’s forcing the play up top, you continue on down and press down on the guy on the half-boards.
“I remember one of the things he talked about was when you press down as the strong-side forward on the guy at the half-wall, keep your stick in a neutral position. That way, you’re eating up ice, as opposed to just keeping your stick in the passing lane
“Guys at the NHL are so skilled, it’s nothing to flip it over a stick.
“When you lead with your stick in the middle, it’s almost like you have to thread a needle to get it back up to guy at top.
“If you’re the guy on the half-wall with the puck, you have that stick in front of you, eating that ice up.
“It opened my eyes up to how intricate and detailed things are in his own mind.”
Mark Letestu was 34 when he played for Madden in Cleveland during 2018-19.
The first thing that Letestu noticed about Madden?
“The Stanley Cups. For a while, he was probably the gold standard in the NHL for a defensive, shutdown penalty kill guy,” he said. “It’s instant respect in the room.”
This might matter for a veteran-laden San Jose Sharks group. Something else that might matter to vets like Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Logan Couture, Evander Kane, Erik Karlsson, Brent Burns, and Marc-Edouard Vlasic is Madden’s ability to connect with them.
“For me, just where I was in my career, he was an easy guy to have a conversation with. Share stories. Faceoff stuff. Penalty killing,” Letestu remembered. “He knew how to handle a veteran presence in the room.”
So what’s in store for the league-leading San Jose Sharks PK?
“I don’t think, when you get a new penalty kill coach, that there will be a ground-breaking system or a new scheme that’s going to change your team significantly,” Letestu pointed out. “But what I found with John, in the penalty-killing meetings we had, it was really clear. There wasn’t a lot of gray area. It took a lot of the guesswork out for players.”
“The hesitation suddenly leaves your game. Your PK and your players are suddenly faster because there’s no gray area,” Letestu observed. “He helped the players get the noise out and just react instead of thinking out there.”
For what it’s worth, Cleveland was 3rd, 26th, and 7th in the AHL in the PK during Madden’s tenure. Letestu gave Madden a lionshare of the credit for the success of the 2018-19 Monsters, who made the playoffs during the last game of the season, then knocked off top-seeded Syracuse Crunch in the first round.
Letestu acknowledged: “He got the most out of our team. We probably overachieved.”