The biggest surprise of the 2020 NHL Draft wasn’t the Calgary Flames trading back in the first round not once, but twice, or the New Jersey Devils taking Shakir Mukhamadullin in the first 20 picks.
No, it was San Jose Sharks director of scouting Doug Wilson Jr., and this gesture, specifically for Ozzy Wiesblatt’s mother, Kim White:
Bob McKenzie: "I don't know if you know what he did there, Doug Wilson Jr.. He signed. Because Ozzy Wiesblatt's mother is deaf…It's really touching to connect with the family like that. They all sign." pic.twitter.com/8edvwNRFWx
— Sheng Peng (@Sheng_Peng) October 7, 2020
“My mom will never forget that,” Wiesblatt said in a Zoom call after the San Jose Sharks selected him with the last pick of the 2020 NHL Draft’s first round. “I didn’t really expect it. That’s one of the more cooler things I’ve ever seen.”
A veteran of eight drafts as a member of the Sharks staff, Wilson Jr. has seen first-hand what it means to a teenager to get his name called on the draft podium. Of course, this is no normal NHL Draft — Wiesblatt can’t walk to the podium this year — but Wilson Jr. had his own reasons to make the moment just a little more special.
“This is a huge moment for 17 and 18-year-olds. In my life, my mom is a huge factor. If I was in this moment, I would want to be able share it with my parents too,” Wilson Jr. said. “I would’ve loved to have done his whole name, but I’m not that smart. I just wanted to tell the kid you’re part of the Sharks family and we’re excited for you.”
One Big Happy Sharks Family
It seemed like the entire San Jose Sharks family came out for this Zoom call.
You should probably watch because some familiar faces crashed the interview to say congrats 😂 pic.twitter.com/TVIKIOU9Ru
— San Jose Sharks (@SanJoseSharks) October 7, 2020
Trevor Redden, the play-by-play voice of Wiesblatt’s Prince Albert Raiders, told the Wilsons, “I’ve been on a couple Zoom calls, I haven’t seen that tonight.”
The four Sharks welcomed Wiesblatt in distinct ways.
“Now get back in the gym!” a jovial Brent Burns teased Wiesblatt. “You look great in the suit, but we need you in the old gym clothes.”
Logan Couture, noted sports junkie, mentioned learning about Wiesblatt on Sportsnet: “Your mom seems like an angel.”
Kevin Labanc was the only San Jose player to formally introduce himself to Wiesblatt. “It’s just the beginning of the process,” said the 24-year-old winger, who’s closest to Wiesblatt in age.
Finally, Erik Karlsson fumbled with his Zoom, before saying dryly, “I’ve got another seven years left. We’ll play together. I’m happy to be a part of that. It’s going to be something really great…hopefully sooner than later.”
And of course, Wiesblatt has already played with a member of the San Jose Sharks.
— Noah Gregor (@n_gregs20) October 7, 2020
“Me and Noah, when we first met, we kind of clicked right away. Ended up being linemates for the majority of the year,” Wiesblatt said. “Can’t wait to see some familiar faces.”
He added: “I can already tell that the Sharks organization is a family. I’m just ecstatic to be a part of it.”
What Does Wiesblatt Bring?
But what about Wiesblatt the player?
Wilson Jr. likes everything about Wiesblatt, on and off the ice:
“He’s one of the fastest kids in all of major junior hockey. We were looking for speed. We were looking for playmaking. We were looking for possession. We’re looking for puck protection and pursuit.
“No one gains the o-zone like he does. He’s shifty.
“Guys would get run, he was the first guy in the pile. That’s the kind of kid he is.
“He’s an agitator. He’s new-age toughness in the NHL.”
This jibes with everything that I’ve read in the McKeen’s 2020 NHL Draft Guide and the Elite Prospects 2020 NHL Draft Guide. Here’s just a sample of the good stuff in both guides — also Future Considerations was kind enough to share a full scouting report!
Per Elite Prospects:
“He’s arguably one of the best rush offence creators at 5-on-5 in the entire draft…works from a constant base of activity, and never lets his foot off the gas…human cheat code in transition.”
“He lacks off-puck timing and spatial awareness…lack of a credible shooting threat.”
“He’s more of a playmaker anyway.”
“He could be a complementary piece in the top-six or a play-driver in the bottom-six.”
Per McKeen’s Hockey:
“Abrasive energy player….his speed and relentless pursuit of the puck makes him a valuable asset…has the acceleration, the power in his stride and the breakaway top speed that make him a threat anytime he is on the ice.”
“The concern with Wiesblatt is whether he possesses high-end offensive potential…does not have a ton of confidence in his shooting ability…scouts also look for Wiesblatt’s physicality to be more consistent.”
Rocky Thompson: “Leave analytics out of the locker room.”
George Kingston was the San Jose Sharks’ first head coach. Fast forward to 2015: He was the President of the NHL Coaches Association when he sent a fateful e-mail.
“George Kingston always sent out an e-mail asking for people who would want to present at the NHL’s coaches conference at the NHL entry draft,” San Jose Sharks associate coach Rocky Thompson told Oilersnation earlier this week. “I felt I needed to get my name out there, so I called him and said I’d like to present.”
Thompson’s career was at a crossroads when he took the stage at the 2015 NHL Coaches Association Global Coaches’ Clinic in Florida. He was a coach without a team — the Edmonton Oilers had just fired his head coach Dallas Eakins — and he didn’t know if incoming head coach Todd McLellan would keep him.
There were over 400 coaches in attendance: “He blew them away.”
Windsor Spitfires owner Bob Boughner was one of them: “What he said really hit home with me.”
The Spitfires hired Thompson as head coach and he led them to the 2017 Memorial Cup. The expansion Vegas Golden Knights followed up, selecting Thompson to be their first-ever AHL head coach, and he led the Chicago Wolves to the 2019 Calder Cup Finals.
And now, the circle from Kingston to Boughner to San Jose is complete: Last month, the San Jose Sharks tapped Thompson to be part of the head coach’s staff. Thompson will be running the defense and the power play.
San Jose Hockey Now caught up with Thompson in a wide-ranging interview earlier this month.
Curious how the San Jose Sharks might maximize Erik Karlsson and Brent Burns’s talents? How Phil Jackson and the triangle offense will apply to the Sharks? As a coach, how to use analytics the right way?
Thompson, to say the least, loves nerding out about hockey.
USNTDP coach Nick Fohr on Bordeleau’s Hockey IQ, Chmelevski’s Skating, Labanc’s Confidence
It’s Thomas Bordeleau Week here at San Jose Hockey Now!
Today, Sheng Peng joined the podcast, and we really got into detail on Bordeleau with his former USA Hockey National Team Development Program coach Nick Fohr.
Bordeleau isn’t the first San Jose Sharks prospect that Fohr has coached — the current USNTDP Associate Coach has worked with Kevin Labanc, Scott Reedy, and Sasha Chmelevski.
Here’s a select transcription from this fun, informative interview — Fohr shares Bordeleau’s greatest strengths and weaknesses, discusses Chmelevski’s flawed-but- improving skating, and reveals what Labanc’s USNTDP teammates gave him a hard time about.
Nick Fohr, on Thomas Bordeleau’s greatest strength and weakness:
In Thomas’s case, he’s a very crafty, skilled forward that competes pretty hard. That was something he really improved on in the two years with us.
He really loves to rely on this skill.
He’s a cerebral player. He really takes in the game. He reads plays well up and down the ice sheet.
That being a strength of his, one of his weaknesses, he relies on his skill too much. That was something we talked with Thomas a lot: Although you are a skilled hockey player, you are not skilled enough to make it in the NHL on skill alone. You have to develop a little more bite, a little more aggressiveness. You gotta round your game out a little bit more defensively. Commit to those things and not rely on just being a skilled player. Those players don’t make it in the NHL anymore. They don’t. They used to. At least they don’t make it for a long, extended period of time.
Fohr, on Bordeleau’s hockey IQ:
If you ask a coach or a scout or a GM, what are your three most important things? People almost always throw hockey IQ at you.
For me, with Thomas, where you really see it, when you see the intelligence, when he gets the puck on his stick, his ability to manipulate the other team, manipulate the defender. For example, on the power play, when he has the puck on his tape, the way he postures the puck, the way he holds the puck on his stick, the way he postures his body, will tell one story to the defender, to get the defender to move. [That] opens up the play he really wants to make.
That’s a really, really, really hard skill. It takes a lot of hockey intelligence to do that, to understand the messages you’re sending to a defender. It’s a really elite trait of his.
Fohr, on Sasha Chmelevski’s skating:
The knock on him was always his skating. He kind of skated really wide. He didn’t recover his skating very well, so his feet were always really, really wide. So people were always worried about his skating, his ability to get around the rink.
I think he’s fixed that a little bit, as I’ve seen him over the years. But he’s similar to a Bordeleau type from his ability to make plays. They actually make pretty good comparables.
Fohr, on Kevin Labanc’s Twitter handle:
By the way, he’s got one of my favorite Twitter handles out there with @Str8ToTheBanc. He had that when he was here and I remember the guys gave him a hard time about it. But I loved it.
Fohr, on if Labanc’s USNTDP teammates were jealous that Labanc has such a cool last name:
(laughs) That was probably part of it. To have the cunning to him to be able to do that, right? Kevin never lacked the confidence to pull something off like that, that’s for sure.
Make sure to listen to the entire interview: It’s well worth your time if you’re interested in the draft process for USNTDP players (6:00), which San Jose Sharks scout concentrates on the USNTDP, what Bordeleau’s game looks like (10:00), and how his father (former NHL player Sebastien Bordeleau) helped shape his game (16:00). We also compare Labanc and Bordeleau (23:30) and get a Chmelevski update from Fohr (30:00).
BREAKING: Sharks Are Talking to Conor Sheary
When free agency began on October 9th, the question was, “Who would the San Jose Sharks sign?”
After almost two weeks of relative inactivity — besides adding familiar faces Patrick Marleau and Matt Nieto and losing franchise icon Joe Thornton — the question became, “What’s Doug Wilson doing?”
San Jose Hockey Now has good news for Sharks fans: Wilson is still active in free agency. So who’s he looking at — Conor Sheary, Erik Haula, or Mikael Granlund? We’ve got the scoop!