If Not Thornton or Marleau, Who Would Sharks Have Picked in 1997 Draft?
In the summer of 1996, the San Jose Sharks called Ray Payne back.
Payne was Hockey Canada’s Director of Scouting, but before that, he had been San Jose’s Eastern Scouting Supervisor from 1990-94.
This time, the Sharks named Payne their Chief Scout in the lead-up to the 1997 NHL Draft.
For the San Jose Sharks, of course, the 1997 NHL Draft would be a historic one.
With the first-overall pick, the Boston Bruins selected Joe Thornton. In November 2005, the Boston traded Thornton to San Jose, where he would become the franchise’s lone Hart Trophy winner and all-time assists leader.
With the second-overall pick, the Sharks selected Patrick Marleau. Marleau is the franchise’s all-time games played, goals scored, and points leader.
Both still active, Jumbo and Patty to the San Jose Sharks are like bacon and eggs — you can’t think of one without the other.
But who would the Sharks have selected if they had lost the lottery and dropped to third-overall pick?
Payne revealed who was third on San Jose’s draft list — Thornton was first, Marleau was second — and other stories from the 1997 Draft, like what was the sophomoric nickname that the scouts gave Marleau? What prank was Thornton a master of? And why did Olli Jokinen drop down San Jose’s draft list?
How Were Teenage Thornton & Marleau Different?
Payne: [Patrick was a] pretty quiet kid. He came from a small town in Saskatchewan called Aneroid. So we used to call him Hemorrhoid.
We were older guys and he’s just a young kid. He might’ve been a little nervous. It was just our way of making him feel welcome. It was all in fun.
Joe was a lot more outgoing than Patrick. Definitely more of an extrovert.
He seemed like more of a farmer than what Patrick was. Even though Joe grew up in a small town and Patrick grew up on a farm.
Joe had that farmer’s mentality. He’d come in with the old rubber boots on and stuff [when we visited his house before the Draft].
Joe was just a great guy with bringing players together. It’s shown over the years that he’s a leader.
Thornton Was “Shoe Checking” Master
Payne: The summer before the Draft, I was still working at Hockey Canada. I had Patrick and Joe Thornton and a bunch of other guys on Canada’s Under-18 team, that played in what was then known as the Pacific Cup.
“Shoe checking” is a ritual that goes on with a lot of hockey teams when they’re gathered for a team dinner. Some guy will sneak under the table, unbeknowst to everyone else, and put ketchup all over everybody’s shoes without getting caught.
If you can do it without getting caught, you’re considered quite a master at it.
Joe proved to be a master at it. He did it something like three times in the same dinner.
I was one of them, when I pulled my chair away from the dinner and saw my shoes, they had ketchup all over them. And a lot of other guys too.
Who Would San Jose Sharks Had Drafted Third-Overall?
Payne: It probably would’ve been Eric Brewer or Sergei Samsonov.
Jokinen we thought was going to be a “party boy.”
When we were over in Finland scouting Olli, he was playing in the Finnish men’s league as an under-age player. Traditionally in Helsinki on a Sunday night, the league didn’t play, but the players would all get together in this one hotel. It just turned out that it was the same hotel we were staying at.
Olli liked to get into his cups pretty good as a young kid. We were pretty nervous about that. He fell down our list when we saw his behavior. And it wasn’t just on the one occasion.
Why Would San Jose Have Passed on Roberto Luongo?
Payne: We were never big on drafting goalies early. We had a lot of guys on our staff who were ex-goaltenders. Cap Raeder, Warren Strelow, Wayne Thomas. Their feeling, and it permeated throughout the staff, was we’re not going to take a goalie high. It’s just too much of a risk.
It’s been proven over the years that some of the better guys are drafted later in the draft.
And we didn’t need a goaltender at that particular point of time.
If you enjoyed Payne’s memories of the 1997 Draft, check out his funny Jonathan Cheechoo story. More reminiscing from Payne coming soon!
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