Sharks

The original Shark who's helping expansion Golden Knights' stunning success

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USATSI

The original Shark who's helping expansion Golden Knights' stunning success

When he first joined the San Jose Sharks in 1991, Kelly Kisio said it was immediately apparent things would be different while playing for an expansion franchise.

"Probably when I walked in the Cow Palace," Kisio said with a laugh. "First time walking in there and going, 'oh my.'"

When Kisio came to the Sharks, what is now SAP Center was under construction, and the on-ice product was also a work in progress. San Jose lost 129 of its first 164 games, but the man who scored the team's first game-winning goal only has fond memories of his time there. 

"As you can tell by our record, we were not very good, but the fans treated us like gold," Kisio said. "Every city we went to, there was always lots of teal in the stands and people followed us. They always gave us the benefit of the doubt. As long as we worked hard, they were fine with it."

Over a quarter of a century after he first came to San Jose, Kisio finds himself with another expansion team with rabid support, albeit one that is very good. He's now a pro scout for the Western Conference-leading Vegas Golden Knights, who will make their first regular season trip to SAP Center on Thursday. 

In the club's inaugural season, the Golden Knights have already set a records for wins by an expansion franchise (35), with a 10-point lead over the second-place Sharks in the Pacific Division.

In one season, Vegas has won more games than San Jose did in its first two (28).

"Let me tell ya, it's a lot better now than the Shark days," Kisio noted with a laugh.

Kisio joined the Golden Knights in Sept. 2016, over a year before the team played any games. After ending his playing days with the Calgary Flames, he spent the next two decades of his post-playing career in the city. 

He first worked as a Flames scout for three seasons, then in a variety of roles with the Western Hockey League's (WHL) Calgary Hitmen for the next 18. The Hitmen won two WHL championships in Kisio's tenure, and sent numerous players to the NHL, including Sharks goaltender Martin Jones. 

The Golden Knights came calling, but Kisio said he was left with a tough decision. 

"It was very difficult, but after awhile you get stale," he said. "It didn't look like things were going to move on for me with the Flames...so I had to decide if I wanted to stay in junior or like you say, take a chance with the Vegas Golden Knights. It took me a few days for sure to decide, but I knew the guys that were running the operation very well." 

Kisio played alongside Vegas general manager George McPhee in the NHL, against assistant general manager Kelly McCrimmon in junior, and he knew director of player personnel Vaughn Karpan from scouting. That familiarity made his decision to join Vegas easier, he said.

As a pro scout with the team, Kisio now primarily covers their Pacific Division rivals. He, and the rest of the scouting department, have played a vital role in the team's initial success.

They were tasked with not only finding good players, but ones that would be available in last June's expansion draft. 

The 30 other teams protected seven forwards, three defensemen, and a goaltender, or eight skaters and a goaltender. The Golden Knights, then, were able to select one player from each team that was left unprotected, and had to draft at least 14 forwards, nine defensemen, and three goalies. 

With those rules in mind, Kisio and the Golden Knights staff set out to identify players that would be available for selection. 

"We basically hit on the head on most every team, and we were pretty happy with that." Kisio said. "When you do that, the process becomes a little easier because you basically knew who was gonna be available and which guy you were gonna get." 

Kisio said McPhee, McCrimmon, and Vaughn directed the scouting department to find players who were strong skaters, had a high hockey IQ, and would benefit from a chance in a bigger role. That doesn't mean they saw this success coming. 

"If you told me that [28-goal-scorer William Karlsson] would have as many goals as he does, I don't think anybody would tell you that," Kisio said. "They'd be lying if they knew that was going to happen, or how well some of the other guys are doing."

He said the front office expected Vegas to "be competitive in most every game," but the Golden Knights have been more than competitive. With 29 games to go, Vegas is just a point behind the Tampa Bay Lightning in the President's Trophy race, and entered Thursday on just under a 104-point pace, according to HockeyViz's projections. 

It's all a far cry from Kisio's days at the Cow Palace. Although the success is unexpected and largely unprecedented, he said it would not have happened without McPhee, McCimmon, and Karpan's direction.

"All I did was go out and watch players give them my two cents worth, as all our guys did, and see where it went from there."

Sharks hang on to beat Blues and open road trip with win

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USATSI

Sharks hang on to beat Blues and open road trip with win

BOX SCORE

ST. LOUIS -- Logan Couture and Mikkel Boedker each had a goal and an assist, sending the San Jose Sharks to a 3-2 victory over the slumping St. Louis Blues on Tuesday night.

Joonas Donskoi also scored and Martin Jones made 30 saves for San Jose, which has won five of its last six games.

Ivan Barbashev and Vladimir Tarasenko had the goals for the Blues, who have lost a season-high four straight.

After a scoreless first period, the teams combined for five goals in the second.

San Jose took a 1-0 lead when Couture knocked in a loose puck at 6:35. Boedker fired in a shot from the point that goalie Carter Hutton blocked but couldn't corral. Couture was on the spot and scored his 24th of the season.

St. Louis answered at 8:23 when Barbashev scored on a wrist shot from the top of the right circle that sailed over Jones' arm.

Donskoi beat Hutton on a wrist shot from the left circle at 12:05. Couture assisted on Donskoi's first goal in 17 games.

Boedker gave San Jose a 3-1 lead at 15:54 when he scored from the left side of the net. Boedker has five goals in his last four games.

Tarasenko cut the margin to 3-2 on a power play when he fired in the rebound of a shot by Vince Dunn at 19:36 for his 24th of the season. Tarasenko has 10 points in his last nine games (four goals, six assists) against the Sharks.

San Jose's Brent Burns prevented a goal with less than five minutes left. During a scramble in front of the net, the puck hit the post and was sliding along the goal line when Burns knocked it out.

This was the first meeting between St. Louis and San Jose this season. The Blues swept the three-game season series last year, outscoring the Sharks 11-3 overall, and had won four straight against the Sharks.

Hutton made his second start in the last five games and stopped 20 shots. Previously against the Sharks, he was 4-0-1 with a 0.98 goals-against average, a .968 save percentage and two shutouts in five career starts.

NOTES: The Sharks acquired C Eric Fehr from Toronto for a seventh-round pick in the 2020 draft. ... Blues C Vladimir Sobotka was out of the lineup with an illness. It was the first game he has missed this season. ... The Blues have recalled forward Sammy Blais from the AHL for the fourth time this season. Blais, who leads the San Antonio Rampage with 28 points (11 goals, 17 assists), last played for St. Louis on Dec. 16, when he got hurt against Winnipeg. ... San Jose forward Tomas Hertl missed another game with an upper-body injury.

UP NEXT

Sharks: At the Nashville Predators on Thursday.

Blues: Host the Winnipeg Jets on Friday.

Sharks pick up first win of homestand as Burns moves back to blueline

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AP

Sharks pick up first win of homestand as Burns moves back to blueline

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE --Brent Burns and Chris Tierney each had a goal and an assist, and the San Jose Sharks beat the Vancouver Canucks 4-1 on Thursday for their third win in four games.

Mikkel Boedker and Marcus Sorensen also scored for the Sharks, who improved to 3-0-1 against the Canucks this season. Martin Jones stopped 29 shots.

Daniel Sedin scored for the Canucks, who lost their sixth in seven games. Anders Nilsson made 40 stops.

Boedker scored at 8:41 of the first period, picking up a soft rebound from Tierney's shot.

Burns scored his 10th goal, tops among NHL defensemen, taking a pass from Joakim Ryan and sending a laser shot into the net just under five minutes into the second.

Sorensen scored his first goal since Dec. 23, punching it in with an assist from Justin Braun at 3:06 into the third. Marc-Edouard Vlasic had an assist in his third straight game, getting the second assist on Sorensen's goal.

Sedin scored at 6:43, taking a nice pass from Thomas Vanek that gave him clear shot into the net. It was Sedin's 14th goal, one shy of his total last season.

Tierney made it 4-1 after taking a nice pass from Burns with 7 1/2 minutes remaining.

NOTES:Tim Heed was recalled from the AHL and joined a makeshift Sharks lineup, allowing Burns to play up front at times. ... Sharks C Logan Couture has points in four of his last five games. ... Boedker recorded games in consecutive games for the second time this season, and the first since Jan. 15-16. ... Sedin has five points against the Sharks this season and 45 in 69 games. He's recorded points in three straight.

UP NEXT

Canucks: Host Boston on Saturday.

Sharks: Host Dallas on Sunday.