Sharks

How Wiesblatt won over Sharks with blend of skill, spirit

Sharks

The Sharks ended the first round of the 2020 NHL Draft on Tuesday night with a moment they, and No. 31 overall selection Ozzy Wiesblatt, will never forget.

San Jose worried it would never happen.

Sharks general manager Doug Wilson and director of scouting Doug Wilson Jr., Wilson's son, admitted to reporters on a video conference Tuesday they feared another team would trade up in front of San Jose to draft Wiesblatt.

Wiesblatt's blend of skill, speed and spirit made him the best player available in the Sharks' eyes, so they didn't pay much attention to trade offers when he was still on the board.

"We had a few teams call up to try to get back in at 31, and Ozzy was too good to pass up at the time," Wilson Jr. said.

The Sharks targeted Wiesblatt, an 18-year-old forward with the WHL's Prince Albert Raiders, for "a while," according to Wilson Jr., who gave "a lot of credit" to Brian Gross and Ryan Russell, two amateur scouts in western Canada, for identifying Wiesblatt. Wilson said Wilson Jr. was "fighting for" Wiesblatt in meetings.

Wiesblatt scored 70 points (25 goals, 45 assists) in 64 games for the Raiders last season. Although Prince Albert listed him as a winger, Wilson Jr. repeatedly referred to the right-shooting forward as a center, and his offensive skill set checked all the boxes for the Sharks.

"We were looking for speed, we were looking for playmaking, we were looking for possession and we were looking for puck protection and pursuit," Wilson Jr. said. "That's this kid in spades. It's tough to get the puck off his stick. No one gains the [offensive] zone entry like he does."

 

Although Wiesblatt's speed and skill caught the Sharks' eyes, the organization was just as impressed with his mindset. The Wilsons credited Wiesblatt's family upbringing and work ethic.

Wiesblatt's mother, Kim, is deaf and has raised Ozzy and two of his siblings on her own since 2014. Ozzy's two older brothers, Ocean and Orca, moved in with nearby families in Calgary because White couldn't afford to raise all five children while her sons played elite-level hockey. Wilson Jr. first announced the Sharks' selection of Wiesblatt in American Sign Language so the player could share a moment with his mother.

Wiesblatt posted 36 penalty minutes last season, and Wilson Jr. said he routinely saw the forward stick up for his teammates after one of them would get run by an opponent. As much as any other attribute, the Sharks liked his spunk.

"I think the big thing that we've all talked about is attitude," the elder Wilson said. "Juice, and energy and attitude. This kid's a winner, and you don't see that type of emotion and passion unless you've gone through a journey in life.

"I just think he's a special kid."

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Although the teenager is listed as 5-foot-10 and 183 pounds, Wilson Jr. labeled Wiesblatt "an agitator" whose "new-age toughness" fits the modern NHL. The Sharks believe Wiesblatt's offensive game and top-end speed will translate, too.

Mix in his intangibles and, well, it was an easy call for San Jose to ignore other teams' calls Tuesday night.

"When you get to know the kid and you get to know the family, you realize this kid's a Shark," Wilson Jr. said.