From this article:
Young Shark takes bite out of NHL
Vlasic cracks lineup of elite team
BY MICHAEL PIASETZKI
If there was one truly inspirational story this past year for every youngster playing minor hockey in the West Island it was that of Marc-Édouard Vlasic.
The Beaconsfield native became living proof that as a player, and a defenceman in particular, you don’t have to be flashy on the ice, possess a howitzer shot from the point or crunch people with thunderous hits to make a dream come true. He proved keeping things simple behind your blue-line, while being able to read the ice well, could be two of the most important ingredients necessary to reach the highest level of competitive hockey. That, combined with a commitment to hard work on and off the ice is what allowed Vlasic to defy the odds and make the grade in October with the National Hockey League San Jose Sharks. At the age of 19 to boot, only five years removed from playing bantam AA for the Lakeshore Panthers.
“I feel very fortunate,” said Vlasic, whose adopted nickname with the Sharks is ‘Pickle.’
“I never had an idea growing up this would ever happen. I know many players want and try to get to the NHL but never end up making it. I only actually realized that I had made it after playing my first game against the St. Louis Blues. But you know, I still have to pinch myself at times.”
After first donning his skates at the novice level for the West Island Hockey Association, the six-foot-one, 190-pound Vlasic transferred to Lakeshore, where he played at the AA level from atom to bantam. He then went on to play one year for the midget AAA West Island Lions before spending three years with the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) Quebec Remparts, including last year’s Memorial Cup triumph.
“I had great coaches at Lakeshore which really helped me a lot,” admitted Vlasic, who scored his first NHL goal Nov. 22 at home against the Los Angeles Kings. “I learned a little more every year. I believe if there was one who really left an impression on me though, it was Pat Haney in atom AA. That’s such an important stage for a kid, and he kept me interested in hockey. Marc Côté and Dan D’Astoli were important as well.”
Back in early October, when asked by reporters why he had selected Vlasic to be part of his roster, Sharks head coach Ron Wilson said it was because of his amazing amount of poise on the ice. Amazingly enough, it was those same qualities that impressed Haney about Vlasic at the atom level as well.
“He never panicked with the puck, even back then,” said Haney, a longtime instructor who is currently head coach of the peewee BB Lakeshore Panthers. “You didn’t notice him, which is what you want out of a defenceman. He also had this quiet confidence about him.”
In a game earlier this season against the Detroit Red Wings — his favourite team while growing up — observers said Vlasic experienced a horrible first shift. He seemed overwhelmed by the veteran-laden squad. However, his second shift was slightly better, and he was hardly noticeable afterwards. He logged 20 minutes of ice time by playing what observers said was a — and here’s that word again — “simple” game on the ice. He continues to play the same way.
“I’m not surprised he made it to the NHL at the age of 19,” said former Pointe Claire resident Marc-André Dumont, who was an assistant coach under Guy Boucher the year Vlasic played for the Lions and is now an assistant coach for the QMJHL Gatineau Olympiques. “He has this uncanny ability to learn fast. He soaks up information immediately.”
Vlasic impressed Dumont so much both as a player and a human being he asked him to be a group leader one weekend last year with his midget espoir Châteauguay Patriotes. He felt if there was one person his 15-year-old players could learn from and be inspired by, it was Vlasic.
“I believe he (Vlasic) is not only in the NHL for the near future, but should have a long career as well,” Dumont said.
[Edit: More Vlasic lurve! From Out of nowhere:
Then there is the case of Marc-Edouard Vlasic of the Sharks. Don't chastise yourself if you aren't familiar with him, but he is turning heads out west as a dependable defensive defenseman at the NHL level ... as a teen-ager. The premise and prospect of such an occurrence is a rarity, if not an oxymoron. Youngsters who burst onto the NHL scene usually do so with offensive flair -- such as Evgeni Malkin of the Penguins and Anze Kopitar of the Kings, the leading rookie scorers in the league thus far.
Yet, Vlasic plays more minutes per game than either of them. He plays more than fellow rookie teammate Matt Carle, who came with much more fanfare as the 2006 Hobey Baker winner and having played down the stretch and in the playoffs for the Sharks last spring. In fact, Vlasic logs more ice time in each game than any other rookie in the league. He won't turn 20 until March 30, yet he anchors the Sharks' blueline on the penalty kill, garnering nearly four of his 21-plus minutes per night in man-down situations.
Vlasic, though, is coming off a season of highs and lows. He won the 2006 Memorial Cup with Patrick Roy's junior team, the Quebec Remparts -- this after Canada's world juniors team passed on him last December. As for his junior days in general, the story goes that Roy kept calling early in the season inquiring as to when Vlasic would be returning to his junior team. In October, the answer wasn't entirely clear. As December turns to January, Roy's calls are now just to check on his former player's adjustment to life in the NHL.
He knows Vlasic has moved on for good, the surprise to him having long worn off.]