SN: One of the stories with the Sharks has to be the way young players jump in and fit into the lineup so well. You have, what, four guys who are rookies or second-year players. Is there a secret to it? Is it Ron Wilson's coaching? The quality of the guys the team brings in?
KM: It's a little bit of everything. The way we've drafted has served us very well. We bring the right guys in. The chemistry of this team is unbelievable. Everybody has each other's back every single night. And we treat our 18- and 19-year-olds the same way we do guys like myself, 29 or 30 years old.
SN: It's hard to think of you being that old.
KM: Yeah, 29, wow. It's a major part of our team, the young guys and our rookies like Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Matt Carle, and even Ryane Clowe has picked up his game. We can't rely on Joe Thornton or Patrick Marleau or Jonathan Cheechoo to prepare us to go to the ultimate goal. We need everybody playing, and our rookies have stepped up above and beyond expectations. And we need them to step it up another notch to go anywhere in the playoffs. It takes 20 guys on the ice and 25 on the roster to win. Vlasic is one of the greatest young talents I've seen in a while. The composure he has at the point in key situations, five-on-threes, he asked to do a lot on this team. Without him we wouldn't be in the situation we're in. You know, with Scott Hannan and myself, it takes everybody. There's a lot resting on our young guys' shoulders, and I think they've handled it very well.
SN: And since you brought up Vlasic, supposedly defense is the hardest thing to learn in today's NHL. But the Sharks year after year find young guys to pop in and they play like old pros.
KM: It's scary, playing as well as he has for six months, and he's only missed one or two games. It's a grueling year, and he's done it all. He's playing up ice, playing the power play, killing penalties. He has a great head on his shoulder. That's what I mean about our drafting. To get a guy like him and know what kind of player he's going to be, it's amazing. You don't see too many 18- or 19-year-olds come in with that kind of poise and play as well as he has. Usually they hit a brick wall, and he has hit a little one here and there, but there hasn't been a giant obstacle for him to climb. It's nice. He's very important to our success.
SN: And he has you and Hannan to help.
KM: Yeah, but I don't think he listens to us anymore.
From The Opening Faceoff: 20 Best Rookies:
5. Marc-Edouard Vlasic, San Jose, D -- Vlasic has gone from surprise addition to the Sharks roster at the end of training camp to one of San Jose’s most reliable defensemen in just five months. Not too bad for a 19-year-old, eh? Vlasic plays in all situations for the contending Sharks. His 21:53 average ice time per game is tops among rookie defensemen. He also sees more shorthanded ice time than any other rookie rearguard. Plus, his 78 blocked shots are second among all rookies. His plus-9 is also second overall among rookie defenders. Yet, with all that defensive acumen, Vlasic has still managed 18 points so far this season. Can you say, real deal? 54 GP, 2-16-18, plus-9, 21:53 TOI.
8. Ryane Clowe, San Jose, RW -- Here’s a player who has made the most of his opportunities. Not a regular in the lineup during the early part of the season, Clowe suddenly found himself on San Jose’s top line and he never looked back. A grinding forward who knows how to find open spaces, Clowe is revisiting the role as Joe Thornton’s finisher that made Jonathan Cheechoo an overnight star last season. 31 GP, 12-15-27, plus-8, 52 PIM, 4 PPG.
11. Matt Carle, San Jose, D -- After a brilliant start to the season, Carle has hit a few rough patches. He was sent to the minors in early January as a wake-up call and has struggled offensively since his return on Jan. 12, managing just two goals and an assist in his past 11 games. Still, the reigning Hobey Baker Award winner has all the tools to be a dominant offensive defenseman in this league. 50 GP, 5-19-24, plus-5, 11 PPA, 19:05 TOI.
19. Joe Pavelski, San Jose, C/RW -- Pavelski created quite the stir with his scoring ability upon joining the Sharks in late November. He scored in four of his first five games and had nine goals after just 19 games. He proved to be deadly on the power-play, as well, scoring five times with the man advantage. A sore foot presently has him sidelined. 29 GP 11-9-20, plus-6, 5 PPG, 3 GWG.