By Rich Myhre Herald Writer
It seems the San Jose Sharks were determined to draft Everett Silvertips defenseman Mirco Mueller in the first round of Sunday’s National Hockey League Draft.
So determined, in fact, that San Jose pulled off a trade to move up two spots and leapfrog the Columbus Blue Jackets, who apparently were eyeing Mueller as well.
After dealing the No. 20 and No. 58 selections to Detroit, San Jose used the 18th pick acquired from the Red Wings to take the 6-foot-3 Mueller, a native of Winterthur, Switzerland.
The 18-year-old Mueller was at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., home of the NHL’s New Jersey Devils and the site of this year’s NHL draft, as was Silvertips general manager Garry Davidson. With Columbus drafting 19th, the Sharks “made the trade to move up because they were concerned (about losing him),” said Davidson, speaking by telephone. “And I have to think they were pretty high on him to make that trade.”
Mueller could not be reached for comment Sunday, but told The Associated Press: “It’s a great day for me. I play a simple game, a puck-moving defenseman. I try to make plays from my own end and try to get (the puck) forward.”
Mueller becomes the second first-round NHL selection in as many years for Everett, following defenseman Ryan Murray last year. Mueller is the sixth first-rounder in Silvertips history.
“I think what everybody really likes is his ability to skate,” Davidson said of Mueller. “He’s an outstanding skater. Physically he’s 6-3 or 6-4, but he hasn’t filled out yet. He’s still a very young man, and in the next year or two he’s sure to put on 15 and maybe 25 pounds. And he’ll need that to play at (the NHL) level.
“I think the other thing they see is that he’s got a great stick and he defends so well. He also showed a little bit of grit in his game, and I think they appreciated that in him as well.”
Mueller was acquired by Everett with the 11th pick of the 2012 Canadian Hockey League Import Draft. At the time, Davidson said, “we weren’t sure we had a first-rounder. But certainly as the season went on, we came to appreciate what a good player he was and the possibility that he’d be chosen in the first round.”
Before Sunday’s draft, Davidson said he was unaware of San Jose’s interest in Mueller “because I had no communication with them whatsoever. So I had no idea that they were as high on him as they were, to be honest with you.”
But at the recent NHL combine, Davidson added, Mueller “was interviewed by 27 out of the 30 teams. And I presume the three teams that didn’t talk to him were either picking earlier and picking someone else, or they were picking later and felt they had no shot at him.”
Mueller will get a closer look from San Jose coaches and officials in the coming months but is unlikely to make the Sharks’ regular-season roster because of his youth. Assuming he does not play in San Jose, he will be back in Everett for at least one more season.
“I really believe he needs more time to physically mature,” Davidson said. “I think it’d be foolish for anybody to rush him along. But that’s not our decision in Everett, that’s up to San Jose.
“But if I was a betting guy, I’d think he’ll be back in Everett. And then it’s back to the everyday grind so he can continue to grow himself as a player and as a person. But obviously it’s very important that he’s a first-round pick because it means San Jose has him penciled in at some point down the road.”
Mueller was one of two Silvertips to be chosen in the draft’s seven rounds. The other was 6-5, 200-pound defenseman Ben Betker from Cranbrook, B.C., who was picked seventh in the sixth round, 158th overall, by the Edmonton Oilers.
One surprise came when Everett goaltender Austin Lotz went undrafted. The 6-0, 185-pound Lotz, a native of St. Adolphe, Manitoba, and the team’s No. 1 goalie last season, had been projected as a mid-round selection.