Raiders forward taken 31st overall by Sharks
From seeing his first name being signed out by San Jose Sharks director of scouting Doug Wilson Jr., to his family turning their living room into a mosh pit when his name was called and his Zoom press conference being gatecrashed by NHL players, Tuesday evening was one that Ozzy Wiesblatt will long remember.
The Prince Albert Raiders forward taken by the Sharks with the 31st and final selection of the opening round of this year’s NHL Draft, which was held virtually.
“This is one of the coolest days of my life,” Wiesblatt said. “My family and I have faced a lot of hardships, but this is the icing on the cake.
“Everything’s starting to pay off but there’s still a lot of hard work ahead and I’m looking forward to meeting everyone in San Jose.”
Wilson Jr. spelled Wiesblatt’s first name in American Sign Language for Ozzy’s mother Kim White, who has been deaf since she was born and uses ASL to communicate with her five children (Ocean, Orca, Ozzy, Oasiz and Oceania).
“I didn’t expect that at all and it’s one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen,” Wiesblatt said. “That means a lot to my mom and the entire deaf community in general. It was a very nice gesture from him and my mom will never forget that.”
“I would have loved to have done his full name but I’m not that smart,” Wilson Jr. joked. “Ozzy’s an unbelievable kid from an unbelievable family and I wanted to let them know that we’re excited to have them join our family.”
The surprises from the Sharks didn’t stop there as current players Brent Burns, Logan Couture, Erik Karlsson and Kevin Labanc all jumped on the Zoom call to welcome their newest prospect to the system.
“Seriously?’ – a surprised Wiesblatt said when Burns joined the press conference.”
“We’re excited to see you down in here San Jose,” Burns said. “It’s a great place with great fans and we’re looking to build something special here. You look great in the suit but we need you to get back in the gym as soon as you can.”
“I got to see the special that Sportsnet did on your family,” Couture added. “Your mom seems like an angel and I’m looking forward to meeting you in person.”
Wiesblatt will run into a familiar face when he eventually takes part in his first training camp for the Sharks, as former Raider Noah Gregor had five points in 28 contests for the club during the shortened 2019-20 campaign.
“We kind of clicked right away when we first met (in the fall of 2018) and we ended up being linemates together,” Wiesblatt said. “It ended up being a really special season and I can’t wait to see him down there soon.”
The 18-year-old Calgary product has 110 points in 129 games for the Raiders and has 10 points in 23 games during the Raiders’ Ed Chynoweth Cup run in 2019.
He’s also played for Canada at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge and the Hlinka Gretzky Cup over the two seasons.
“Ozzy’s one of the fastest kids in all of major junior hockey,” Wilson Jr. said. “It’s tough to get the puck off of his stick and no gains the offensive zone entry like he does.
“He’s new-age toughness in the NHL and I’m so thrilled to have him with our team.”
Wiesblatt is just the second Raiders player to be drafted by the Sharks, as he joins 1997 eighth round pick Cam Severson.
The Sharks’ acquired the 31st overall selection and AHL forward Anthony Greco from the eventual Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning in February in exchange for forward Barclay Goodrow and Philadelphia’s third round pick in this year’s draft.
“I had a couple of conversations with them and they felt like family right off the bat,” Wiesblatt said.
With Kaiden Guhle being picked 16th overall by the Montreal Canadiens, this marks the first time that pair of Raiders have gone in the opening round since 1995, when Steve Kelly and Brad Church went sixth and 17th overall respectively to the Edmonton Oilers and the Washington Capitals.
The team also had two players picked in the opening round in 1986, when Pat Elynuik and Kim Issel went to the Winnipeg Jets and the Oilers with the eighth and 21st overall choices.