As a first round pick by the San Jose Sharks in the 2013 National Hockey League Entry Draft, defenseman Mirco Mueller is part of a master plan.
That master plan: successfully hand off the torch from the bearers such as Brent Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and Paul Martin – all who have left their 20’s in the rear view mirror.
As recently as today, Sharks assistant general manager Joe Will told CSN Bay Area of the master plan to accumulate players as early as 2013, when Mueller (who’s furnished 20 points in 62 games for the young San Jose Barracuda followed by four assists in 10 AHL playoff games) was the Sharks first pick off the board. Since then, the Sharks drafted 24 players in the span of three drafts (2013-15).
Mueller put himself in position by blossoming his game on the Silvertips blueline under the watchful eye of assistant coach Mitch Love, who handles the Tips d-men. Mueller’s transition from Switzerland, his draft year, delivered 31 points in 63 games, followed up by a 27 point campaign in 60 games in 2013-14.
Mueller is one of 17 ‘Tips who have made their NHL debut since Everett’s inaugural season in 2003-04.
Mueller still texts with Love, engages in conversation with WHL alumni, and misses Everett. Mueller spoke on Wednesday afternoon over the phone, with the Barracuda preparing for their Conference Final showdown against the Grand Rapids Griffins:
- MIKE BENTON: What surprised you about this season?
MIRCO MUELLER: I don’t know. It was a season that I really didn’t know what to expect. We had a lot of new and young guys come in. nobody knew what to expect but I think we’ve been playing good hockey all season long and carry it into the playoffs and into our first two rounds. Hopefully we can keep going.
- MB: What kind of a player has (San Jose head coach) Roy Sommer made you?
MM: Tough to say. I think I’m still the same player as I was back in Everett. I just got better. My whole game kind of evolved and obviously more this year with the team having success, especially in the playoffs. But we’re not content.
- MB: How tough is Grand Rapids?
MM: We’ve only played them twice this year but they’re a similar team like us. They play with a lot of speed, a lot of skill and it’ll be a great series between two great teams. I’m excited for it to start.
- MB: You get a kick out of seeing WHL faces now in the AHL?
MM: Yeah, definitely. We’ve had a lot of new guys this year and a lot of more WHL guys – more than what I’ve seen before in San Jose – guys like (Adam) Helewka, (Rourke) Chartier, (Jon) Martin – there are some guys I remember from the U.S. Division and B.C. Division. It’s definitely fun and we talk about the junior days and see which guys know which coaches. It’s funny how small the hockey world is.
- MB: What did playing in the WHL do to prepare you for the pros?
MM: The biggest thing is the amount of games and the intensity you play with in the WHL. The travel makes you be able to handle it much better, once you move on. So much where you can just worry about your game and nothing else going on. It was a great experience for me playing (in Everett) for two years.
- MB: Person from Everett you text from the most?
MM: Probably Brayden Low and Ben Betker. With Ben, we played against each other (Betker in Bakersfield) quite a bit.
- MB: How much of a difference did Mitch Love make in your game as a defenseman?
MM: He made a big difference. He is a coach who hasn’t been retired that long and has been around the modern day era, playing in the AHL previously. We’ve always had a good relationship and nowadays we shoot texts back and forth.
- MB: What do you miss most about Everett?
MM: The whole area. I really enjoyed living there. The guys around the rink, the fans, the great atmosphere to play in, even my billets. We try to check in every now and then. The whole place is really comfortable and it’s a great place to play in the Western Hockey League.
The Barracuda, aiming for their first trip to the Calder Cup Final, open Game 1 of the Conference Finals this Saturday against Grand Rapids at SAP Center (6:00 p.m.).
Award winning broadcaster Mike Benton recently completed his second season as radio play-by-play voice of the Everett Silvertips of the Western Hockey League, and 12th in the game. Tweet at him here.