Grier had just presided over the first round of his first NHL Draft as the new general manager of the San Jose Sharks some 48 hours after becoming the first Black GM in NHL history.
“I thought about it a little bit before I went to bed, you know, that it was pretty cool,” Grier said Friday before the final day of the 2022 Upper Deck NHL Draft began at Bell Center. “You grow up watching the draft and everything, so for me to be on the floor with all these other teams and general managers is something I always wanted to do, a dream of mine.”
Grier was hired as Sharks GM in San Jose on Tuesday and boarded a plane to Montreal that afternoon.
“Sometimes it’s good to just jump right into the pool and see if you can swim,” he said Wednesday.
Grier dove into his first Draft with gusto, trading for a player and acquiring additional picks. He made his first trade as GM Thursday night, when San Jose sent the No. 11 pick to the Arizona Coyotes for a first-round choice (No. 27) and two second-round selections (Nos. 34 and 45).
On Friday, the Sharks acquired forward luke kunin in a trade with the Nashville Predators for forward John Leonard and a third-round pick in the 2023 NHL Draft. Kunin can become a restricted free agent July 13.
“A high-character kid, plays the game hard, competes hard, got some really good leadership qualities, so he’s got a lot of things we’d like to bring into the team and the organization,” Grier said of Kunin, 24. “I think he fits in nicely with some of the core values I have and we have in the organization.”
San Jose used the No. 27 pick to select center Filip Bystedt, who had 49 points (16 goals, 33 assists) in 40 games this season with Linkoping HC in the J20 Nationell at Sweden’s top junior hockey level.
The Sharks used the two second-round picks to select center Cameron Lund from Green Bay of the United States Hockey League (No. 34) and Swedish defenseman Mattias Havelid (No. 45).
“I think the board fell to us the way we had hoped,” Grier said. “We were able to add some size, some speed, some skill, some hardness, things that we were looking for. I think we got a good mix of players and we’re really happy about it.”
The Sharks also selected defenseman Michael Fisher from St. Mark’s School in Massachusetts in the third round (No. 76); goalie Mason Beaupit from Spokane of the Western Hockey League in the fourth round (No. 108); defenseman Jake Furlong from Halifax of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League in the fifth round (No. 140); right wing Joey Muldowney of the Nichols School in New York in the sixth round (No. 172); defenseman Eli Barnett from Victoria of the British Columbia Hockey League in the seventh round (No. 195); and center Reese Laubach of Northstar Christian Academy in Minnesota in the seventh round (No. 217).
The moves came after Grier spent Thursday and Friday mornings meeting with the Sharks’ amateur and pro scouts and working the phones, team officials said.
Grier was greeted on the draft floor with smiles, handshakes and well wishes by several general managers, team executives and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.
“He’s been drinking out of a firehose,” said Coyotes president and CEO Xavier A. Gutierrez, who became the first Latino to hold the titles in the NHL when he was hired in June 2020. “He’s in the middle of his first Draft, he just got hired two days ago and he’s a little bit busy right now. I’m very proud of the organization for [hiring him].”
Grier began his draft with a moving speech honoring Bryan Marchment, a Sharks scout and a former teammate of Grier’s on the Edmonton Oilers. Marchment died in Montreal on Wednesday at the age of 53.
“His opponents may not have enjoyed playing against him,” Grier said, “but as someone who was his teammate, I can tell you there was no one I would rather go into battle with, or who you would want on the bench than Bryan .”
“We love you, Bryan,” Grier said in closing his remarks. “You will be missed, but you will never be forgotten.”
With the draft over, Grier said his work as general manager is just beginning. San Jose’s development camp begins Monday, he has meetings regarding free agency, and the Sharks will start interviews as they search for a new coach.
San Jose fired Bob Boughner as coach July 1 after he went 67-85-23 in three seasons.
“I’m looking for someone with strong communication skills, someone who can motivate our players and likes to play an up-tempo style of hockey,” Grier said. “We’re going to look at everyone: the veteran coach, guys who had one job before, guys who haven’t had (NHL) jobs, some guys who coached in the minors, juniors, everything. We’ll have a pretty broad search at the start and try to narrow it down.”
Grier said he’s looking to restock the Sharks prospect pool, thinned by winning seasons and trades to remain competitive.
Grier described the time between his hire and the draft as “a whirlwind” but said it was an enjoyable time largely because of the lively atmosphere inside Bell Centre.
“It worked out that this is a great place to have the first in-person draft in a couple of years (due to the coronavirus pandemic),” he said. “The crowd was great, lots of energy and buzz in the building and, for me, being in Montreal was a great experience.”