It took a few years, but the Sharks were finally rewarded for their patience and belief in James Sheppard late last season.

The former first round pick (ninth overall), whose career nearly ended in the 2010 offseason due to an ATV accident, showed that he still has the skills to play regularly at the NHL level when he was plopped in the middle of the Sharks' third line shortly after the Olympic break in March. That’s where he stayed for the playoffs, allowing Joe Pavelski to stay on the top line wing with Joe Thornton, in a coaching decision that was much debated.

Sheppard, 26, was one of the few Sharks players that could be proud of his performance in the first round against Los Angeles, getting two goals and adding four assists to tie him for second on the team in scoring. The reward for his late season performance was a one-year contract worth $1.3 million for the restricted free agent.

"It was important to me stay in San Jose because we have all the ingredients for a championship team,” Sheppard said via text message to CSNCalifornia.com. “Players, coaching, organization and of course the fans.