Jasper Weatherby first attended San Jose Sharks development camp in 2018, just after he was picked in the fourth round of the NHL Draft.
He was a raw prospect who had recently completed his junior hockey career with the Wenatchee Wild of the British Columbia Hockey League and was about to head to college at UND. He stood at 6-foot-4, 190 pounds.
"I was basically skin and bones," Weatherby said.
That was the last time the Sharks worked with him in person until last week. Weatherby missed the 2019 development camp because he was recovering from an injury. The 2020 development camp was called off due to the coronavirus pandemic.
When Weatherby returned to San Jose last week, he was a 220-pound power forward who had transformed from a raw prospect to a top-end collegiate player at UND.
After seeing him firsthand at camp, the Sharks brought Weatherby into the coaches' office and put the wheels in motion to sign the emerging centerman to a two-year deal Monday.
According to CapFriendly, the contract is worth $925,000 per year if he's in the NHL and $80,000 if he's in the American Hockey League. He also will receive signing bonuses of $92,500 for the next two years. It's the maximum base salary and signing bonus allowed for entry-level contracts.
"It was the first time in three or four years that their head coach and general manager were able to see me in person and get their hands on me in a development setting," Weatherby said. "Sometimes, opportunities come in unique ways. I felt like I had a really good development camp. Myself and my advisors felt like this was the right opportunity and I couldn't be more excited."
The Sharks initially offered Weatherby a contract in late March and early April. At the time, Weatherby passed on the offer and planned to return to school for his senior season.
But two changes led the Sharks to make another run at signing him this month: Weatherby's performance at development camp and the fact that the Seattle Kraken took Alexander True from San Jose in the Expansion Draft.
True, who rotated between San Jose and its top minor-league affiliate the last two years, is a player that fits Weatherby's profile. True is a 6-foot-5 left-handed shooting center. Weatherby is a 6-foot-4 left-handed shooting center.
Weatherby had a breakout junior season with UND, finishing one goal shy of National Collegiate Hockey Conference co-leaders Shane Pinto (UND) and Cole Koepke (Minnesota Duluth), while winning 57.4 percent of his faceoffs. He will attend training camp with San Jose next month. If he does not make the Sharks roster out of camp, he'll play with their AHL affiliate, the Barracuda. They're also located in San Jose.
"Without North Dakota, I'm not in this position," Weatherby said. "From the top down, they've been nothing but great to me. . . the extra workouts with Pooly (athletic trainer Mark Poolman), the skills work with all the coaches. . . you truly get lucky to be in a place like this. Their goal is aligned with my goal and that's to move players on to the NHL."
Sharks general manager Doug Wilson also thanked UND in a statement.
"Jasper's performance at our development camp showcased his offensive skill, as well as his ability to utilize his size and strength to consistently win faceoffs," Wilson said. "He was a top collegiate player last season and served in a leadership role for North Dakota on and off the ice. The ingredients he brings meshes well with the top young players who are emerging in our system. We would like to thank the North Dakota hockey program for all of their hard work in helping Jasper reach this stage of his career."
UND coach Brad Berry said in a statement that the team was made aware over the weekend that Weatherby was going to sign.
"We, of course, want to thank Jasper for his three years at UND as well as being a key part in a group that had a tremendous amount of success especially over his final two seasons," Berry said. "We wish him all the best as he begins his professional career."
Weatherby said it was difficult to leave his teammates, who will open the season on Oct. 2 with an exhibition against the University of Manitoba.
"It's really tough," Weatherby said. "When I announced it to the team, they clapped and some guys gave me hugs. That's what's important to me is that bond. I got to watch firsthand some of my best friends leave last year and the years before. You're excited for them because that's their goal. I think guys realize that's my goal as well."