General manager Doug Wilson decided Monday to keep Vlasic with the Sharks instead of sending him back to the Quebec Remparts, his junior team for the last three seasons.
Vlasic helped to lead coach Patrick Roy's team to the Memorial Cup last summer, but the Sharks believe he's ready for bigger challenges after playing well in San Jose's first eight games.
"He's got an amazing amount of poise," Wilson said before his club faced the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday night in the opener of a five-game road trip. "He moves the puck very well. He does the right thing almost every time he's on the ice. He's mature beyond his years."
Vlasic scored 73 points for the Remparts last season after the Sharks selected him in the second round of the 2005 draft. He made the Sharks' opening-night roster this fall with an outstanding training camp, beating out a handful of more experienced defensemen.
Vlasic is scoreless in eight NHL games with a minus-1 rating, but his statistics don't reflect the Sharks' growing confidence in him. The teenager has played in every situation, contributing steady passing and solid hits while playing nearly 20 minutes per game -- third-most among San Jose's defensemen.
In his NHL debut in a home game against St. Louis, Vlasic was on the Sharks' three-man penalty-killing team during a two-man disadvantage stretching nearly two minutes.
Wilson debated sending Vlasic back to get another year of seasoning in Quebec City, but decided a winning NHL atmosphere would be even more beneficial than another year under Roy's tutelage. San Jose won six of its first seven games to start the regular season while relying heavily on Vlasic and 22-year-old defenseman Matt Carle.
Vlasic will live with a San Jose family during the season -- a strategy that worked well when the Sharks promoted then-21-year-old forward Milan Michalek last season. Wilson also said Vlasic might be allowed to play for Canada in the World Junior Championships, which begin Dec. 26 in Sweden.
"He's here to play," Wilson said. "It defeats the purpose if he doesn't play. ... You can't really put a value on a winning environment. I'm not going to put any limitations on what he can become."