Sharks Top 20 prospects, Spring 2009

By Ian Bross

The latest edition of the Sharks top 20 list is substantially different than its predecessor. Logan Couture reprises his role as the top prospect, but there are many new faces. Defense is represented more so than any other position, followed by goaltending. Five goaltenders occupy spots from sixth to 13th.

Top 20 at a Glance

1. Logan Couture, C
2. Nick Petrecki, D
3. Jamie McGinn, LW
4. Derek Joslin, D
5. Steven Zalewski, C
6. Thomas Greiss, G
7. Lukas Kaspar, LW
8. Mike Moore, D
9. Tyson Sexsmith, G
10. Harri Sateri, G
11. Alex Stalock, G
12. Jason Demers, D
13. Taylor Dakers, G
14. Riley Armstrong, RW
15. Samuel Groulx, D
16. Justin Braun, D
17. Matt Jones, RW
18. Patrick Zackrisson, LW
19. Brandon Mashinter, LW
20. Tony Lucia, LW

1. Logan Couture, C

Acquired:  1st Round, 9th overall, 2007

Couture remains the top prospect in Sharks organization. He took a major step forward in 2008-09, after a disappointing go-around last year. He put together 39 goals, and 48 assists, for 87 total points in 62 games, and registered a +27 rating. He posted new career highs in goals, total points, and plus/minus. He participated in the OHL All-Star Game for the second time in his career. Couture also had three goals and seven assists in the first-round playoff series against Niagara. His club, the 67’s, were defeated in seven games.

Though he has a history of nagging injuries, Couture managed to stay relatively healthy this season. His 62 games were the most since 2005-06. Not just an offensively successful player, Couture has been effective at both ends of the ice. He joined Worcester at the end of the season, and has registered one
goal in five games. There is an off chance he sticks with the team next season.

2. Nick Petrecki, D

Acquired:  1st Round, 28th overall, 2007

Petrecki recently completed his second season in the NCAA with Boston College. And in late March, the sophomore signed an entry-level contract with the Sharks. He has always been regarded for his physical intensity, and led all NCAA players in penalty minutes this season. Petrecki has a great physical presence, yet is very mobile. He is adept at moving the puck up ice, and though his numbers this season were far from extraordinary, he has provided clutch scoring previously.

Petrecki focused his efforts this season on improving his overall defensive play, which is a necessity in order to move to the next level so quickly. His stats suffered as a result. In 35 games, he had seven assists. Petrecki is considered to have some dormant offensive capabilities within him, but at the very least, he looks like he will be a solid two-way defender.

3. Jamie McGinn, LW

Acquired:  2nd Round, 36th overall, 2006

McGinn appeared with the Worcester Sharks last season, but didn’t ever settle in with the team. After splitting his time in the AHL and OHL, he returned to the pro ranks this year, and handled it well. The powers that be liked what they saw from McGinn, and have given him some opportunities on the San Jose lineup. He has been back and forth between San Jose and Worcester, where he spent the majority of his time, tallying 19 goals and 11 assists in 47 games. In 35 games during the regular season with San Jose, he had four goals and two assists. In the playoffs he’s been a healthy scratch with the team. McGinn is a well-rounded player with high offensive upside. Not an overly big forward, he is speedy, but by no means does he shy away from contact. McGinn likes to get involved in the physical play, and has good balance.

4. Derek Joslin, D
Acquired: 5th Round, 149th overall, 2005

This was Joslin’s third season in Worcester. As a defenseman, he was their top rookie scorer last year. Joslin has continued his strong play, scoring 11 goals and assisting on 19 in 63 games. Joslin’s time with Worcester has been limited due to frequent trips he has made to San Jose. He has been back and forth between the AHL and NHL clubs repeatedly. He has not registered a point in his 12 games with San Jose.

Joslin has been with Worcester since mid-March, and is an important piece of their blueline corps as they participate in the Calder Cup playoffs. Joslin has good strength, but still has work to do with his skating stride, and his transition from offense to defense. He has a great eagerness to join the attack, sometimes to the detriment of his team. He’ll continue to serve as an injury call-up for San Jose as he addresses such issues in Worcester.

5. Steven Zalewski, C
Acquired: 5th Round, 153rd overall, 2004

Zalewski joined the Worcester Sharks last season, and left a definite impression in a short period, with six points in seven games. This season is Zalewski’s first full season in Worcester after four years at Clarkson University, where he was a go-to offensive player. A fair amount of responsibility was bestowed on the rookie forward, and he has responded well. Zalewski has been a catalyst for the Sharks, putting his playmaking abilities to practice. In 75 games this season, he managed 13 goals and assisted on 26, for a total of 39 points. Off to a good start to his professional career, Zalewski still has plenty of work to do to refine his game, and continue to adjust to the level of play.

6. Thomas Greiss, G

Acquired: 3rd Round, 94th overall, 2004

For the most part, Greiss has been the Worcester Sharks’ No. 1 man in net ever since he arrived in 2006-07. Over three seasons with the team, the German-born goaltender has been a consistent performer. Worcester missed the playoffs last year, but eked out a spot in 2008-09, a feat that would have been impossible if not for Greiss’ performance down the stretch. Greiss won six of his last seven games, and posted a 1.67 goals-against average and .939 save percentage in March. He recorded his first and only shutout on the final night of the season.

Overall, Greiss had a 2.47 goals-against average and .907 save percentage. He will likely compete for the backup role in San Jose next season, or at the very least will fall back on his starting role with Worcester.

7. Lukas Kaspar, LW
Acquired:  1st Round, 22nd overall, 2004

Kaspar is currently in his third campaign with Worcester. Statistically, Kaspar is in somewhat of a rut. His scoring has not taken off as the Sharks have hoped. Kaspar had 17 goals and 27 assists during the regular season. He has plenty of talent, more than enough to be a bigger point producer. And yet he hasn’t been able to make use of his skill. To an extent, even dating back to his junior days, Kaspar has been hampered by this problem. At times, Kaspar seems to languish around the ice. Standing 6’2 and weighing 220 pounds, Kaspar needs improve his skating and play away from the puck. There are still a number of aspects of Kaspar’s game that need to be polished.

8. Mike Moore, D
Acquired:  Free Agent (2008)

Moore joined Worcester after signing an amateur tryout contract in April 2008. This season was Moore’s first full season with the team after playing with Princeton for four years. He has registered five goals and 13 assists, and a +14 rating in 76 games. Moore is primarily characterized though, by his toughness and grit. He amassed 132 penalty minutes in 2008-09. Moore fits the mold of a defensive defenseman, reliant upon his strength. With a complete NCAA career under his belt, Moore’s transition has been a smooth one. His propensity for physicality and willingness to drop the gloves will make him an appealing option for the San Jose blueline in the future.

9. Tyson Sexsmith, G
Acquired: 3rd Round, 91st overall, 2007

Throughout the WHL, Sexsmith has made a name for himself due to his accomplishments last season. Keeping up the same level of play wouldn’t be easy. Now in his fourth season with the Vancouver Giants, though, Sexsmith’s play has dropped off a bit more than expected. There is reason to believe that Sexsmith benefitted from playing with teams as strong as he has. In 52 games of play, Sexsmith has recorded 39 wins. The mark is good enough for third-best in the league, just one behind Braden Holtby with nine fewer games played. And yet, Sexsmith’s .898 save percentage places him 16th in the league. Next season as a pro, Sexsmith will have to prove some of his past success was not a fluke.

10. Harri Sateri, G
Acquired: 4th Round, 106th overall, 2008

After playing for the Tappara Tampere junior club, Sateri joined the professional club in the SM-Liiga this year and has worked himself in as a backup. In 22 appearances, Sateri managed a respectable 2.30 goals-against average and .921 save percentage, but was 6-12-3. The Sharks are believed to have an affinity for identifying quality Finnish goaltending prospects, but that supposed fact doesn’t guarantee that Sateri is a sure-fire future NHL player. The 19-year-old netminder is far off from the NHL, both developmentally and circumstantially. In December, Sateri extended his contract with Tappara through the end of the 2011 season.

11. Alex Stalock, G

Acquired: 4th Round, 112th overall, 2005

Stalock had something of a breakout year in the NCAA with the University of Minnesota-Duluth. Last season, the Bulldogs floundered, their win-loss record below .500. Following Stalock’s lead, they made significant improvements in 2008-09, their record increasing to 22-13-8. Stalock played in 42 games, and posted a .923 save percentage, and 2.13 goals-against average. He led the WCHA in both categories. His goals-against average was a record-best for UMD, as was his save percentage, and five shutouts. Stalock’s undeniably strong season earned him a professional contract with the Sharks, signed in mid-April. He could compete for a backup role in Worcester next season.

12. Jason Demers, D

Acquired: 7th Round, 186th overall, 2008

Demers turned heads last season when he posted over 50 assists with the Victoriaville Tigres in the QMJHL. He then went on to sign a contract with the Sharks organization, setting the stage for this season’s action. As a 20-year-old rookie, Demers received his professional start with Worcester. His debut outing has been as impressive one, with two goals and 31 assists in 78 games. He finished the year with a +15 rating, all along a consistent plus-rated player. Demers is a savvy, puck-moving defenseman — a seventh-round draft pick — making an impact at the professional level. Drafted in the late rounds, Demers is a potential bargain, paying immediate dividends thus far.

13. Taylor Dakers, G
Acquired: 5th Round, 140th overall, 2005

Dakers had a bit of an up and down season, in 2008-09. Playing in the AHL for Worcester all year, he had sole ownership of the backup role to Greiss. Dakers appeared in 21 games, and registered 11 wins. He put together not great, but passable numbers: a 2.85 goals-against average, and .897 save percentage. Dakers aims to play a simple, technically sound style. Moving forward, however, he may need to elevate his game. Dakers’ job may not be as safe as it had been coming into the season. With Stalock closing in, the pressure will be on Dakers to maintain his position.

14. Riley Armstrong, RW
Acquired: Free Agent (2008)

Riley Armstrong, the younger brother of the Thrashers’ Colby Armstrong, joined the Worcester squad in 2006-07, and he has been a fixture ever since. Armstrong had his most productive season in 2008-09 in terms of points, with 42. The difference was his ability to finish on scoring opportunities. He scored 25 goals and 17 assists in 71 games. Armstrong plays with plenty of grit and hunger. He likes to put the puck on goal, and crash the net. He got a taste of the NHL this year, only sticking around to skate in two games. Armstrong is a candidate to see more NHL opportunities next season.

15. Samuel Groulx, D
Acquired: 4th Round, 92nd overall, 2008

Groulx has played for the last three years with the Quebec Remparts in the QMJHL. On the season, Groulx scored three goals and added 22 assists in 61 games. He receives ice time in all situations, as he learns the finer points of defensive hockey. He has good potential to become a two-way defenseman. Groulx already possesses a solid foundation of skill. He is still young, and has a lot of filling out to do, however. Groulx, standing 6’2, has managed to add some bulk to his lanky frame, now weighing in at 183 pounds. Aged 18, he’ll return to junior hockey next season.

16. Justin Braun, D

Acquired: 7th Round, 201st overall, 2007

Braun is three seasons deep into an NCAA career with UMass-Amherst. As a junior, Braun had seven goals and 16 assists in 39 games. Braun is a fairly steady defender who brings an unflappable work ethic. He plays a simple, conservative game that is centered on honoring his defensive responsibilities first and foremost. His intelligence and ability to anticipate the play have helped to overcome a general lack of quickness and strength. Braun is a late-round pick who will be given the time he needs to develop in such areas. There is no reason to expect Braun to leave UMass prematurely.

17. Matt Jones, RW

Acquired: Free Agent (2008)

After a seven-game appearance at the end of 2007-08 when he scored two goals and an assist, good things were expected of Jones, a naturally gifted scorer. The 2008-09 season should have represented his breakthrough on the professional circuit. Jones suffered an injury in November, and rehabbed with the Phoenix Roadrunners. To date, he hasn’t been able to find his rhythm. Through 45 games of play with Worcester, he never managed to surpass his goal total from last year. Jones finished with two goals and five assists. Indeed, it is somewhat disconcerting, even if he was injured. Jones will be expected to bounce back next season.

18. Patrick Zackrisson, LW

Acquired: 6th Round, 165th overall, 2007

Zackrisson’s play in 2007-08, his rookie year in the SEL with Linkoping HC, was nothing spectacular. He put his good defensive instincts on display, but Zackrisson’s potential lies primarily in his offensive game. This year, Zackrisson began to turn that potential into points. He saw a significant rise in his production in his sophomore season, tripling last year’s goal total, and doubling last year’s assist total. Zackrisson posted a 15 goals and 19 assists in 55 games.

Zackrisson has excellent vision, and makes quick plays with the puck, sometimes even catching his own teammates by surprise. He displays impressive hockey sense, reading the flow of play very well. Even so, Zackrisson needs to get stronger. He is also somewhat tentative physically, and tends to rush things when in traffic areas. For the time being, there are no plans for Zackrisson to cross over to North America.

19. Brandon Mashinter, LW

Acquired: Free Agent (2009)

Mashinter joined the Sharks organization when he signed a contract with the team on Mar 3. The undrafted forward from Bradford, Ontario entered this OHL season with a career-high single-season goal total of 10. He greatly surpassed that mark in 2008-09, a season he opened with the defending champion Kitchener Rangers.

In 21 games with Kitchener, Mashinter scored 14 goals and 12 assists. Then, after being traded to the Belleville Bulls in December, he added another 20 goals and 12 assists. In all, bringing his season total to 34 goals and 24 assists, representing a major spike in production for a player noted previously for his physicality.

The Sharks perceive Mashinter, 6’4 232 pounds, as a potential power forward. As his numbers have improved, Mashinter has maintained the requisite physical play. Where Mashinter falls in the pros in the near future is uncertain. His skating needs to improve.

20. Tony Lucia, LW

Acquired: 6th Round, 933rd overall, 2005

Lucia has completed three years in the NCAA playing for the University of Minnesota. The son of coach Don Lucia, Tony has continued to play a hard-working game. Though offense is not his strong suit, Lucia managed to set a new career high in goals with nine. He also had eight assists for 17 points. Lucia is a character player for the Golden Gophers. He forechecks hard, and maintains a degree of high energy — qualities every team looks for, that Lucia may provide at the professional level somewhere down the road.