This season, San Jose had six prospects playing junior hockey. Although none of the team’s top prospects are currently at that level, there are several interesting projects who could make an impact down the road. The Sharks had two centers, three defensemen, and one goaltender spread out over the OHL, WHL, and QMJHL.
Taylor Doherty, D — Kingston Frontenacs
2nd round, 57th overall, 2009
March 2, 1991, 6’8, 230
It’s difficult to mention Doherty without bringing up the top element he brings to the table: his size. Doherty towers over his competition at 6’8, listed at 230 pounds. Typically, a defenseman of this age and size would be labeled a project pick, more likely to make an impact down the road. Doherty took great strides this season, putting up 16 goals and 28 assists in 63 games. He led all Kingston defensemen in scoring, on a roster boasting likely 2010 top ten pick Erik Gudbranson and USA World Junior defenseman Brian Lashoff (DET).
After just two goals last season, the Doherty selection looks like a smart one for San Jose. Doherty is still raw and will need refinement, but it’s very encouraging to see such a high offensive output from him this season. With Lashoff turning pro next season, Doherty’s ice time will continue to increase, and he will be a mainstay on both the power play and the penalty kill.
Philip Varone, C — London Knights
5th round, 147th overall, 2009
December 4, 1990, 5’10, 187
Injuries and disappointment plagued Varone’s third full OHL season. His offense came along very slowly this year, with just four goals in 27 games to start the year. He then rattled off five goals in his next three games, capping off an 11 points in seven games streak. This landed him among London’s top scorers, with 31 points in 30 games, but his next game would be his last of the season.
A routine check popped Varone’s shoulder out of place, and tests revealed that chips in his bone would make him very susceptible to more shoulder dislocations. It was decided that surgery would be his best option, which shut him down for the year. A late 1990-born player, Varone will now have the opportunity to earn a spot in the AHL next season. However, because of his shortened season, it might be wiser to let him play big scoring-line minutes with London.
Julien Demers, D — Ottawa 67s
5th round, 146th overall, 2008
September 25, 1989, 6’1, 215
An overager this season with Ottawa, it’s not clear if the extra time in major junior was enough to help Demers earn a contract from San Jose. He’ll need to be signed by this June. Demers is not an offensive-minded defenseman, but his numbers took a step back this season, from 43 points to 28. Demers did log big minutes and was a key shutdown defender for the 67s, posting a +20 rating, tied for best among the team’s defensemen.
Playing into Demers’ favor for a contract is his size, with a solid 6’1, 215-pound frame already. He plays a physical game and is an excellent and punishing hitter. Should the Sharks have room on their AHL blueline, Demers offers a package that translates well to professional hockey.
Marek Viedensky, C — Saskatoon Blades
7th round, 189th overall, 2009
August 18, 1990, 6’3, 193
Viedensky is a good example of a player who just needed a change of scenery. With the lowly Prince George Cougars, who won just 12 games all season, Viedensky had just four goals in 31 games. After being traded to Saskatoon, he scored 16 goals, adding seven more in the playoffs. Between the two teams, Viedensky recorded 59 points in 61 games, in addition to a +17 rating. He also recorded one goal and five assists in six games with Slovakia at the World Junior Championships.
His quick turnaround clearly drew the eyes of some of San Jose’s scouts. Their last pick in the 2009 draft, they signed Viedensky following the season, even though they had until next June to do so. It seems likely they will give him a long look at training camp for their AHL squad, but he could return to the WHL for a third season.
Thomas Heemskerk, G — Everett Silvertips
Signed as a free agent, September 2009
April 11, 1990, 6’0, 182 pounds
Heemskerk was one-half of the best goaltending tandem in the WHL. Heemskerk was third in the league in GAA (2.34) and first in save percentage (.927) — and his partner, Kent Simpson, was second in both categories. Heemskerk played slightly more games, with 42 compared to Simpson’s 34, posting a 24-12-2-2 record with four shutouts.
A signing in the final days of training camp, Heemskerk is now eligible for an AHL job next season. San Jose has Tyson Sexsmith and Alex Stalock under contract for next season, so Heemskerk may return to the WHL, or start his professional career in the ECHL.
Samuel Groulx, D — Victoriaville Tigres
4th round, 92nd overall, 2008
June 28, 1990, 6’2, 177
The lone Sharks prospect in the QMJHL, Groulx emerged offensively after posting nine goals in his first 140 major junior games. This season, Groulx put up 11 goals and 16 assists with Quebec — where he had spent the previous three seasons — before a midseason trade to Victoriaville. There, he kept on his scoring ways, with 16 points in 26 games.
The former fourth-round pick will need a contract this summer. Groulx still desperately needs to add weight to be successful professionally, but has gained some weight since being drafted at just 166 pounds. He’s known more for his abilities in his own end, but the 14 goals he racked up in 66 games this season show that he might be able to offer more.