San Jose Sharks depth analysis, Fall 2010

By Matthew Zarb

The San Jose Sharks, as a franchise, have embraced the new landscape of the salary cap NHL better than most other organizations. This is exhibited most clearly in their developmental organization. With few of what could be considered "blue-chip" prospects, the Sharks nonetheless have an array of interchangeable players who can fill a number of roles, if need arises. This is illustrated clearly by one odd fact none of the prospects who broke training camp with the parent club in 2009 did so again in 2010. Instead, a new batch of prospects joined the Sharks on opening night this October. At forward, joining top prospect Logan Couture were Frazer McLaren, Tommy Wingels, and John McCarthy. On the blue line, Jason Demers and Mike Moore made the cut. While no goaltending prospects were promoted this year, due to free agent signings, the net remains the Sharks deepest position.

Left Wing

Seeing a need for size and grit on their bottom lines, the Sharks broke camp with a pair of rookies; hulking Frazer Mclaren and energetic John McCarthy. McLaren, who saw some action with the parent club in 2009-10, is an intimidating presence, towering at 6’5 and 250 pounds. Rotating in and out of the lineup thus far, McLaren provides the size to match some of the Western Conference’s top enforcers, while also able to see typical bottom line ice time without being a defensive liability. Former BU Terrier John McCarthy brings a highly-revved motor to the Shark’s checking line, appearing in 12 games thus far, and chipping in with his first two NHL goals. McCarthy’s penalty-killing abilities have been adequate, but along with McLaren, will probably see some more time in the AHL at some point, if the Sharks tendencies regarding prospect development hold true.

Down on the farm, second-year pro Brandon Mashinter continues to hone his power game, combining his impressive size, skating ability, and decent hands. Building on a successful rookie season last year, Mashinter is a fixture on Worcester’s top lines and power play units. While he missed quite a bit of time while in major junior, Mashinter enjoyed a relatively healthy season last year, and the resulting bump in his development has been noticeable.

Taking the ice for his first full season of pro hockey, former Golden Gopher Tony Lucia suffered an injury in his second game and has not played since then. Never a big scorer at any level, Lucia will need to focus on being effective in a defensive checking role when he returns to action.

Princeton graduate Cam MacIntyre, oft-injured in college, is again on the injured list, and has yet to see the ice for Worcester this season. While an effective scorer when in the lineup, MacIntyre’s injury woes have placed him behind the eight-ball in his development. Until he is able to lace up the skates and provide a body of work, it remains a mystery as to what kind of pro, if any, he will be.

Center

Top prospect Logan Couture, predictably, made the San Jose roster in training camp, and has done nothing to make the Shark’s brass regret that decision as of yet. Counted on to provide his usual defensive reliability, Couture was thrust into a much bigger role recently when Sharks captain Joe Thornton was suspended, and Couture responded positively. With 10 points through 16 games thus far, Couture is receiving early Calder Trophy consideration. If he can maintain a consistent effort in the course of a grinding NHL schedule, Couture has likely seen the last of the minor leagues. Whether he can develop into an elite scoring threat is debatable, but there is little to debate regarding his maturity level and responsible play.

Benn Ferriero did not make the San Jose opening roster as he did last season, but he has already been recalled once (appearing in a single game), and it likely will not be the last time. His skating and scoring prowess has allowed him to feast on AHL goalies, but he’s caught in a bit of a numbers game. Not really suited to a checking role, and with the scoring lines stacked in San Jose, Ferriero will either need to crank up his game to another level, or wait for an offensive-role roster spot to open with the parent club.

Former Miami Redhawk Tommy Wingels enjoyed an excellent training camp, and was rewarded with a spot on San Jose’s roster, albeit for just one game. Now with Worcester, Wingels excellent two-way game has allowed him to contribute offensively to the Baby Sharks while providing good defensive coverage. He could be another late-round gem unearthed by the Sharks scouting staff.

Justin Daniels, currently a sophomore for Northeastern University, has been a healthy scratch of late, appearing in only two games. Daniels possesses a sturdy frame, and did show decent offensive ability in his freshman season, but he’ll need to show more going forward to justify his status as a third-round draft pick.

Patrick White continues to underachieve, limping his way through the final year of collegiate eligibility. Despite being gifted with fine skating and puck skills, White simply does not show the competitive drive needed to impose these talents on opposing teams. The former first round pick of the Vancouver Canucks also suffers from poor physical play, often allowing himself to be dominated by far-less talented opponents. At this point, White has to be close to being considered a bust.

Cody Ferriero plays a very similar game to his older brother Benn, but he decided to eschew Benn’s footsteps at Boston College and instead attend Northeastern University. As a freshman, he has seen limited ice-time, but he should develop into a scoring threat down the road. As with Benn, Ferriero’s ticket the pros will be his skating ability and energetic style.

Versatiility is one of Freddie Hamilton‘s best attributes. Now in his third year with the Niagara IceDogs, Freddie is scoring at a point-per-game pace, while staying defensively aware. Hamilton’s hockey sense is well above-average, as are his passing and shooting skills. Not terribly physical or aggressive, Hamilton nonetheless is a valuable contributor at both ends of the ice.

Recently traded for the third time in the OHL, Philip Varone continues to score points and provide energy. A smallish centerman, Varone’s ceiling is likely that of a checking line player. Still, he is aggressive, and will drop the mitts with much larger opponents.

Saskatoon pivot Marek Viedensky continues to improve, currently ranked 11th in scoring in the WHL. Not the swiftest of skaters but able to get where he wants to go, his offensive instincts overcome any deficiencies in that department. Having flown somewhat under the radar, Viedensky is making the Sharks scouts look pretty good with his performance so far. Barring anything unforeseen, Viedensky should join the pro ranks next season, projecting as a top-six forward.

Right Wing

The Shark’s first pick in the 2010 draft, Charlie Coyle has made a smooth adjustment to college hockey, racking up eight points in his first ten games with Boston University. A potential power forward, Coyle’s development will depend on utilization of his size and scorer’s touch. Thus far, the results have been positive, with Coyle being used far more than the typical NCAA freshman skater. Refining his skating skills, which are not a drawback by any means, will go a long way to determining if Coyle can become the same dominant force he was in juniors.

Beginning his first full season with the USHL‘s Sioux City Musketeers, 2010 third rounder Max Gaede has started off on the right foot, scoring at a point-a-game pace in a notoriously low-scoring league. Gaede already possesses ideal size for the pro game, and obviously has decent hands. Like most teens his size, Gaede’s coordination and skating will be the focus of his development. Slated to move on to the NCAA next season, Gaede should have plenty of time to hone his game.

Slick, yet smallish, former collegian James Marcou stepped into the Worcester lineup and done what he does best – produce offense. More of a set-up man than a finisher, Marcou’s game is based on on-ice awareness and deft passing. As with all players his size, Marcou will need to show that he can tangle with opponents much bigger than himself, while showing responsibility in his own zone. Though early in the season, the results have been promising so far.

Joining his more-heralded brother Justin at Northeastern University, Drew Daniels has outplayed Justin so far this season. Though his offensive numbers are not impressive, Drew has played a simple, dump-and-chase game with emphasis on work along the boards. Adding some bulk to his thin frame will have to be a priority, as this will give him the space to work on his scoring skills.

Agitator Chris Crane has taken his in-your-face style of hockey to The Ohio State University, and picked up where he left off. A tight-checking, irritating presence in the other team’s zone, Crane has actually chipped in with a bit of offense, to boot. While his fearlessness will endear him to the home fans, Crane will have to maintain discipline in a league where fighting is not an integral part of the game. His potential probably tops out as a fourth-liner and penalty killer.

Defense

As expected, Jason Demers joined San Jose out of training camp this year, after spending last season shuttling up and down from the minors. With the most offensive talent amongst San Jose’s young defensemen at this point, Demers was to be counted on to provide scoring balance, alongside top d-man Dan Boyle. So far, the results have been mixed. The Sharks power play has been humming along, ranking in the top-five in the NHL, but Demers has only four assists to show for it. Perhaps pressing too hard, Demers has to play within his talents, which are mostly concentrated on the far side of the red line. Mediocre defensively, Demers will have to put more points on the board to keep his spot.

Suffering an upper-body injury in training camp, Derek Joslin has been on injured reserve for all but one game this season. Signed to a one-year deal in the off-season, Joslin may be running out of chances to secure a spot on San Jose’s roster. How he recovers from his injury, and the play of other young Shark defensemen, will determine if he sees any ice time in San Jose this season.

A current member of the Worcester Sharks blue line, Justin Braun is making the most of his opportunity. In the absence of Demers and Joslin, Braun has become the Baby Sharks top offensive defenseman. His excellent skating and crisp outlet passes are a welcome sight on an otherwise defensive-minded Worcester defense corps. A cerebral player with good awareness, Braun does not play a particularly physical game, depending instead on good positioning in his own zone. While still early, Brauns production thus far has been impressive.

Puck-moving defensman Nick Schaus, another NCAA product, also joined Worcester’s blue line this season. A small, yet solidly built blueliner, Schaus has done a decent job for the Baby Sharks thus far. While a bit more point production would certainly be welcome, Schaus does see some power play time and has not been a defensive liability. Schaus will need to work hard to clear opposing forwards out of the crease, as almost all blueliners his size struggle with this aspect of their game. A depth defenseman at this point, Schaus will have to distinguish himself to move up the depth chart.

Taylor Doherty enjoyed a breakout season last year with the OHL‘s Kingston Frontenacs, and has picked up where he left off. Still producing decent offensive numbers, Doherty has cut down on his penalty minutes, as he is much more valuable on the ice than off. An invitee to Canada’s World Junior training camp, Doherty has a chance to shine this season, his last in major junior. Matching his coordination to his monstrous size will be Doherty’s focus this year, as he already has shown he has the skills to become a top defenseman. Expected to join Worcester next season, Doherty will find out if his game will translate to the pro game.

University of Denver defenseman William Wrenn plays a quietly effective shut-down style. Not expected to provide any offense at this point, Wrenn nonetheless sees consistent ice-time on the Pioneers blue line. Not blessed with particularly impressive size, Wrenn has improved his physical play, and can hold his own against bigger opponents. Likely to spend all four years of his college eligibility, Wrenn projects as a bottom-pair d-man or a complimentary partner to a more offensively talented rearguard.

Returning to the Halifax Mooseheads, German-born Konrad Albeltshauser continues to provide offensive skill while adjusting to the North American game. Tall but lanky, Albeltshauser will need to add some strength without compromising his mobility. Not overly aggressive or physical, he can be pushed around, so he relies on his long reach to disrupt passing lanes. Suffered from injury issues this past season, so a healthy season is a must. As with most young players his size, he needs to fill out and get his coordination up to speed.

Nick Petrecki‘s forgettable 2009-10 season is behind him, and his focus this season will need to be on keeping it simple. While his aggressiveness and physicality are most welcome, Petrecki’s lack of defensive awareness and discipline were the reasons he landed in Worcester’s doghouse last year. A better understanding of positioning could go a long way towards keeping him out of trouble, as he spent too much time chasing the puck around last year.

A free-agent signee after two seasons at UMass, Matt Irwin brings decent size and adequate puck skills to the Worcester blue line. The blueliner has done a good job in limited ice-time so far this season. A finesse player who rarely gets penalties, Irwin’s future would seem to be a transition-game blueliner with the ability to contribute offensively.

Defensive stalwart Mike Moore was rewarded for his hard work with a spot as San Jose’s seventh d-man out of training camp. Appearing in one game with the Sharks, Moore was eventually returned to Worcester. A basic, shutdown style defender, Moore will seek to build on his temporary promotion in hopes of eventually securing a bottom-pairing role with the Sharks. Moore does his job effectively, sticking up for his teammates and delivering some big hits, while maintaining a positive plus-minus rating.

German defenseman Dominik Bielke remains in Europe, joining Crimmitschau ETC of the 2.Bundesliga this season. A tall, rangy rearguard, Bielke uses his long reach to make up for a lack of lateral quickness. He does possess good offensive instincts, however, including a good shot and breakout pass. Whether he crosses the pond next season, or not at all, remains to be determined.

Joe Loprieno, in his second pro season, continues to provide toughness and solid, if unspectacular, defensive play. Exhibiting almost no offensive skill in either college or the pros, Loprieno is a classic defensive defenseman. Despite the emphasis on two-way play in the "new" NHL, there remains a need for snarly, burly rearguards. If the need arises, Loprieno could be called on to provide depth.

Michigan Wolverine sophomore Lee Moffie will look to build on a decent freshman season in 2009-10. A slick skating defenseman, Moffie is able to join a rush up ice, and possesses a decent offensive skill set. Consistency of effort will be the area where Moffie could use some improvement, along with adding a bit more physicality to his game.

Another towering rearguard, 2010 draftee Isaac Macleod joined Boston College this season, and has performed reasonably well. Standing at 6’5, MacLeod’s size and reach are pluses, but he’s not a gifted skater. Still very raw, MacLeod will need to work on his game across the board to have any chance at advancing further in the sport, but his physical attributes are obvious. There is a wide range of opinions concerning his potential, but at this point, he is definitely a long-term project.

This off-season, the Sharks chose not to re-sign RPI defenseman Christian Jensen, making him a free agent. They did sign undrafted Saskatoon Blades d-man Curt Gogol, though. Gogol, since traded to Chiliwack, is a standard defensive defenseman in his final year of junior eligibility. Anything he provides for the Sharks will be a bonus.

Goaltending

With the glut of NHL-level goaltenders following the signing of journeyman Antero Nittymaki and salary-cap casualty Antti Niemi, Thomas Greiss decided that Europe sounded better than the AHL, and joined Byrnas of the Swedish Elite League. In six appearances so far, Greiss has struggled, with a goals against average of 4.28 and a putrid .849 save percentage. Perhaps simply a case of re-adjusting to the more wide-open European game, Greiss may bounce back. Signed through the 2011 season, Greiss may rejoin the Sharks next season, or become trade bait. Prior to this season, Greiss had developed nicely, using good positioning along with quickness to overcome his relatively small frame.

Alex Stalock returns as Worcester’s top netminder this season, following a breakout rookie year. His numbers this year are down a bit, but his competitiveness remains intact. Stalock wouldn’t be the first second-year pro to suffer a "sophomore slump", but he remains one of the top AHL netminders at this point. Solid athleticism allows him to challenge shooters aggressively, but continued work on his positioning can only help his case for an eventual spot in San Jose’s net.

Finnish netminder Harri Sateri chose to stay in Europe for another season, despite playing for a rather mediocre Tappara squad. Signing an entry-level deal with San Jose this past May, Sateri decided that it was more important to get starter minutes, rather than platoon in Worcester (if, indeed, he had been assigned there). So far this season, Sateri’s numbers are up and down, as in, his goals against average is up and his save percentage is down. Whether this is a trend, or simply a case of playing for a poor team remains to be seen. He is still highly regarded, employing a butterfly style and good reaction time. His footwork remains a sore point, as he has trouble moving laterally. Still, he remains in the crowded mix for San Jose’s netminding duties.

Thomas Heemskerk joined the Moose Jaw Warriors in an off-season deal, and is the undisputed number one goalie. His stats are a bit down, but Heemskerk remains a highly regarded netminder. Leading the league in save percentage in 2009-10, he will hope to develop further with the increased playing time. Signed to an entry-level deal, Heemskerk will join the pro ranks next season, but as with all San Jose goalies, he will need to fight his way to the top.

Free-agent signee Carter Hutton secured his spot as the Worcester backup goalie with Greiss’s decision to depart for Europe. Even so, he’s performed well in this limited role. A standard butterfly goalie, Hutton will seek to work on his positioning, as he has mostly relied on his excellent reflexes to this point. Not projected as an NHL starting netminder.

Tyson Sexsmith found himself on a tryout basis with San Jose’s new ECHL affiliate in Stockton, California. Making the team, Sexsmith now splits net duties with Bryan Pitton, but has done well. While the ECHL is not the ideal location for a goalie with Sexsmith’s pedigree, he will need to refocus his game if he hopes to move back up the Sharks prospect list. A big, rangy goaltender, Sexsmith needs to polish his game to the point where he could be trusted with greater responsibility.