Taylor Doherty headlines underrated group of San Jose Sharks junior prospects

By Andrew Sykes
Photo: Taylor Doherty leads a mostly blue-collar group of forward and defensive prospects. (Picture courtesy of Holly Gunning/HF)

Of the ten San Jose prospects playing in junior this year, only two were drafted within the first three rounds. Four of the players had to wait until the late rounds of the draft, while four players were not drafted at all.

OHL

Taylor Doherty, D, Kingston Frontenacs
Acquired: 2nd round (57th overall) in 2009
March 2nd, 1991. Ht: 6’8, Wt: 230 lbs

At 6’8 and 230 pounds, Taylor Doherty is undoubtedly one of the most imposing players in the entire CHL. With his monstrous size and reach advantage, Doherty has the physical gifts rarely seen at this level. Not since Tyler Myers (BUF) and of course Zdeno Chara, has a player this big have the impact that Doherty has had.

As the captain for a talented team in Kingston, Doherty has seen a rapid improvement in his game. Through his first two OHL seasons, Doherty was considered to be a stay-at-home defenseman without much offensive upside. That changed last year when he posted career highs in all of the major offensive categories and was third in the league among defensemen in goals with 16. This year the 19-year-old has kept up his strong play both defensively and offensively posting four goals and 17 assists for 21 points in 29 games.

One thing Doherty will have to shake off the rest of the year is the disappointment of not being named to team Canada’s selection camp for the upcoming World Junior Hockey Championship. As one of the top blueliners in the OHL, Doherty had to think his chances were pretty good but with the strongest aspect of Canada’s team being the blue line, Doherty was left off in his final chance to play in the tournament.

Freddie Hamilton, C, Niagara IceDogs
Acquired: 5th round (129th overall) in 2010
January 29th, 1992. Ht: 6’0, Wt: 187 lbs

A fifth-round pick in this past summer’s draft, Hamilton has become an excellent late round steal for the Sharks. After scoring 25 goals and adding 30 assists as a 17-year-old, Hamilton, for whatever reason was not highly rated for the draft and lasted 128 picks until the Sharks selected him at 129. Hamilton, whose brother Dougie also plays for the IceDogs, has continued to prove scouts and general managers wrong and is off to another fine start this year.

In 30 games for the high-flying and high-scoring IceDogs, Hamilton has scored 12 goals and collected 20 assists and his 32 points ranks him third on the team in scoring. The 18-year-old has also been responsible defensively and his plus-eight is the fifth best on the team.

In just two and a half years in junior, Hamilton has turned himself into a very good offensive player and has demonstrated the work ethic and desire that you would expect from a player taken so low in the draft. The Sharks have likely given themselves a pat on the back and will be hoping that Hamilton can continue to make them look very smart for drafting him.

Philip Varone, C, Erie Otters
Acquired: 5th round (147th overall) in 2009
December 4th, 1990. Ht: 5’9, Wt: 188 lbs

The 2010-2011 season has been one of transition for Phil Varone. After spending the first three years of his junior career with the London Knights, Varone was traded to the Erie Otters after just four games into his over-age season. The Otters, who were looking to add more of a veteran presence to a team hoping to make some noise in the OHL‘s Western Conference, acquired Varone hoping the small but tenacious center could add some much needed spark.

Having scored ten goals and 21 points in 18 games, a spark is exactly what Varone has given them, and while the club’s record continues to hover around the .500 mark, Varone has been everything the Otters hoped he would be when they acquired him early in the season.

The 20-year-old will be counted on to be an inspirational leader both on and off the ice as the Otters look to stay-a-float in the playoff race.

Michael Sgarbossa, C, Sudbury Wolves
Acquired:  Free agent in 2010
July 25th, 1992. Ht: 5’11, Wt: 165

As one of the smaller players in the OHL, Sgarbossa continues to prove that he can play at a high level despite his size. After being given a tryout at the club’s rookie camp, the diminutive but speedy Sgarbossa impressed the Sharks brass with a dazzling offensive performance at the club’s rookie camp which included a hat-trick in a game against the highly touted Edmonton Oiler rookies. The 18-year-old’s play was good enough for the Sharks to offer him an entry level contract to which he happily accepted.

After splitting time last year between Barrie and Saginaw, Sgarbossa began the year with the offensively gifted Spirit but was once again involved in a trade that saw him go back to the Eastern Conference; this time to the Sudbury Wolves. In 27 combined games this year, Sgarbossa has scored eight goals and assisted on 14 others for a total of 22 points.

J.P. Anderson, G, Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors
Acquired: Free agent in 2010
April 27th, 1992. Ht: 5’11, Wt: 185

Perhaps no other goalie in junior hockey has made greater striders in the last year than Anderson. The 18-year-old has gone from being un-drafted and pretty much an unknown commodity, to now being the hottest goalie in the CHL for one of the best teams in the CHL. He has also earned a try-out with team Canada for the World Junior Hockey Championships, and inked a pro contract with the San Jose Sharks.

In 22 games for the OHL leading Mississauga St.Michael’s Majors, Anderson has a sparkling record of 17-4. He leads the league with a 2.29 GAA and is fifth with a 0.92 save percentage. His 17 wins are tied for the league lead and he is alone in first with three shutouts.

QMJHL

Konrad Abeltshauser, D, Halifax Moosehead
Acquired: 6th round (163rd overall) in 2010
September 2nd, 1992. Ht: 6’5, Wt: 212 lbs

Now in his second season with the Halifax Moosehead, the 6’5 German has become the anchor on the blue line for an extremely young team. Abeltshauser was a sixth-round pick of the Sharks at the 2010 NHL draft and has played very well for one of the weaker teams in the QMJHL. In 28 games, Abeltshauser has recorded three goals and eight assists for a point total of 11 which ranks second on the club in points among defensemen.

Considered to be
a stay-at-home defenseman with good puck-moving skills, Abeltshauser has also been given the chance to show his offensive upside. The 18-year-old’s ability to move the puck has allowed him to see time on the power play where he has proven to scouts that he is more than just a steady defensive player.

Abeltshauser was recently named to Germany‘s selection camp for the WJHC where he is a good bet to make the German squad.

WHL

Thomas Heemskerk, G, Moose Jaw Warriors
Acquired: Free agent in 2009
April 11th, 1990. Ht: 6’0, Wt: 182 lbs

The undrafted Heemskerk enjoyed a spectacular season in 2009-2010 and after inking a contract with the Sharks, the over-age goaltender has continued his solid play.

A year ago, Heemskerk was one of the top goaltenders in the league while playing for the Everett Silvertips. A year later, Heemskerk, now playing for his third WHL team has been one of the busiest net-minders in the league. The 20-year-old has appeared in 30 of the club’s 31 total games played to date. In those 31 games he has posted a record of 15-12-2 with a 3.10 goals against average and a .903 save percentage. No other goalie in the WHL has seen more action than Heemskerk who leads the league with 1759 minutes in the crease. He also ranks fifth in the league with 15 wins.

Heemskerk was dealt to the Moose Jaw Warriors to give the club a veteran presence and stability in net. With the team currently in second-place in the WHL‘s East Dvision, Heemskerk will be heavily relied upon to carry the Warriors through the rest of the regular season and into the playoffs.

Curt Gogol, LW, Chilliwack Bruins
Acquired: Free agent in 2010
September 21st, 1991. Ht: 6’0, Wt: 178

Enforcers don’t usually come in 6’0, 178 pound packages, but that’s exactly what Gogol is. When it comes to playing a physical game which includes dropping the gloves, Gogol is simply fearless. The 19-year-old will take on just about anyone, even a 6’6 monster like he did in a recent WHL game.

Now playing for the third different team in his fourth junior season, Gogol is certainly not known for his offensive prowess. What he brings to the table is a physical and relentless style of play, and is expected to energize his team with a big hit or a fight.

In 30 games split perfectly between the Saskatoon Blades and Chilliwack Bruins, Gogol has established new career highs in goals and assists, adding up to a career best seven points.

Marek Viedensky, C, Saskatoon Blades
Acquired: 7th round (189th overall) in 2009
August 18th, 1990. Ht: 6’4, Wt: 185 lbs

The oft-injured Viedensky continues to put up points at a point-per-game pace, the only problem is keeping the lanky Slovak on the ice. Now in his fourth and final season in the WHL, Viedensky has been able to score ever since he was an import rookie for the Prince George Cougars back in 2008-2009.

This season the 6’4 Slovak has played in 25 of the Blades 31 games and has recorded 13 goals and 20 assists. His 33 points ranks third on the club in scoring and his impressive plus-19 rating is also among the team leaders.

With the second best record in the WHL, Saskatoon will be crossing their fingers, hoping that their veteran pivot can manage to stay healthy down the stretch and for the playoff run.

USHL

Max Gaede, RW, Sioux City Musketeers
Acquired: 3rd round (88th overall) in 2010
Mar. 27, 1992. Ht: 6"3, Wt: 190 lbs

One of the few early round draft picks playing in the USHL, Gaede is a young player with a ton of potential. At 6’3 and 190 pounds, he already has the size of a power forward at wing, and at only 18 years of age, still has room to grow. Taken in the third-round of the 2010 draft, Gaede was a highly touted Minnesota high school player whom the Sharks coveted because of his size and a developing array of offensive skills.

Expected to be his final year in the USHL before heading off to college, Gaede has scored six goals and dished out seven assists for 13 points in 17 games for the Sioux City Musketeers. He is currently tied for second on the team in scoring but leads the club in a category that no player likes to be first in. His minus-11 rating is the worst on the team and defensive awareness is certainly something Gaede will need to address.