Mid-round picks and free agent signings dominate CHL prospect pool for San Jose

By Kyle West
Photo: Freddie Hamilton had a breakout season in 2010-11, posting 38 goals and 45 assists in 68 games. (Photo courtesy of Ken McKenna/HF)

A remarkable year for the San Jose CHL prospects has seen nearly every one of the Sharks players in junior hockey post personal bests in terms of performance. While some have taken leaps forward in their development path, nearly all have shown progress. Of particular note are the free agent signings J.P. Anderson and Michael Sgarbossa who are a credit to the astute recruitment efforts of the Sharks scouting staff.

QMJHL

Konrad Abeltshauaser, D, Halifax Mooseheads
Acquired: 6th round, 166th overall, 2010


The lanky German has acquitted himself well in his second season of CHL hockey despite playing for one of the weaker teams in the Q. Abeltshauser was the top scoring defender on the Mooseheads with eight goals and 19 assists and scored three times in four games as the Mooseheads crashed out in the first round of the playoffs. Considering his team scored just five playoff goals in total, his efforts to lift his team can’t be faulted. The top pairing blueliner logged extensive minutes on all special teams and played against the opposition’s best, explaining his minus-36 plus minus rating. As he fills out his 6’5 frame and continues to play top minutes, Abeltshauser will continue to prove his late round draft status is no reflection on his top rating as a prospect.


OHL

J.P. Anderson, G, Mississauga Majors
Signed as a free agent in September 2010

As good as he was all season for the OHL’s top team, Anderson has been even better in the playoffs. After backstopping the Majors with a sterling 2.36 goals against average over 51 games, winning 38 times and shutting out the opposition in six games, Anderson has been even better in the post-season. Anderson allowed his team to lose only once in the first three playoff rounds and was named the first star of the semifinals, Anderson allowed only four goals in the final three games of the series and has to be considered the favorite to hoist the Memorial Cup when the Majors host the tournament later this month. Confidence is key for goaltenders and Anderson will be brimming with it when he comes to training camp in the fall.

Freddie Hamilton, RW, Niagara Ice Dogs
Acquired: 5th round, 129th overall, 2010

One of the more dramatic improvements in the Sharks prospect pool comes from this fifth rounder who has nearly doubled his points total from the previous season. The winger’s 38 goals and 83 points in 68 games was second only to top draft prospect Ryan Strome for the team scoring lead and he carried over a point per game pace into the playoffs as well. Likely to be accompanying Strome and his younger Brother Dougie, a contender to be the first defenseman drafted this year, at the NHL entry draft this year, Freddie may enjoy the expressions of chagrin on the faces of the many teams that passed him by in the draft last year.


Taylor Doherty, D, Kingston Frontenacs
Acquired: 2nd round, 57th overall, 2009

A nominee for OHL defenseman of the year, Doherty has developed into a very exciting blend of size and skill. Drafted as a big blueliner with a long wingspan who would out his frame and become a powerful defender, few scouts predicted the 6’8 beanpole would fill out a remarkably poised offensive game. With 14 goals and 53 points, Doherty controlled the Kingston offense from the point and quarterbacked the power play. This development curve puts him a rare category of defender who can bring the puck up ice with authority and start the offense as well as leading the penalty killing squad and being a very difficult player for opponents to skate around. Doherty got a brief taste of life in the AHL during a three-game cameo with the Worcester Sharks and will look to make the transition to the pros a successful one next season.

Michael Sgarbossa, C, Sudbury Wolves
Signed as a free agent, September 2010

An undrafted free agent, the Wolves star exploded down the stretch and carried his team through an unexpected playoff upset of Ottawa. Named the player of the month for March the center scored 27 points in 13 games to finish off the regular season and then opened his playoff account with six points in a Game one win over Ottawa. Acquired from Saginaw in the John McFarland (FLA) trade, Sgarbossa has bloomed in the Sudbury landscape with 62 points in just 37 games with the Wolves. The 5’11 center is a lithe and agile skater with quick hands and great offensive instincts and has proven that with the right teammates he can be an explosive offensive force.


Philip Varone, C, Erie Otters
Acquired: 5th round, 147th overall, 2009

Another skilled center who benefitted from a trade to a new team, Varone had modest numbers with the London Knights but became a scoring star with the Erie Otters. Varone’s 81 points in just 55 games nearly doubled the previous high water mark he had set with the Knights. Moved to a first line role with responsibility for igniting the power play, Varone responded with the type of energy and flair that the Sharks brass must have been waiting to see from him. Varone was instrumental in expanding the Otters playoff battle with Windsor Spitfires in the first round to seven games, leading the team with 13 post-season points. Standing just 5’10, Varone has to continue to prove himself as a battler who can fight through checks and make players around him better.

WHL

Curt Gogol, D, Chilliwack Bruins
Acquired: Free agent, September 2010

An aggressive agitator, Gogol was suspended this season for fighting too much. Not overly large at 6 feet even and 180 pounds, Gogol is a tenacious competitor who backs down from no one and walks the thin line between inspiring his team or hurting them with too many penalties. His offensive game is not expected to develop beyond modest production, so it remains to be seen how effective he can be in the pros as a scrapper.

Thomas Heemskerk, G, Moose Jaw Warriors
Acquired: Free agent, September 2009

The workhorse goalie for the Warriors, Heemskerk played in 65 games this season and then found the ability to raise his games in the playoffs. Although the Warriors season was ended in the first round by the WHL finalists Kootenay Ice, Heemskerk was stellar in that matchuo and have given the Ice their toughest opposition in the playoffs thus far. Having been the backup through three prior WHL seasons, Heemskerk made the most of the extra work and has developed his overall game very nicely. Although he still needs to refine his technique and continue to work on rebound control, the steady workload has sharpened his reflexes and given him confidence that he can battle for position on the Sharks deep pipeline of goalie prospects.


Marek Viedensky, C, Saskatoon Blades
Acquired: 7th round, 189th overall, 2009

The MVP and top scorer for the Blades, “Big V” has had an amazing season to look back on, although the disappointment of failing to reach his playoff goals may have tempered his enjoyment somewhat. Having led the team with 88 points in 63 regular season games, Viedensky scored only once in 10 playoff games as the Blades fell far short of the WHL championship they had set their hearts on. A reliable producer offensively, Viedensky is also a trusted killer of penalties and can be counted on to backcheck effectively. A prospect with his size and skill should have Sharks fans in a lather, however doubts over his skating stride need to be answered before he has success at the next level. Slated for the AHL next season, “V” has been taking in the Sharks playoff run since the Blades exit and enjoying a taste of the NHL flavor that he one day intends to savor.


William Wrenn, D, Portland Winterhawks
Acquired: 2nd round, 43rd overall, 2009

The Alaska native has transitioned seamlessly from the WCHA to the WHL this season, leaving the University of Denver program in his sophomore year and joining the Portland Winterhawks for the last 30 games of the season. A powerfully compact player with a strong skating stride, Wrenn has been able to adjust to the more physical league thanks to his positioning and smarts. His point totals will never be eye-catching but Wrenn has a future as a professional thanks to his work ethic and steady play in his own end. On a run to the WHL finals, If the ‘Hawks can overcome the Kootenay Ice in the WHL final then the Sharks will get a chance to see how Wrenn handles the big stage of the Memorial Cup finals.