Looking up to the youngsters…

By Mike Delfino
The Sharks have had five rookies total in their lineup this year, more than
any team in the NHL in fact. There’s some good regarding that, and some bad.
The bad being that if you need to have that many in the first place, the
chances are your team hasn’t been playing to well in the past. As of course
has been the case with the San Jose Sharks in recent years. The good news, is
that of the five, four are regularly in the lineup for the Sharks, and all
have played well for us. The young guys, not only rookies, but other young
players such as Jeff Friesen who’s 21, Mike Rathje 23, Owen Nolan 25 and
Andrei Nazarov 25, are a big reason to why the Sharks are currently in 7th
place in the Western Division, and at the time of this article, unbeaten in
their last 6. What I’ll be covering here is only the rookies who have played
for the Sharks this year. Those players being Patrick Marleau, Alexander
Korolyuk, Andrei Zyuzin, Richard Brennan (currently in AHL), and Rookie of the
Month for November, Marco Sturm.

Patrick Marleau-The youngest player in the NHL this year earned a spot on the
Sharks’ roster this year, despite fears that rushing him to the NHL would
ruin, or hurt his development as it did former Shark Pat Falloon, and another
now big name player, Petr Nedved. It was a tough decision. You had a rare
case in Marleau, of a player who had outgrown the WHL where he was drafted
from, but not quite ready for the NHL. Would be a perfect fit for the AHL,
but there’s a rule that states that no player coming from the CHL (WHL, OHL,
or QMJHL) can play in the AHL until the age of 20. So the Sharks made a
reasonable decision: if he can make it here without getting himself beat up,
he’ll stay, if they determined he was definetly not ready, they’d send him
back to Seattle of the WHL. Coach Darryl Sutter has put him on the 3rd and
4th lines, taking special care not to put him in situations he’s not ready
for, he has seen time on the PP and PK units though. You can really see that
this kid will be something special. He’s not quite ready still, but watch out
next year, and especially in 99, because that’s when you’ll see why this kid
was drafted so high, only second behind the enigmatic (thus far anyway) Joe
Thornton.

Alexander Korolyuk-This young man who’s almost 22 years old, has played well,
not great, but well in his time. He’s doing everything asked. He has a
little fire in the belly to say. He’s not afraid to go out and bump people
around a little. His numbers aren’t that great with only 2 goals and 3
assists, but he has created opportunities, several 3rd assists if there was
such a stat. VERY good in his own end, where he would be getting a lot of
those 3rd assists… He reminds me a lot of current Shark Tony Granato in the
way he plays.

Richard Brennan-Has only played 10 games thus far, and has sense been sent to
Kentucky of the AHL, the Sharks main affiliate. They sent him there solely
for the purpose that he’ll get more playing time. It’s not that the Sharks
have been unpleased with his play, but has been caught up in the numbers. The
Sharks have an excess of defensemen as it is, and he wouldn’t get enough
playing time to make it worth the point for Brennan. With Rathje, Iafrate,
Houlder, Gill, Ragnarsson, Zyuzin, McSorely (benched for the last 6), and
newly acquired Ken Sutton, that makes 8 dmen as it is.

Andrei Zyuzin-He was just recalled from Kentucky at about the same time
Brennan was sent down. Zyuzin has played in the games that he’s been up here
for though. He’s played in 12 games with 1 goal and 1 assist. He has made
some nice defensive plays thus far, but hasn’t shown the offensive ability
quite yet. There have been glimpses of his talent though, showing some great
moves, and stealing the puck away from some of the best forwards in the NHL.

Marco Sturm-Rookie of the Month for November, and IMO the front-runner for the
Calder trophy at the current moment. He is fighting for the lead in points by
rookies, currently 2nd behind Johnson of Toronto. However, Sturm is much
better defensively than any of the other rookies I’ve seen this year. The way
he plays, it looks like he’s been playing in this league for more than the 30
some games he has. He does a great job of finishing checks, fore checking,
getting back, and all the other things that just don’t show up on the stat
sheet, but he also does well in the things that DO show up on the stat sheet.
He’s a fun player to watch, with the puck, and away from it…

Right now the rookies for the Sharks and other young guys have really been the
difference. Guys like Marco Sturm, and the rest are the future of this
franchise, and with other guys such as Matt Bradley who was named to the
Canadian Junior team (a spot was left open for Marleau, but he opted to stay
in SJ), and David Thibault, who was in camp, but didn’t quite make it for that
same team, the future is looking brighter and brighter for the Sharks…

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