Staying among the elite teams in the NHL has hurt the San Jose Sharks prospect pool. This past off-season, the Sharks traded away top prospect Charlie Coyle in part of a package that brought in defenseman Brent Burns. What remains are some solid centers and big defensemen.
The biggest weaknesses in the system are the lack of a top six forward prospect. General Manager Doug Wilson focused on improving that at the recent NHL entry draft in Minnesota when he used four of the team’s six picks on forwards.
The Sharks are fairly shallow on left wing though several players, such as Brandon Mashinter, look like solid NHL depth players.
The most skilled of the Sharks left wing prospects, Matt Nieto is off to a tremendous start in his second season at Boston University. Nieto is getting top six minutes already with 16 points in 14 games and is already closing in on his freshman totals. There will be an obvious temptation by the Sharks to explore signing him to an entry-level contract at the end of the season.
Frazer McLaren has split this season between the NHL and AHL where he has played one and seven games respectively. At 24 years of age, McLaren is little more than an enforcer at this point in his career.
Already known as a solid penalty killer and gritty forward, John McCarthy has started the season red hot offensively, ranking fourth in Worcester in scoring. Possessing strong work ethic, he will move up the depth chart fast if he keeps up the scoring pace.
From day one, the Sharks have been developing Brandon Mashinter into a power forward. He had a twenty-two goal season in the AHL two years ago, but fell off to fourteen last season. The Sharks are happy with his play in the defensive zone, where he has made improvements. Mashinter should at least develop into a player who can provide energy in the bottom six and will drop the gloves with anyone.
Tony Lucia missed seventy-eight games last season due to a concussion, so he will be considered an AHL rookie this season. He was a solid scorer in the NCAA ranks with the University of Minnesota, and was named captain of the Golden Gophers in 2009-10. He was tenth in shorthanded goal scoring in the nation with two shorthanded goals. He will spend the entire season with Worcester getting caught up developmentally.
Benn Ferriero made the Sharks opening night roster coming off one of his best training camps. He played four games and managed one goal before the Sharks sent him down. Now back with Worcester, Ferriero is putting up a point per game, and is skating on the top line. If the Sharks have injury problems in the forward ranks, Ferriero will be one of the first call ups.
Another surprise of this season’s training camp, Tommy Wingels began the season with the Sharks, but was sent down after three games. After 17 games down with Worcester, Wingles has nine points, and will need to pick up the scoring pace to earn another trip back to San Jose.
Turning pro after a four-year stay at Princeton, Cam MacIntyre was able to get into 42 games last season in the AHL. MacIntyre, not known as a scorer, posted only eight points, and was a minus-15 for the season. H is off to a good start in 2011-12, managing seven points in 20 games. He has shown improvements in his defensive play but will need to continue that solid play to earn more ice time.
James Livingston is experiencing his first season as a pro hockey player after a long career in the OHL, and coming off a 22 goal season. Livingston is off to a solid start playing with Worcester’s third line, putting up six points in 19 games. Livingston projects as a third line player at the next level.
In his freshman season with Minnesota State University of Mankato, Max Gaede has played eight games and managed two points. He is still considered a long-term project at this point and is at least three seasons away from being even considered for a contract.
The Sharks offered Brodie Reid an entry-level contract after only one season with Northeastern University. Reid was fourth in scoring for the Huskies with eleven goals and 28 points. He is currently with Worcester, trying to get top six minutes. He will need to improve his skating, but has a future as a third line winger.
Ohio State’s Chris Crane was the Sharks seventh round pick in the 2010 entry draft. Crane is off to a flying start. He has nine goals and 17 points in only 16 games playing in the top six. One would take notice that Crane has cut back on his penalty minutes, but will still need to improve his skating. Look for Crane to finish out his NCAA career before turning pro.
Like at the right and left wing positions, the Sharks center position is populated with primarily depth players however there are several players with top-six potential.
Marek Viedensky was an incredible plus-60 for the season coming off 88 points in the WHL with Saskatoon .Viedensky, known for his two way play, is one of the top penalty killers in the entire Sharks system. He will spend the season with Worcester, and will center one of the bottom two lines.
Freddie Hamilton is playing as a 19-year-old in the OHL with Niagara, and is off to a 39 point start in 29 games. He is a gifted scorer, but will need to work on his defensive play. Hamilton is also one of the best faceoff guys in the OHL. He will turn pro in the spring, and may get into a few AHL games this season.
Great skating and fast hands is what Michael Sgarbossa brings to the table. He blossomed as a goal-scorer last year when a mid-season trade sent him from Saginaw to Sudbury. In his first full season with Sudbury, he has picked up where he left off, managing 18 goals in 25 games. Sgarbossa, who is already under an entry-level contract, will start his pro career in the AHL after the season ends with the Wolves.
Justin Daniels signed a letter of intent to play hockey with Northeastern in the NCAA after the Sharks drafted him in the third round of the 2008 draft. After two unproductive seasons, Daniels finally has started to develop into a solid offensive player. He will need to continue his solid junior year and have a strong senior year to earn an entry-level contract.
Currently with the Indiana Ice, Sean Kuraly is playing one more season in the USHL before he heads to Miami of Ohio next fall. Already gifted in the face off circle and killing penaltys, Kuraly’s focus is improving in the offensive zone. Early on, his hard work appears to have paid off as he already has 21 points in 16 games.
The Sharks possess a great deal of size in their defensive prospects, headlined by the 6’7 Taylor Doherty. There is also a fair blend of skill and physicality among the defensive pool, though no high-end offensive prospects.
Justin Braun was called up October 23rd this season after not making the Sharks out of training camp. A puck-moving defenseman by trait, Braun is a good skater, and has not looked out of place at the NHL level. He will need to improve defensively, but looks like a steal out of the seventh round.
Taylor Doherty is starting his first pro season this year. He had a breakout season in his final year of junior, where he cut back his penalty minutes and put up a career high 55 points from the blue line. The 6’7 defenseman is learning on the job at the AHL level, skating with the third pairing at Worcester this season. He will need to work on his mobility and foot speed, as well as learn to pick his spots offensively.
The Sharks signed Sena Acolatse as an undrafted free agent after a stellar junior career with three different teams. He is the first player from the San Jose area to be under contract with the team. Acolatse, who is a solid top four paring type player, is off to a good start in his first pro season.
Curt Gogol is a stay-at-home defenseman who is filling one of the enforcer rolls with Worcester this season. Gogol has had four seasons in the WHL with more than one hundred penalty minutes, and his fights have become popular viewing. He is not known for his scoring, and will need to improve in all aspects of the game to become an NHL regular.
William Wrenn decided to leave the NCAA ranks and join powerhouse Portland of the WHL after two seasons with the University of Denver. The move has paid off. A classic two-way defenseman, Wrenn is the type player that does every aspect of the game well. Wrenn will turn pro and join Worcester next season.
Konrad Abeltshauser finished a minus-26 and a minus-36 in 2009-10 and 2010-11 respectively. He is off to a much better start in 2011 with 22 points and a plus-13 in 25 games. Since he is more of an offensive player, he will need to improve play in his own end to go further in his hockey career.
Justin Sefton is a classic stay at home blueliner with an offensive game that remains a work in progress. He is however a very good skater for his size.
Dylan DeMelo is solid and unspectacular. He is the type of player every team needs to win. DeMelo has put up 21 points, and is a plus-13 in 29 games this season. He is a good skater, and has great hockey sense. DeMelo will finish the season in junior, and will flirt with idea of turning pro.
Isaac MacLeod is a solid skating defenseman for his 6’5 frame. He plays a simple game, and always makes the smart play. MacLeod is more of a stay-at-home type, never putting up offensive numbers at any level. He is currently skating in the top four at Boston College, where he will play out his NCAA eligibility.
Lee Moffie is a solid puck-moving defenseman. He is attending the University of Michigan where he is under the eye of legendary coach Red Berenson. Improving play in his own end will be his main focus, and he is off to a good start with eight points in twelve games.
Alex Stalock made his NHL debut in a relief appearance last season after two solid seasons in the AHL with Worcester, and picked up his first NHL win. Stalock has had back-to-back seasons with a save percentage of over .900 and a 2.63 goals against average. If injuries continue to plague the team at the NHL level, Stalock will get a chance.
Harri Sateri is finally getting his first taste of pro hockey in North America. Harri has a great glove hand, and covers the net well. He has not looked out of place in eight games with Worcester.
Tyson Sexsmith is getting a chance to play on a regular basis in the AHL after a stint in the ECHL. He is not looking out of place, posting a goals against average of under two and a .931 save percentage in 12 AHL games.
Thomas Heemskerk nearly quit the game two seasons ago, but the Sharks signed him after an amazing performance at a rookie camp. Heemskerk has a save percentage of .900, and has a 6-3 record with Stockton of the ECHL.
J.P. Anderson is putting up solid numbers in an offensive league playing his final season in the OHL with Mississauga. Anderson has shown improvement with 12 wins in 24 starts and a save percentage of .912, and has a great glove.
Article was written by Mike Murangi.