Sharks Prospect Report

By pbadmin

Well, first off, I owe everyone an apology. I said in my last post that I would be writing stories back to my normal pace, but unfortunately things came up, and that wasn’t possible, but I’m back…

In this report I’m going to focus on some players currently in Kentucky of the AHL, and briefly on one player currently playing in Richmond of the ECHL.

The Sharks have had some surprises in Kentucky this year, fortunately, they have all been pleasant surprises thus far. Perhaps the biggest surprise is right up at the top, in their coach, Roy Sommer. Last year, Sommer was the eye in the sky for the San Jose Sharks. At that point, the Kentucky Thoroughblades decided that while Jim Wiley may be a good guy, being the Head Coach of the team wasn’t quite his spot, so he was re-assigned, demoted, whatever you want to call it to Director of Hockey Operations. Roy Sommer was brought from the San Jose Sharks to fulfill his first Head Coaching job in the AHL. Roy has coached in the ECHL, oddly enough with the Richmond Renegades, now the Sharks ECHL affiliate, and won it all there on multiple occasions. Many people will tell you that Sommer could possibly be the next Head Coach of the San Jose Sharks if things work out well enough there. After a very disappointing season in Kentucky last year, rookie Head Coach Roy Sommer has put the Tblades into a position where they are challenging for their division title.

Andrei Zyuzin, who impressed many people last year with the Sharks, including an overtime game winning goal against the Dallas Stars in the playoffs did not have a good start in San Jose, and was sent to Kentucky to refine his skills. The Sharks contend that they want him to learn how to be the dominant defenseman that they feel he can be. Zyuzin however did not agree. Upset about his assignment, he stayed in San Jose for a few days, resulting in being suspended by Kentucky. After reporting, he has recorded 1 goal, 11 assists, and 30 penalty minutes in 14 contests. The Sharks and Roy Sommer admit that his head was not in the game the first few games there, possibly guilty of pouting too much instead of concentrating on his job. Now however, he appears to be getting back to the task of hockey, and is doing what he was sent there to do-be the #1 defenseman. He’s doing a fine job of running the power play, and is recording a lot of minutes on the penalty kill. According to the San Jose Sharks, he’s doing fine on defense, fine on offense, now just needs to work on his game in between the blue lines. It should be very interesting to see how he rebounds, and if San Jose suffers injuries, will they call up someone like Jon Rohloff, Andy Sutton, trade for a defenseman, or call up Zyuzin? Tune in later this year for the results…

A player who has been racking up frequent flyer miles from San Jose and Lexington is Andy Sutton. Sutton has played 7 games for San Jose, where he recorded no points, but looked very solid defensively. He has used that 6’6″ frame of his to his best advantage, not allowing players to screen his goalie, or take advantage of players. He has used physical play very nicely, something that San Jose could use a little more of on the blue line, and Sutton has provided that. However, some more time in Kentucky will still do the rest of his game wonders. He has played 10 games in Kentucky where he has recorded 2 goals and 6 assists, and spent 26 minutes sitting down in the sin bin. The Sharks are the first to admit that they’re quite surprised with Sutton’s play. He was signed as a free agent out of college last year, and spent a brief period of time with the team. The Sharks conceded that “he’s probably still a few years off from the NHL.” But in this instance, they are glad to be wrong, and may have found a large diamond in the rough, without even having to give up a draft pick for him…

A pair of rookies have both done an incredible job in Kentucky, doing far better than previously expected. Mark Smith and Matt Bradley are in their first years of AHL play, coming from their Junior teams, Lethbridge and Kingston respectively. Last year, Mark Smith suddenly found offense out of no where. He’s always been a physical force on the ice, but never really found the net too much before last year. Then last year, his point production reached the century mark, and was in the top 10 in the WHL in scoring. Matt Bradley, playing on an offensively gifted Kingston team ranked up there in the OHL in scoring, but was more known for solid overall play. Both of those players are doing what they did last year, this year. Smith is continuing to play a physical game, mucking it out in the corners and behind the net and in front of the net, and Bradley continues strong overall play. Bradley started off slow, (as did Smith, although not to the same extent) but has come on strong the last few weeks. The last few weeks, Bradley and Smith have been teamed on the same line, where they are starting to experience a fair degree of success. The Sharks hope that Smith could possibly be their future 3rd or 4th line center of the future, and Bradley the same on the right side of him…

A young man who came out of practically nowhere is Ryan Kraft (no relation to top prospect, Milan Kraft from Europe). Well, maybe not nowhere, he came out of Minnesota State’s hockey program where he broke many records at that school known for it’s hockey tradition. Although he was scoring up and down the yin-yang there, he was not expected to do much, if anything once he got to the pro level. Drafted in the nightmare draft of 1995, he was only invited to camp this year on a tryout basis. Seeing him in camp, I for one was not impressed much. In scrimmages, he seemed lost, and out of place, not sure what to do next. Apparently, Sharks scouts thought differently. The Sharks thought enough of him to send him to Kentucky, from there he was assigned to the Richmond Renegades of the ECHL though. Currently playing for Richmond, he leads that team in most offensive categories. He’s among the league leaders in points, and is impressing people more than expected. Not only that, but he seems to have realized that a Darryl Sutter coached team has to have defensive responsibilities, which he seems to be doing better at. Included in his accomplishments in the ECHL is the fact that he was runner up for Rookie of the Month for November. He should be an interesting player to follow over the next few years… So with the current situation in Kentucky, the Sharks are on their way to making their future worth something. Dean Lombardi was quoted recently saying that the Kentucky team is starting to look more and more like that of the New Jersey Devil’s franchise, which is what the Sharks have tried to model themselves after. Clearly, the Sharks are doing a very impressive job of building up their AHL and ECHL teams. Now to translate that to success on the ice of the NHL… Come back to me in a few years for that answer.

In my next article I’ll cover the state of the Sharks goaltending prospects, including players such as John Nabokov, Terry Friesen, Michel Larocque and others… Look for that to come out some time soon…

Until next time, keep the sticks down and your head up… ;)