This draft, the Sharks took a very interesting approach to the draft. Normally, you’ll see teams going after a mix of players. There are the players from the CHL who are generally closer to the NHL than college players. These players may be ready to join their team in 1-3 years. They may account for 75% or more of teams’ picks. Then the college players who may not play for your team for four or five years. A team will usually only pick one or two of these players in one draft. And of course you have the European influence. These players may play for you the next year, or not until five years.
Of the Sharks’ seven picks, the Sharks chose only one player out of the CHL. The other six picks were from Finland (1), high school (2), and college (3). One fear that some had was that the Sharks were having a repeat of the 1995 draft where they had a European “theme” to nearly all their picks. I admit that I was one of these people who feared that. However, as I looked back on the picks, I noticed another theme, which makes far more sense.
It would seem as though Sharks picks centered around two characteristics.
1) Players who need time to develop their skills, not play 60 or more games a season. Often, players in the CHL are good at lasting during the long NHL season, but need to develop their skills. The college players may have the NHL skills once they graduate, but the course of an 82 game schedule wears them down.
2) Players who’s stock has risen over the last season. Taking a look at where many of these players were expected to be chosen at the start of this year compared to now, many have made a jump of several slots. Taking a chance on these types of players could very well pay large dividends in the future for the Sharks.
In the first round of the draft, the Sharks went with that old as time cliché: “you chose the best player available.” The only time a team should pick a player out of need, is if they have players in the draft they consider on an equal level. Then you can choose the player you want based on need. This year, that did not arise for the Sharks. Clearly, the best player at #14 was defenseman Jeff Jillson out of the University of Michigan.
Even before picking Jillson, one could accurately say that the Sharks had the best group of young defensemen in the NHL. With names like Brad Stuart, Scott Hannan, Andrei Zyuzin, Andy Sutton, Shawn Heins, etc. waiting in the wings, they certainly didn’t NEED another defenseman. However, when Jillson was the best player at the 14th pick, the Sharks wisely took him.
Jeff Jillson can very well be compared to Sharks prospect Scott Hannan in many ways. They both have good size, and skate the puck through traffic very well. Both are good in their own end, as they understand that their priority is defense. They are also both good at moving up when the time is appropriate and move to the net, or run a power play. Scott Hannan however, does have a better offensive upside than Jillson does.
Jillson is another player who’s stock has risen in the last several months. At mid season, he was ranked 15th among North American skaters by the Central Scouting Bureau (CSB). In the preliminary CSB rankings, he was ranked 6th among all collegiate players. At season’s end, he was ranked 11th among skaters, and a candidate to crack the top 10 in the draft. When he lasted till the 14th pick, the Sharks’ decision was easy.
In the 3rd round, the Sharks made an interesting decision picking Mark Concannon out of Winchedon High School. I must confess that I don’t know much about Concannon, nor have I seen him. Ranked 151st by the CSB, he was touted as being chosen around the 7th round, but the Sharks must have seen something in him to chose him early, making sure they didn’t lose him.
Of the scouting reports I’ve seen, he’s a power forward who uses his size very well. His decision to play in college next year (committed to University of Mass.) is an interesting one. He has the potential to make more of a name for himself if he were to play in the CHL next year, however, the improvements necessary in his game will be aided more by the college route. Given his size, and growing body, I believe he made the right choice with college. His power forward game will be more developed to the NHL style in college than in the CHL would. I do wonder why the Sharks didn’t wait at least one round later to choose him though, instead of using a 3rd round pick on him.
In the 4th round, the Sharks chose Willie Levesque out of Northeastern University. Levesque is another player who has made great strides this year. The CSB’s midseason report had him ranked 79th among North American skaters, and 24th among collegiate players. At the end of the season, he was ranked 56th among North American skaters, although not chosen until the 111th pick, although improved his standing among fellow students, being the 16th chosen.
Levesque plays on the same team as Sharks prospect, and fellow freshman, Jim Fahey. During the year, when I saw Northeastern play, I was primarily watching Fahey, but it was hard not to notice Levesque. Levesque was 2nd on the Huskies in goals with 12. That number very well could be higher, but he needs to work on holding onto the puck better as he enters the traffic around the faceoff circle. He has gotten better as the year has progressed, so I don’t see this as a huge problem in the future. He has very good speed, and is very good at accelerating to the puck. He is very aggressive in the corners, and doesn’t shy away from rough play.
If Levesque can make the same kind of strides next year that he made this year, Levesque’s stock will rise considerably. Levesque is not that far from being a legit 3rd or possibly even 2nd round player. An extra inch or two would help him, but he has not let it effect his style of play, although those inches would have effected his draft position.
In the 5th round the Sharks stayed in college and chose Nicholas Dimitrakos out of the University of Maine. A freshman at Maine, Dimitrakos was an effective spark plug for the Black Bears. He was 5th on the team in assists, and often came up with big moves at important times. He is another of those players who creates goals he doesn’t always get credit for. He is very good at starting a rush up ice, and opening up chances for his teammates. He’s a very good setup man, who could very well surprise some people, making the jump to the NHL shortly after his college career.
It took the Sharks 8 rounds to finally pick a player from the CHL, Eric Betournay of the QMJHL’s Acadie-Bathurst. Betournay is another player who made a significant jump this year. During the CSB’s midseason report, Betournay was ranked #54, but ranked 46 at the end. However, clearly, the people at CSB are not the same people making the decisions at the NHL draft tables, as he lasted until the 229th pick when the Sharks chose him in the 8th round.
At 6’1″ 176lbs, Betournay desperately needs to build his body. He plays a very good two way game, and isn’t afraid to pay the price for goals. His play is a little more applicable to the WHL where you see more of his two way game, yet without quite the physical play you see in the OHL. You hear that expression: “he can give it out, but he can’t take it.” Well, Betournay is sort of the opposite. He can take the hit, but he can’t really give it too well. He will need to use his body more in the NHL, and even next year in the QMJHL, and this is where his size issues start to become a concern. Betournay is a consummate worker, a great work ethic, plays hard every shift, and has a willingness to learn. Hopefully, the Sharks give him an off-season training regime for him to work on.
The Sharks final two picks I wish I could say I knew more information about, but I have not seen them, nor could I dig up any information on them. 8th round pick Doug Murray and 9th round pick Hannes Hyvonen. This is the limited information I found.
Doug Murray was chosen in the 8th round with the 241st pick out of Apple Core of the EJHL in New York. He was ranked 205th in the CSB’s midseason ranking. He’s a 6’3″ 220lbs defenseman who put up impressive numbers at least. In 50 games, he scored 17 goals and 47 assists for 64 points, compiling 62 penalty minutes.
Hannes Hyvonen was chosen in the 9th round with the 257th pick out of TPS Turko in Finland. At 6’2″ 200lbs, he’s also a defenseman. I can’t be certain of his statistics at this point unfortunately. I should be getting more information on him soon however, and will pass it on accordingly.
With the exception of Jillson, the Sharks’ choices all seem to be along the lines of the “hit or miss” category. Any one of a few of those guys can very well surprise and make waves in the future. These players at least will provide a bit of a 2nd wave for the Sharks in about three or four years. The first wave of players includes players such as Scott Hannan, Brad Stuart, Matt Bradley, Mark Smith and Adam Colagiacomo, who will most likely be making their NHL debuts in 1-2 years. Then, by the time those guys have left, it will be about time for Jillson, Levesque, Concannon, etc. to at least take their place in Kentucky, eventually making it to the NHL hopefully. It will be interesting to see how this draft develops three or four years from now. They very well may only get one player from this draft (Jillson), or they very well may get a few solid NHLers out of it. Only time will tell…