| | If the San Jose Sharks drafted as well as they hope, in a few years the San Jose Sharks could potentially have a very German flare to it.In Saturday’s first round of the NHL Entry Draft, San Jose chose only the second player from Germany to be taken in the first round, centerman Marcel Goc; the first was Sharks left wing/center Marco Sturm. San Jose didn’t have selections in the second or third rounds due to trades with Montreal for Vincent Damphousse and Columbus for retaining Evgeni Nabokov respectively.Goc, a 6’1” 187lbs center plays a style most comparable to Scott Gomez of the New Jersey Devils. Goc’s puck handling ability is as good as many players currently playing at a high level in the NHL. What impresses scouts the most about Goc, however, is his poise and ability to read plays.
The second youngest player selected, Goc still has time to improve his skills, as he will likely not see time with San Jose until the 2002/03 season at the earliest. Goc already possesses many skills that cannot be taught and that most players his age are still developing.“Marcel is a very complete player with very little weaknesses,” said Tim Burke, Director of Amateur Scouting. “He has the potential to be a number one center.”
While not nearly as highly touted as names such as Kovalchuk and Spezza, Goc has found a niche’ for himself being considered one of the late-first-round gems such as Martin Havlat selected 26th in 1999 by Ottawa and Gomez, selected 27th in 1998.Several scouts from teams including Detroit, Buffalo, New Jersey and Dallas were all complimentary of the Sharks’ selection of Goc, noting how there was no way he would have made it out of the first round.With two selections in the fourth round, the Sharks stayed in Germany, trading up to select defenseman Christian Ehrhoff with the 106th pick, then selecting goaltender Dimitri Patzold with the 107th pick.Ehrhoff is a 6’2” 184lbs defenseman who plays a style reminiscent of former Shark Sandis Ozolinsh. While Ehrhoff will have to adjust his style to make it in the NHL, his ability to move the puck through the neutral zone is a skill teams highly covet.If Ehrhoff makes it to the NHL, he will play a similar style to that of Sharks defenseman Marcus Ragnarsson. While Ragnarsson was once considered an offensive defenseman, he has adjusted his style to stay back in his zone more, but at the same time is known for moving the puck exceptionally well. The most attractive thing about Ehrhoff is that he already possesses many of the skills that NHL teams look for. It is now more a matter of refinement then teaching the skills.With their next pick the Sharks chose goaltender Dimitri Patzold. Patzold opened eyes in the World Junior Championships, making it very difficult for opposing teams to score after getting past what was mostly a weak German defense. His performance at international tournaments led many to feel that had Patzold been playing in a more hockey traditional country, opinions of him would be much higher.
Often compared to Felix Potvin due to his quickness, Patzold is known for having the ability to snag pucks out of mid air after deflections right in front of him. A common complaint about Patzold is that he simply has not seen enough minutes, only playing 35 games combining his regular season and WJC tournament.
Patzold will likely spend the most time of the three Germans refining his skills in Europe for several reasons. First, due to the Sharks depth at goalkeeper, he would likely be as low as fifth on the depth chart at this point, leaving no need to rush him. Two, with the wide variety of European leagues to play in, Patzold will have no problem finding ice time, something which at this point he desperately needs. Finally, the Sharks have shown success in taking their time with their goalies, something that they will surely emulate with Patzold.One other note on Patzold: he was born in Kamenogorsk, Kazahkstan, the same hometown as another Sharks goaltender who took his time moving his way up through the Sharks depth of goaltending—Evgeni Nabokov. In fact, Nabokov’s father took part in training Patzold the last several years.
With the selection of three German players with their first three picks, it would be easy to worry over a repeat of the Sharks’ 1995 draft debacle when they drafted unknown Finnish right wing Teemu Riihijarvi in the first round with the 12th overall pick, and then other Finnish selections such as Marko Makinen in the third round.However, there is a huge difference between the picks in 1995 and these in 2001. The picks made in 1995 were complete surprises to everyone. Nobody expected Riihijarvi to be selected in the first round, however, it is widely accepted that Goc would not have been left unpicked in the first round. Although Ehrhoff was ranked 71st by the Central Scouting Service, he was widely considered to be a pick anywhere in the third-fourth round. One can easily consider Patzold a steal in the fourth round, as he was ranked the third best European goaltender and expected by many to be selected early in the third round.When the Sharks saw Czech forward Tomas Plihal available in the fifth round, they traded up 15 spots with the Buffalo Sabres to ensure they would not lose him. Ranked 18th by the CSS, Plihal’s stock rose as the season progressed. The 6’1” 180lbs forward put up impressive numbers in the Czech Jr. league, recording 16 goals in 33 games, more than any player drafted from the Czech Republic this year.Known as a smooth skater, Plihal has an excellent ability to finish plays. While he may not put the puck in the net every time he makes a rush, he will at least force the goalie into making a difficult save, often leaving a rebound for an awaiting teammate.While his defense will need to improve before making the jump to the NHL, the effort is there, which Darryl Sutter and Roy Sommer can deal with. While the defensive aspects of his game are not awful, it is important to keep in mind that defensive hockey isn’t as stressed where he plays as much as it is in other leagues, especially in the AHL and NHL.In The Hockey News’s Draft Preview edition, they predicted Plihal to be selected 97th, which would have been the final pick in the third round. There is speculation as to whether Plihal will stay in Europe next season, or move to North America to play in the Canadian Hockey League. A decision on his future will likely be known soon. Check back for details once they are known.San Jose finished early Sunday, finishing their selections in the sixth round with two right wings: Ryan Clowe from Rimouski of the QMJHL, and Tom Cavanaugh from Phillips-Exeter High School in Rhode Island.Clowe is an all around solid player in the QMJHL, who while he may not have the scoring numbers many have in that league, he is a prototypical third line player. He’s good at playing the body in addition to excellent puck handling skills.Before making the next step to the AHL, Clowe must work on refining aspects of his game including his skating and ability to see plays through to their fruition, but if he can learn these skills, he can easily become a strong candidate to be a future third line player for the Sharks.
Tom Cavanaugh comes from a hockey family, and while he doesn’t yet possess the skills of the highly rated prospects, has an excellent chance to learn them. His father, Joe Cavanaugh, is a member of the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in addition to being a three-time first-team All American at Harvard University in the late 60’s and early 70’s.Tom will follow in his father’s footsteps attending Harvard next season, and will likely complete his full eligibility there before playing professionally. According to sources back east, Cavanaugh possesses many attributes that NHL scouts look for. He is a good skater with good vision on the ice. He knows when and how to make his move to the net in a way that won’t negatively effect his team if unsuccessful.Not possessing picks in the second or third rounds makes it very difficult for a team to be active in terms of trading up on draft day. It also makes it very difficult with such limited picks to consider it a “great” draft for the Sharks.
However, given their drafting position and what the Sharks had available, the Sharks have every reason to be happy with what they walked away with.“We secured three centers, a defenseman, a bigger wing and a goalie. I am pleased with that,” said Burke. “By enlarge if you told me before the draft that this is what we were going to come out with, I’d be very happy.”Due to the heavy European influence on this year’s draft for the Sharks, it is very likely that five could all make their professional debuts sometime in the year 2003. Goc perhaps for the Sharks, while the others will likely need a bit more time developing their talents in the AHL.Look for player bios with statistical information on each Sharks prospect to be coming in future weeks in addition to a new Top 10 list reflecting the Sharks choices in this year’s Entry Draft.