Although Doug Murray gets most of the fanfare nowadays, the Sharks have three other prospects who are in their final year of college hockey, trying to establish themselves as solid prospects for the Cleveland Barons, the Sharks AHL affiliate, next season, and with San Jose in the long-run.
While Providence College finds itself seventh of the nine teams in Hockey East with a 5-7-1 record, and a mediocre 11-10-1 record overall (not counting an exhibition victory against Queens, a Canadian college), right wing Jon DiSalvitore is passing the Friars in scoring based on a hot start. DiSalvitore started his season against Queens Oct. 4 scoring a two goals and an assist, and it didn’t slow down when the NCAA season started for the Friars. In the Friars’ first nine games of the season (not counting Queens) DiSalvitore racked up six goals and seventeen assists for 23 points, giving the Friars an 8-1 start.
Since Nov. 12 Providence has gone 3-11-1, and DiSalvitore has had two goals and seven assists in those 15 games. The 11-0 victory over Iona of the MAAC and the 8-1 victory over Princeton are now distant memories, as the team’s production has gone down as the competition has improved. (Read: welcome to Hockey East conference play)
For much of the season DiSalvitore was on the first line with Devin Rask and Peter Fregoe; DiSalvitore has recently found himself on the second line with Peter Zingoni and Chris Chaput or Doug Wright as Providence struggles to find the winning chemistry.
DiSalvitore, now a senior, led the Friars in scoring last season, but may find it difficult to repeat the feat if he remains on the second line apart from Rask and Fregoe. That said, DiSalvitore has nine points in Providence’s last 10 games. In Hockey East conference play DiSalvitore is 15th in scoring with one goal and 13 assists. (14 points) DiSalvitore’s 13 assists place him 4th in Hockey East in assists, and is 8th in shots with 53 shots in 15 conference games. (Which makes his lone goal all the more amazing/frustrating) Overall, DiSalvitore has eight goals and 24 assists in 24 games.
Regardless, it is without doubt that the Sharks will sign the 21-year old DiSalvitore to play in Cleveland next season. (When he’ll be 22.) Although Niko Dimitrakos is scoring plenty in the AHL this season, it remains to be seen how DiSalvitore, the Sharks 4th round pick in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft (104th overall), will react to the more physical AHL. DiSalvitore would be a likely candidate for any collegiate equivalent to the Lady Byng trophy. At 6’1” 185 pounds, the Sharks will probably have DiSalvitore bulk up a little, but the Connecticut native will face far less skepticism than the Sharks’ 5’9” Ryan Kraft faced upon his entrance to pro hockey. (Kraft did not even earn a contract after playing for the University of Minnesota and had to prove himself in the ECHL before the Sharks decided to sign him.)
Note: Former Shark right wing Rob Gaudreau is an assistant coach at Providence College, where Gaudreau was a stand-out defenseman.
Joining DiSalvitore at Providence this season, and the past three seasons, is goalie Nolan Schaefer. Schaefer, a 5th round pick (166th overall) by the Sharks in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft, found himself the undisputed number-one goalie at Providence last season, playing 35 of Providence’s 38 games.
This season, freshman Bobby Goepfert, the United States’ World Junior Championship team’s number-one goalie, is mounting a serious challenge. In 12 games Schaefer has a record of 6-6-0 with a .895 save percentage and a 3.38 goals-against average. In Hockey East conference play Schaefer is 4-5-0 with a save percentage of .884, and a goals-against average of 3.72. Goepfert, a prospect of the Pittsburgh Penguins, has played in 6 conference games so far, but his record 2-3-1, with a .924 save percentage and a goals-against average of 2.29. The future Penguin has also started for the Friars in their last four games.
Although Schaefer’s stats have dropped, the Yellow Grass, Saskatchewan native can still pull out some awesome games, such as Providence’s Jan. 9 game against Boston University, where Schaefer saved 42 of 44 shots and was named the “First Star” of the game in Providence’s 3-2 overtime-win. In fact, in 7 of Schaefer’s 12 games he’s been shelled with 34 shots or more. Another one of Schaefer’s game-stealers was early in the season on Oct. 18 versus Minnesota State-Mankato, where Schaefer saved 39 of 40 shots for a 5-1 victory.
The 22-year old Schaefer (June 15, 1980) finds himself in an interesting predicament with the Sharks, as San Jose will have to make room for Schaefer if he is signed. If Kiprusoff can nail down the second spot behind Nabokov (gain some consistency), that could leave Vesa Toskala in Cleveland for a third straight season. Would Vesa play in the AHL again when he could probably return to Finland and play for a top team there? Clearing out Seamus Kotyk, if so desired, could be one answer, but on the other hand, German goalie Dimitri Pätzold appears to be a more promising goaltender at this point. If Toskala were to stay, it could lead to a four-way fight for the second spot in Cleveland between Schaefer, Pätzold, Kotyk and Marc Kielkucki. Of course, if San Jose wants, it could just have two goalies in the ECHL (Schaefer and Kielkucki) and leave Pätzold in Germany.
All in all, any goalie not born in Kazakhstan of Finland faces a steep uphill battle to crack the Sharks’ future line-up. (Pätzold was born and lived in Kazakhstan until his early teens)
When the Sharks named Mark Concannon their 3rd round pick (82nd overall) in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft, no doubt fans were left with some expectations. Concannon was drafted out of high school and was heading to the University of Massachusetts-Lowell to embark on his collegiate hockey career. His first two seasons were marred with injuries, and his third season wasn’t overly impressive. Concannon’s senior year wasn’t looking much better until lately, where the 6’1” 215 pound left wing has put up some points. In an 11 game stretch from Nov. 15 through Jan. 10 Concannon scored 11 points. (7 goals and 4 assists) For much of that streak Concannon was on the second line with Stephen Slonina as his center and Elias Godoy or Anders Strome as his right wing. For the season Concannon has 7 goals and 6 assists in 25 games, and 3 goals and 3 assists in 15 Hockey East conference games. Unfortunately, Concannon only has one assist in his last five games. (Although Lowell’s offense was held at bay overall by their opponents until a 4-4 tie against the Maine Black Bears Jan. 25, in which Concannon tallied an assist on the game-tying goal.)
The 22-year old Concannon’s best game was probably against Clarkson on Dec. 7 against Clarkson, where the Hull, Massachusetts native scored a goal and an assist and was named the “First Star” in Lowell’s 3-0 win.
Concannon turns 23 this summer, and he’ll have to finish the season strong to be signed by the Sharks. It could fall down to a scenario similar to Joe Dusbabek, where Concannon is not signed, but invited to try-outs. Concannon does have some redeeming qualities even if his scoring his huge: he’s good along the boards because of his size and hands. Concannon is also a player with a high fitness level and a natural athlete. Given these pluses, it is likely that Concannon where succeed where Dusbabek failed, although he may have to start out in the ECHL.