The elite hockey leagues in Europe have all been completed, and the Sharks’ prospects all find themselves in their league’s play-offs, as the Sharks monitor the following players’ progress, stagnation, or regress, depending on the player.
Ehrhoff, probably San Jose’s top European prospect, put up slightly better numbers for the Krefeld Penguins than he did last season, managing 10 goals and 17 assists in 48 games. (Last season in 46 games Ehrhoff posted 7 goals and 17 assists) Teaming with former NHL defenseman Darryl Shannon all season, Ehrhoff ended up leading Krefeld in defense goal-scoring, good for fifth overall on the team, and fourth in the DEL in defenseman goal-scoring. The 20-year old German finished behind experienced North Americans Jeff Tory (13), Keith Aldridge (12), Ricard Persson (11), and tied with Paul Stanton (10). Ehrhoff’s assist total was good for second among defensemen on Krefeld and tied for fourth overall with Christoph Brandner. (Brandner, a prospect of the Minnesota Wild, was voted the DEL Player of the Year, and, according to Faceoff.com, is attempting to secure a one-way contract with Minnesota, feeling he “[does] not need the AHL.”) The 6-2 194-pound defenseman’s scoring totals were second on Krefeld among defensemen (behind Dan Lambert’s nine goals and 30 assists: second in the DEL in defenseman-scoring.), and fifth overall on Krefeld. The native of Moers’ point total was also good for 14th among all DEL defensemen, missing four games all season while in San Jose for training camp.
Among Ehrhoff’s top accomplishments this season was his +14 rating, six points above fellow Krefeld defenseman and German national-team regular Daniel Kunce’s +8. This favorable plus/minus, especially in relation to his teammates, was good for 16th overall in the DEL in plus/minus.
Ehrhoff, known for shooting first and asking questions later, managed 157 shots this season, good for second on Krefeld, scoring five power play goals among the shots, which was good for fourth overall on Krefeld, as Ehrhoff’s effectiveness on the power play is one of his strong points, based partially on his strong slap shot which was tops at DEL Skill Competition at 88.2 miles per hour. Ehrhoff paired with Sascha Goc on the German national team for the All-Star Game against the DEL All-Stars, comprised primarily of top foreigners in the DEL, as Team Germany scored a come-from-behind 6-4 victory on the strength of a Sven Felski hat trick. (Felski also was clocked as the fastest skater.)
On the national team level, Ehrhoff played one game against Switzerland in the Deutschland Cup and also played for Germany in the Swiss Cup, and is slated to play for the national team at the World Championships in Finland. For now, Ehrhoff is concentrating on helping the Penguins defeat the DEG (Düsseldorf) Metro Star in the DEL Quarterfinals.
The Sharks’ first round pick in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft (20th overall) 2002-03 season was an improvement over a difficult 2001-02 season. In 36 DEL games, Goc managed six goals and 14 assists, of which only three assists came on the power play, as the 19-year old struggled to find much play-off time on the North American veteran-laden Eagles of Mannheim. Familiar North Americans who lined with Goc at various times this season include Mike Kennedy, Rene Corbet, and Jason Podollan. Czech winger Timo Martinec, German national team member Klaus Kathan, and fellow German prospect Yannic Seidenberg were also regular linemates for Goc.
The 6-0 187 pound center was second among all Eagles who took over 100 face-offs at 56.5 percent, behind only fellow national-team member Wayne Hynes. (Hynes is originally of Canadian citizenship) Among all DELers who took over 200 face-offs, Goc’s face-off efficiency was seventh in the league.
Along the way this season, Goc also played for Germany in the World Junior Championships in Nova Scotia, in which Goc finished second in team-scoring with a goal and two assists on an offensively challenged team at the WJC-level. (Goc did managed three assists in two exhibition matches before the WJC’s.) Germany finished ninth in the ten-team tournament based on a 4-0 shutout of Belarus.
Goc missed seven DEL games because of the WJC’s, but the 6-0 187-pound pivot also missed four games while at San Jose’s training camp, three games in Nov. due to a thigh injury, and two other games Feb. 28 and Mar. 2. Despite missing 16 games this season, Goc’s 0.55 points per game average was good for eighth on the Eagles.
Like Ehrhoff, Goc was on Team Germany for the DEL All-Star Game and the Swiss Cup (stats unavailable for Swiss Cup), and is also slated to be on the World Championship team in Finland. However, Goc’s offensive output for the Eagles after the WJC’s was slim, with only one goal and four assists in his final fourteen games, closing the season with a seven game scoreless streak split by the missed games Feb. 28 and Mar. 2.
Mannheim finished fourth in the DEL with 94 points, based on a 25-8-3-16 record (Wins-Penalty Shot Wins-Penalty Shot Loses-Loses) and will play the Nürnberg Ice Tigers in the DEL Quarterfinals.
After challenging starter Mike Rosati mid-season for the Eagles of Mannheim, Rosati was the goaltender called upon down the stretch, relegating Pätzold to the bench. After standing on his head, to no avail, for Germany in the WJC’s, Pätzold appeared in only three more games for Mannheim. Pätzold’s start against the Frankfurt Lions yielded a 5-4 win, but 21 saves on 25 shots did not pad the stats any. Feb. 14 was Pätzold’s next start, in which Mannheim beat the hapless Schwenninger Wild Wings 3-2 with 20 saves on 22 shots. Rosati started the remaining eight games, although Pätzold relieved Rosati in the final game of the season Mar. 9 against Nürnberg, saving 10 of 11 shots in 27:13 minutes of action.
Over the course of the DEL season, Pätzold appeared in 15 games, with a 2.57 goals-against average and a .894 save percentage in 817:45 minutes of duty, a fair increase from his seven appearances for just under 260 minutes of action last season with the Cologne Sharks. (Kölner Haie)
Similar to many back-ups come play-off time, Pätzold will be lucky to see much, if any, action beyond warm-ups, but there’s always next year, where the 19-year old (20 in May) goaltender will attempt to increase his playing time again in his long-term effort to play for the San Jose Sharks, after being drafted shortly after Christian Ehrhoff in the 4th round of the 2001 NHL Entry Draft (107th overall).
As the Sharks’ 2nd round pick in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft (41st overall, and San Jose’s first pick in the 2000 Draft) expectations for the Finnish WJC-defenseman were high, but Määttä’s exploits have not been overly impressive since. However, Määttä’s season did end on an upswing, as the 21-year old physical defenseman teamed with Czech ace-defenseman Jiri Vykoukal for the Espoo Blues down the stretch even-strength.
The 6-1 214-pound defenseman convinced Ryan Kraft he could hit with a glass-shattering check in training camp, but Mäattä’s offensive experimentation in camp did not correlate to any output in the Finnish Elite League, as Määttä played 50 games this season, tallying only three assists. Määttä’s 85 penalty minutes was tops on Espoo, even if his offense was far from it.
Määttä’s season also featured a 6-game loan to rival Ässat, which was shortened by three games due to a suspension on an illegal hit. The young Finn had hoped to remain with Ässat after seeing an increase in ice-time over his first five games and a scratch with Espoo. As the season progressed though, Määttä moved up from the fourth line with Tommi Pelkonen, to the third line with Rami Alanko, to the first pairing (at even strength) with Jiri Vykoukal.
After missing the play-offs last season, Espoo managed to finish 4th this season with 68 points based off of a 25-16-15-2 record. Espoo faces fifth-ranked Tappara in the quarterfinals of the Finnish Elite League play-offs. Although Määttä needs work on his stick skills and quickness, any increase in contribution Määttä can make in the play-offs would greatly help the Blues advance past Tappara and further.
An offense surge in January helped the 27-year old Nikolov raise his offensive totals for theseason to a level close to his normal outputs. In JYP’s eight-game stretch leading up to the Sweden Hockey Games Break, Nikolov managed a goal and five assists. Failing to tally a point in his remaining ten games after the Sweden Hockey Games Break, Nikolov scored only two goals in 46 games, but did manage 11 assists. Nikolov’s +1 rating made him one of seven JYP-regulars to register a positive plus/minus.
Nikolov missed nearly a month after he was injured ducking a hit against JYP Dec. 5, missing only five regular season games as the Finnish Elite League breaked for the Baltica Cup in Moscow. (Nikolov also missed five other games during the season)
As JYP’s 3rd or 4th defenseman, depending on how he’s playing, JYP will need Nikolov at the top of his game to defeat the Kärpät in the first round of the Finnish Elite League play-offs. JYP missed the play-offs last year, but managed to finish 6th in the SEL (Suomi Elite League) with a 25-12-19-3 record.
Nikolov still has one year remaining in his three-year contract with JYP.
Saarinen moved from Jokerit to HIFK this season, and the increased ice-time helped number 77 to a more respectable 2002-03. In 53 games, Saarinen scored two goals and three assists, an improvement over his zero points in 30 regular season games. The 25-year old Saarinen teamed with Nicklas Hedberg from most of Dec. through the rest of the season, after pairing with Hannu Pikkarainen in Oct. and Nov. The physical 5-11 195-pound Finn has been known for stupid penalties in previous seasons, but after a 25-minute penalty, and subsequent two-game suspension after his first game of the season, Saarinen kept his penalty minutes down. Saarinen did receive a 10-minute penalty against TPS on Jan. 25, but his season total of 53 penalty minutes is shockingly low for Saarinen’s history.
That said, Saarinen’s defense was still suspect at times, and this was not helped much by his Hedberg, as Saarinen and Hedberg were tied for the second worst plus/minus on HIFK at –14. (Jari Kauppila was last with –16) Despite these particular minuses, HIFK still managed a 19-15-22-4 season for 57 points to finish seventh, one point above eighth-place TPS and ninth place Lukko. (Only eight teams make the play-offs in the Finnish Elite League.)
Saarinen had two assists in 10 games for Finnish champs Jokerit last season in the play-offs, so HIFK hopes he can step up his defensive play and perhaps chip in offensively similar to his numbers before San Jose drafted him as they face (guess who) Jokerit in the first round of the play-offs. A defeat of the fellow Helsinki team would be a major upset.
Jindrich’s personal success in Timra this season was very limited, but the club that finished last in the Swedish Elite League managed to finish third in the SEL this season with 90 points on a record of 26-16-8. (Wins-losses-ties)
The 26-year old former Kentucky Thoroughblade appeared in 37 games this seasons, managing only one goal and two assists as Timra’s fifth defenseman, pairing with Daniel Casselstahl for much of the season on the third pairing. Jindrich missed thirteen games due to an abdominal tear, attempting to play in three matches early in the season, but far less than 100 percent, only to return to the infirmary. In fact, after the Baltica Cup Break, Jindrich picked up all three of his points in Timra’s remaining 21 games, suggesting that, had Jindrich been healthy all season, production closer to 10 points may have been possible. (A number far more expected/acceptable given the expectations Timra had of Jindrich.)
Timra defeated Lulea in the first round of the Swedish Elite League play-offs in four straight games. Jindrich’s only “highlight” was only 25 minutes in penalties in the third game of the series in an incident with Jonas Hägerbäck. In the second round Timra will face regular-season champions Vastra Frölunda. Timra was able to keep up with Vastra Frölunda until Jan., when the team started losing games, going 8-10 in the team’s 18 regular season games in 2003.
After been an important top-three line forward for Martin of the Slovakian Extra League last season, Macho has been a bit-player for Slovakian regular-season champs Slovan Bratislava in 2002-03.
Macho, a 21-year old center/right wing, managed five goals and four assists in 53 games for Slovan, but did not register a point in his final 26 games for the team. (Not counting a couple healthy scratches.) Had Macho been able to maintain the nine points in his first 25 games, Macho’s production as a third-line with Slovan wouldn’t have been too far off his totals as a second and third liner with Martin.
Slovan had an eventful season, playing in the Continental Cup, in which Macho played in all six games registering a goal against Sokol Kiev of the Eastern European Hockey League in the third round of the competition. Slovan finished 5th overall in the Continental Cup rankings after the Super Final, although it was not a round robin tournament in which Slovan faced every team. (In all likelihood Slovan is a better team than fourth-place Keramin Minsk) On a 32-1-9-3-9 record (W-OTW-T-OTL-L) Slovan finished first with 107 points, gaining the advantage over Zvolen in a tie-breaker by having a more favorable goal-differential.
In the first round of the play-offs Slovan defeated Zlina convincingly in four straight games, with Macho playing in each game, but not registering any points. The Bratislava club faces Trencin in the second round of the play-offs.
Given his limited playing time, the former Slovakian U20 team member may be persuaded to come over to North America next season should the Sharks so choose. At 5’11 ½” and 172 pounds, Macho, the only right-shooting centers on the Sharks’ depth chart, could stand to add some muscle.
All of San Jose’s European prospects remain involved in play-off competition and all the results will be reported here at Hockey’s Future upon their completion along with reports on any European prospect/player involved in the World Championships in Finland April 26 through May 11.
At this time, only Ehrhoff and Goc are expected to play at the WC’s in Helsinki.