The San Jose Sharks’ four drafted seniors all had impact seasons in 2002-03, with three bringing home some considerable hardware, boding well for the Cleveland Barons’ and the Sharks’ future.
Swede Doug Murray capped his collegiate career with another solid season, scoring five goals and 20 assists in 35 games. Murray’s 16 points in 21 ECAC conference games for Cornell placed him fourth in ECAC-defenseman scoring. Although his offensive production was down from 2001-02 when Murray was one of the ten Hobey Baker Finalists, he cut down on his penalties (from 67 to 30) and high-risk defensive plays, like going for open ice hits similar to Bryan Marchment. Murray’s game is now more conservative, and similar to Mike Rathje’s. The 6’3” 240 pound Murray was still named to the JOFA All-American East First Team by the American Hockey Coaches Association. Adding to his awards this season, Murray was also named the ECAC Defenseman of the Year and named to the ECAC First Team. Oddly enough, Murray did not bring home any hardware from Cornell, as there is no defenseman of the year award, and goalie David LeNeveu took home defensive player of the year. Murray did start every game with defensive partner Jeremy Downs as the Cornell’s top pairing, so there is no doubt as to his defensive talent.
As a team, Cornell finished first in the ECAC with a 19-2-1 record, and brought home the ECAC Championship, defeating Harvard 3-2 in overtime. Cornell’s accomplishments up to that point earned them first overall in the final United States College Hockey Online and USA Today/American Hockey Magazine national polls. At the NCAA National Tournament, Cornell took the East Regional Championship defeating Boston College 2-1 in double-overtime. However, the favorites to win the NCAA Championship lost to a determined University of New Hampshire team in the Frozen Four 3-2 after the Big Red attempted a comeback from a 3-0 deficit. The Big Red finished with an overall record of 30-5-1.
Murray is not yet signed, but it would be a travesty if the hulking Swede was not signed, especially with Brad Stuart’s concussion problems creating some questions for his future. The Sharks collection of defensemen makes it unlikely that Murray will begin the season in San Jose, while Kyle McLaren, Mike Rathje, Brad Stuart, and Scott Hannan play styles similar to Murray’s. In Cleveland Murray will have to adapt his game to the quicker/smarter/stronger AHL, where his supreme strength and positioning may not be enough for automatic success. Considering the recent changes in Murray’s game, the 24-year old should become very similar to Mike Rathje, but without being rushed. Murray makes Rob Davison’s long-term status very questionable, as Davison does not have Murray’s skill.
The 6’1” 185 pound Connecticut native capped his collegiate career with another solid year, scoring 19 goals and 29 assists in 36 games. He also had a three-point night against Queens University in an exhibition game to start the season. DiSalvitore led Providence College in scoring, and was tied for first in conference scoring on Providence with 9 goals and 15 assists in 24 games while playing on either the first or second line as needed. The 23-year old right wing won the Lou Lamoriello Award for the second year in a row as Providence’s team MVP, and also won the Friar Award, given to the player who excels in the subtleties of hockey that “don’t show up in the stats.” Tied for eleventh in Hockey East scoring, DiSalvitore was named an Honorable Mention by the Hockey East, and was the KOHO/Hockey Player of the Month Runner-Up for October, and Player of the Week for the week of Feb. 24. DiSalvitore was also one of the finalists for the Walter Brown Award as the top New England-born hockey player. (New Hampshire goalie Mike Ayers won the award).
Providence College finished fourth in the Hockey East with a 12-9-3 record on a tie-breaker based with their 2-0-1 record against Boston University, but lost to BU in the Hockey East Playoffs in the best-of-three series, 5-4 in overtime, and a 7-1 BU route to finish them off. Overall, Providence finished 19-14-3, 18th in the voting for the final USCHO’s final, but off of the list.
Assuming DiSalvitore is signed, which he should be, he will almost certainly start in Cleveland. He’ll be expected to put up decent numbers on the first or second line, depending on San Jose’s construction of Cleveland next season. Long-term, DiSalvitore’s upside is probably as a second or third-line player, but it’s also possible DiSalvitore’s career will consist of being a top AHL/European elite league player.
Schaefer, a teammate of DiSalvitore’s, found his stride the second half of the season, fending off a challenge by Bobby Goepfert for the starting job in net. In 25 games, Schaefer compiled .909 save percentage and a 2.96 GAA, with a 13-8-2 record. In Hockey East conference games, Schafer played in 18 of the 24 games with a .910 save percentage, 10-5-2 record, and a 2.85 goals-against. This numbers were good enough to earn Schaefer a Hockey East Honorable Mention, as well Providence College’s Ron Wilson Award as the top defensive player. The nearly 24-year old Schaefer was the KOHO/Hockey East Defensive Player of the Month three times: Nov. 4, Feb. 3, and Feb. 17, and was the KOHO/Hockey East Player of the Week Feb. 10. (This would normally include defensive player of the week, but that was instead co-awarded to BU goalie Sean Fields and Boston College defenseman J.D. Forrest.) Schaefer’s strong February saw him named runner-up for the KOHO/Hockey East Player of the Month. Schaefer also had two assists from the net.
It is likely that Schaefer will find himself in Cleveland next year, possibly teamed with Seamus Kotyk since it’s unlikely either Vesa Toskala or Miikka Kiprusoff will be assigned to the AHL again. It’s difficult to know how good Schaefer will be, because Sharks goalie coach Warren Strelow tends to extract the most from each goalie. Considering this, it wouldn’t be out of the question for Schaefer to eventually become an NHL second-string goalie.
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As the Sharks’ 3rd round pick in the 1999 NHL Entry Draft, more was expected from Mark Concannon over his collegiate career, but injuries hampered the Massachusetts native’s first two seasons. Concannon had a decent third season and finished his collegiate career with his best year yet for the University of Massachussetts-Lowell. In 36 games, Concannon had 10 goals and 11 assists, fourth in Lowell team scoring. Concannon’s four goals and eight assists in 24 Hockey East conference games was third on Lowell behind Ed McGrane and frequent linemate Steve Slonina. Only McGrane had more goals for Lowell with 21, as Concannon spent most of the season playing on a second scoring line that received a fair amount of ice-time.
Lowell finished 11-20-5 for the season, and struggled to a 4-16-4 Hockey East record, good for eighth in the conference in a tie-breaker against Northwestern because Lowell went 2-1-0 against the Huskies.
Although Concannon’s collegiate career was not overly impressive, the well-built Concannon did play three games for the Barons at the end of the season, tallying no points. It appears that Concannon’s 6’1” 215 pound build will earn him a spot on Cleveland’s fourth line next season, with Willie Levesque on his right side, and the center position up for grabs. Graig Mischler would make sense at center if he returns, but Craig Valette is more likely in that spot. The NHL does not appear to be in Concannon’s future, but it’s too early to tell.
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