Sharks continue inking prospects

By Kevin Wey
First Round Pick Milan Michalek Signed

Although announced on August 18, the Sharks managed to sign 2003 sixth overall pick Milan Michalek before the August 15 deadline to sign European prospects without penalty. Left wing Michalek will not be playing in the Czech Republic for Budejovice in the Czech Extraleague this season, where he managed only three goals and five assists in 46 regular season games.

Despite modest production for Budejovice in 2002-03, Michalek did manage two goals and two assists in six games on loan to Kladno to help the team avoid relegation. Michalek’s first full season in the Extraleague in 2001-02 was more impressive with 6 goals and 11 assists in 47 games for Budejovice.

Generally considered a good play-making wing, Michalek’s reputation as a top prospect has been earned wearing the Czech Republic national team’s jersey. Two goals and two assists in six games at the 2003 World Junior Championships in Halifax placed the 6-2 205-pound forward third in team scoring behind Jiri Hudler, defenseman Lukas Krajicek, and tied with wing Jakub Klepis. At the 2002 Under-18 tournament, Michalek lit the lamp seven times, totaling eight points in eight games placing him behind only Hudler and Klepis in Czech scoring.

The Czech has been added to the Sharks roster for the Prospect Tournament in El Segundo, Cal. hosted by the Los Angeles Kings at their practice rink. The tournament starts Sept. 4 and runs through Sept. 8 at the HealthSouth Training Center. Michalek will also be attending the Sharks regular training camp, reporting with all other rookies Sept. 8 after the tournament concludes and will get to play with and against Shark veterans on Sept. 12 in a semi-formal setting for the first time.

San Jose general manager Doug Wilson said in a press release that, “[Michalek] came to us to fast-track in North American transition.”

What the signing means for Michalek’s expected inclusion on the Czech Republic’s World Junior Championship team is uncertain.

Sharks Trade Prospect for a Bolt from the Blueshirts

The San Jose Sharks traded 22-year-old prospect forward Chad Wiseman August 12 to the New York Rangers for 27-year-old winger Nils Ekman.

Wiseman, drafted by the Sharks in the eighth round of the 2000 NHL Entry Draft with the 246th overall pick, had established himself as a good depth forward for the Sharks as a 22-year-old in only his second pro season. After two 50 point seasons in the AHL with the Cleveland Barons, and a four-game stint with the Sharks in March 2003, Wiseman looked like a viable candidate to earn a spot as a depth forward on San Jose’s roster for 2003-04. Instead, Wiseman will now bring his speed, hustle, hands and youth to the New York Rangers as a longshot to make their team. Instead, he’s likely to be a first or second line forward with the Hartford Wolf Pack in 2003-04.

Ekman comes from the Rangers organization after leading the Hartford Wolf Pack in scoring with 30 goals and 36 assists in only 57 games. Like Wiseman, the six-foot 190-pound Ekman has a scrappy side to his game, along with his speed and good hands. What Ekman has over Wiseman is experience at 27 years of age, and some NHL experience with the Tampa Bay Lightning. During the 2000-01 season, after being recalled from the Detroit Vipers of the IHL, Ekman scored 9 goals and 11 assists in 43 games for an offensively challenged team in which Ekman was one of the team’s better overall players.

Despite impressing in Tampa Bay, although his numbers weren’t astronomical, Ekman was dealt with fighting giant Kyle Friedrich to the Rangers for veteran center Tim Taylor for leadership and experience. Ekman never reached an agreement with the Rangers for the 2001-02 season and returned to his native Sweden to play for Djurgarden, where he scored 16 goals and 15 assists in 31 games, third on Djurgarden in scoring despite missing 12 games, and only six points behind leading scorer Mikael Hakanson, who missed one of the team’s 50 regular season games.

Averaging over a point per game in his IHL/AHL career, Ekman now gets a real chance to crack into the NHL full-time again. General manager Doug Wilson said in a press release that, “We all feel that he is a very versatile player who can adapt to any situation and has a chance to play here.”

Ekman fits into the Sharks team dynamic in that his offensive prowess will help make up for offense lost in the subtractions of Teemu Selanne and Owen Nolan, as well as the fact that the Swede is speedy and plays a decent two-way game with some scrappiness. Ekman may fit best on the Sharks third line with Scott Thornton and Mike Ricci, adding some speed to the line while maintaining the level of hustle, defensive awareness, and physical play. However, the signing of Milan Michalek clouds any certainty that Ekman will be in the Sharks everyday line-up.

Sharks Re-sign Two Prospect Defensemen

San Jose also announced with the Ekman trade that defensemen Jesse Fibiger and Robert Mulick had been resigned. Fibiger enters the 2003-04 season with two seasons of AHL hockey with the Cleveland Barons under his belt as well as 16 games with the Sharks to close the season. Sparsely used by coach Ron Wilson, the 25-year-old Fibiger figures to return to Cleveland to start the season, where the 6-3, 200 pound blueliner will offer his fine skating skills and veteran presence to the Barons roster.

Mulick will enter his fifth season in the Sharks fold in 2003-04, after beginning his pro career with the Kentucky Thoroughblades in the 1999-2000 season. A seventh round draft pick of the 1998 NHL Entry Draft, the 6-2, 215 pound Mulick is a defensive defenseman with only eight assists in 208 AHL games. Limited to only 24 games because of a shoulder injury last season, Mulick, who turns 24 in October, looks to bring his leadership to the Sharks AHL affiliate once again as the Barons sixth or seventh defenseman.

Sharks Sign Nolan Schaefer

Although Nolan Schaefer’s position in the organization seemed to be confirmed by the Providence College graduate’s inclusion on the Prospect Tournament roster, the former Friar’s status became official Aug. 19 when the Sharks announced that the goalie had signed a contract.

Challenged by freshman Bobby Goepfert, who starred for Team USA at the World Junior Championships in Halifax, Schaefer came on strong down the stretch and managed to compile a .909 save percentage, a 2.96 goals-against average and a 13-8-2 record en route to being named an Honorable Mention by Hockey East and the winner of the Ron Wilson Award (named after the Sharks current head coach after he starred for Providence College in the mid-seventies) as the Friars top defensive player.

At the end of the collegiate season, the 23-year-old Schaefer seemed destined to become the Cleveland Barons back-up goalie behind AHL-vet Seamus Kotyk. However, with the signing of German prospect goalie Dimitri Pätzold, Schaefer will have to battle Team Germany’s star goalie at the World Junior Championships to avoid being assigned to either of San Jose’s new ECHL affiliates: the Johnstown Chiefs or the Fresno Falcons.

Schaefer becomes the sixth goalie under a pro contract as the Sharks continue to face a dilemma because both Vesa Toskala and Miikka Kiprusoff, battling to be San Jose’s back-up goalie behind Evgeni Nabokov, would have to clear waivers in order to be assigned to Cleveland.

Yet Unsigned

Along with veteran defenseman Scott Hannan and left wing Adam Graves, prospects Jon DiSalvitore and Mark Concannon have not yet been signed. Although it is possible that the Sharks have signed the two collegiate wingers and merely have not announced their signings, the fact that Schaefer’s signing has been announced makes the latter improbable. However, both have been included on San Jose’s Prospect Tournament Roster.

DiSalvitore, a teammate of Schaefer’s at Providence College, was also a Hockey East Honorable Mention, the recipient of the Friars Team MVP and Lou Lamoriello Award for his excellence in the intangible and subtleties of hockey, managed 19 goals and 29 assists in 36 games in 2002-03. The 23-year-old DiSalvitore was also named a finalist for the Walter Brown Award as the top New England-born NCAA DI college hockey player.

Given his accomplishment, the 6-1 185-pound right wing should find himself on the Cleveland Barons roster in 2003-04 on the second or third line.

While DiSalvitore has an impressive collegiate resume, UMass-Lowell River Hawk Mark Concannon does not have such accomplishments on his side. After battling injuries his first two collegiate seasons, the 6-1 215-pound left wing had a decent junior and senior seasons, scoring 21 points in each. While Concannon is not known for high impact offense, the Boston-area native would add some size to the Barons line-up as well as his ability along the boards. Concannon should still end up signed, as San Jose can still sign three more players to pro contracts even if Hannan and Graves are signed.

Note: Josh Gorges and Jonas Fiedler qualify as signed junior players, not professional players under pro contracts for the 50 man limit.

Macho Macho Man

A surprise inclusion on the Sharks Prospect Tournament roster is Slovakian center Michal Macho. The 6-0, 170-pound center had a disappointing 2002-03 season, as he fell from Slovakian Extraleague champion Slovan Bratislava’s third line to their fourth line after two solid seasons for HC Martin and inclusion on Slovakia’s 2001 and 2002 World Junior Championship teams.

Prior to Macho’s 2002-03 season, the 21-year-old was considered a decent two-way center with good face-off skills, but lacking size. Macho finds himself a prime candidate to round out San Jose’s 50-man roster, possibly starting the season in the ECHL instead of toiling on Slovan’s fourth line. Another option would be for Cleveland to sign either Concannon or Macho, keeping them in the Shark fold, but not technically under a San Jose professional contract.

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