Through their 13 NHL Entry Drafts, the San Jose Sharks have rarely relied upon the CHL for the majority of their prospects. Instead, the Sharks have drafted more from the European talent pool and the US collegiate ranks (NCAA), as well as some players from the United States Hockey League and U.S. prep school ranks. As such, the 2003 NHL Entry draft was a shift for the organization as they selected three players from the CHL, and a fourth that transferred in this year via the CHL Import Draft (goalie Patrick Ehelechner).
The last time the Sharks selected more than two CHL players in an NHL Entry Draft was 1998, the draft year the Sharks drafted seven players out of the CHL, including current Shark regulars Brad Stuart, Jonathan Cheechoo, and Rob Davison. In addition, the Sharks also selected CHL’ers Eric LaPlante, Miroslav Zalesak, Brandon Coalter, and Robert Mulick who are in various stages of their hockey careers (though only Zalesak and Mulick are still with the Sharks organization).
Three leagues and 56 teams currently comprise the CHL, and this article will review the performances of the six Sharks draftees currently playing on those teams.
Sudbury Wolves (OHL)
The Sharks selected Patrick Ehelechner with the 139th overall selection in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. Last year, Ehelechner split the majority of his time between Hannover of the DEL in Germany (where he was a third string goalie at just 17 years old) and playing for the German national team in the World Junior Championships and the Five Nations Tournament.
As a result of his selection by the Sudbury Wolves in the CHL Import Draft with the sixth overall pick in June, Ehelechner has changed his playing address this season. Since moving to North America, Ehelechner has started all but one game for the Wolves, and has already compiled two shutouts, including one in his first OHL game.
Since posting his fifth win on October 21st (which evened his record at 5-5), Ehelechner and the Wolves have hit a bit of a dry stretch, and his record now stands at 5-11.
Hockey’s Future caught up with Ehelechner recently.
HF: How has your transition been moving from Europe to Canada?
PE: Except for the fact that they turned the lights off upon my arrival in Sudbury I didn’t experience any problems at all. Of course nobody around here was responsible for the blackout in August but I will never forget it. The reception in Sudbury was great and I felt “at home” at once. It was so well prepared from the Bobby Orr Group and the Sudbury Wolves that there wasn’t much left to do for me. However, I was busy from day one getting all things together and move on to the Sharks’ goalie camp in Minnesota, followed by the rookie tournament in El Segundo and the camp in San Jose. I appreciate it very much, that they released me earlier so I could meet my new teammates in Sudbury and play in at least one exhibition game before the season got going.
HF: How has your game changed from the large ice surface in Europe to the smaller ice surfaces in North America?
PE: Well, I played the smaller surface the first time at the WJC in Halifax and liked it immediately. It is a more intense game for the goalie and things happen a bit faster and it creates more shots on goal during a game, which I don’t mind. Nevertheless, it did require some adjustments to the game here. It seems that the game concentrates a bit more at the slot in front of the net, which in turn gets the goalie more often screened than I was used to. This again requires me to focus more on the rebounds and in order to better determine the direction where you deflect the puck to. That’s what I am trying to improve right now.
HF: Please describe your feelings after registering a shutout in your first OHL regular season game.
PE: Every shutout is a great thing for a goalie. Even more if you achieve it in your first regular season game with a new club. However nice that may have been for me, it was more the result of a great team effort of the new Sudbury Wolves. I have to thank all the guys who supported me so great in my first OHL game and kept me out of real trouble. I would also like to thank my coach and GM, Mike Foligno, that he trusted my skills and brought me to Sudbury. On the other side, I feel that a victory for the team is much more important than a goalie’s shutout, even though you just can’t lose achieving a shutout.
|November (through game on 11/9)||3||11||180||99||88.9%||3.67||0||3||0||0|
Moncton Wildcats (QMJHL)
Steve Bernier was selected 16th overall in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft by the Sharks, who traded a package of picks to the Boston Bruins to move up to select this big sniper. The Sharks invited Bernier to their training camp this fall where he impressed with some beautiful moves, but also showed there was room to be developed in Moncton where he was returned for the 2003-2004 QMJHL season.
Bernier missed the first four games of Moncton’s season while still attending the Sharks training camp, and has played in all 20 following games since returning. In those 20 games, Bernier has registered 14 goals and 10 assists for 24 points, in addition to a +15 rating (of which he’s in the top-ten of all QMJHL players in +/-). The 6’2” 230-pound Bernier has been chosen one of the “Three Stars” of the game six times thus far, including being selected the “First Star” of the game in just his second game back when he registered two goals and an assist on Sept. 27.
Bernier has been held without a point seven times (including three of his first five games back with Moncton), but he has also recorded more than one point in seven different games, including an four-goal game on Nov. 14, in which he also tallied an assist with seven shots on goal and a plus three rating.
Moncton is currently in third place in the Atlantic Division of the QMJHL, and sixth overall in the 16-team league.
|November (through game on 11/9)||5||9||1||+6||8||26|
|Year to Date||20||14||10||+15||35||71|
Quebec Remparts (QMJHL)
After selecting Bernier with their second draft pick in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, the Sharks again decided to move up the draft board, sending a package of picks to the New York Rangers in exchange for the 43rd overall selection. With that newly acquired pick, the Sharks drafted center Josh Hennessy.
Like Bernier, Hennessy also attended the Sharks training camp this year, where he impressed with his speed and skating.
Hennessy returned to Quebec after missing the first three games of the Remparts season. In the 20 games he’s played, he’s been selected as one of the “Three Stars” of the night seven times, including the “First Star” on Oct. 25 in a game where he registered his second two-goal game of the season.
In addition to his solid scoring numbers, Hennessy is in the top 15 overall in faceoff efficiency among players who have taken more than 200 draws, and his 90 shots on goal land him in the top 10 in the QMJHL.
On top of these achievements, the Massachusetts native is also the captain of the Quebec Remparts.
|Month||GP||Goals||Assists||+/-||PIM||SOG||Faceoff Winning %|
|November (through 11/14)||4||1||3||+1||4||26||55.5%|
|Year to Date||20||9||12||+3||20||90||55.4%|
Acadie-Bathurst Titans (QMJHL)
Jonathan Tremblay was chosen in the seventh round of the 2003 NHL Draft for one reason: his fighting ability. At 6’3” 245 pounds, Tremblay has the size to inflict damage in any donnybrook.
Unfortunately, he had a lot to improve upon while skating at the Sharks training camp this year and does not appear to have improved offensively or defensively. Tremblay does currently lead the QMJHL with 127 penalty minutes, but his -13 is currently among the worst in the QMJHL (despite all the time he spends in the penalty box).
|November (through game on 11/8)||4||0||0||-4||24||2|
|Year to Date||20||2||0||-13||127||15|
Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
The Sharks signed Kelowna Rocket Josh Gorges to a contract in September 2002 while skating on tryout with the club during training camp. After training camp, Gorges returned to the Rockets and was one of the keys to their 2002-03 WHL Championship and trip to the 2003 Memorial Cup, which was won by the Kitchener Rangers of the OHL.
Unfortunately for the Rockets, they lost a significant amount of talent this summer, and as such they started very slowly. However, the Rockets are 7-2-1 in their last 10 games and have moved into second in the British Columbia Division. With many players moving on, the Rockets named Gorges their captain this season.
Gorges leads the Rockets as the best defensive team in the WHL, as they’ve only allowed 37 goals so far in 21 games using a neutral zone trap. Penalty killing has also been successful, allowing only nine power-play goals in 107 opportunities against. Averaging 31 shots a game on offense, the Rockets average only 20 shots against and have been out-shot only once this season. In the true mark of a solid defensive team, Kelowna is 11-0-0 when leading after two periods.
|November (through game on 11/11)||6||1||3||+4||6|
|Year to Date||21||2||9||+4||16|
Plymouth Whalers (OHL)
Jonas Fiedler was selected by the Sharks in the third round of the 2002 NHL entry draft and is already playing in his third junior season.
The tall Czech left winger managed a five game point-streak from Oct. 18 to Oct. 31, during which he compiled two goals and three assists. Ironically another member of the extended Sharks family, Sudbury goalie Patrick Ehelechner, helped end the 6’3” Fiedler’s streak.
Of Fiedler’s 11 points on the year, four were registered on Sept. 26, when he notched a goal and three assists in a 5-2 win at Kingston. On the flip side of that coin, on opening night (Sept. 19 at Kitchener), Fiedler was a -5 in a 10-4 defeat to the winners of last year’s Memorial Cup.
|November (through game on 11/9)||4||0||1||-1||2|
|Year to Date||20||3||8||-2||19|