The month of December was kind to many of the San Jose Sharks major junior prospects currently playing in the CHL. The month included an offensive player of the month award (to Josh Hennessy/QMJHL), a 14-game point scoring streak (Steve Bernier/QMJHL), a goalie helping promote his country to the top level of the World Junior Championships for 2005 (Patrick Ehelechner/Germany), and a World Junior Championship silver medalist (Josh Gorges/Canada).
Below is a brief update for each of the Shark CHL prospects.
Monction 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 for development in Moncton when he was returned for the 2003-2004 QMJHL season.
Many expected that Bernier would make the Canadian team for the recently completed World Junior Championship in Finland, but he was not invited to the Team Canada tryout camp in mid-December.
“Bernier has played well,” said Sharks General Manager Doug Wilson. “I am slightly biased, but I expected him to be on the World Junior Team.”
Wilson also noted, “Scott Hannan didn’t make it either, so maybe it can be used as motivation.”
The bottom line, according to Wilson, is that “Bernier has 24 goals and is having a good year.”
Despite being left off Team Canada’s WJC team, Bernier was chosen to represent Team QMJHL in the ReMax Canada/Russia Challenge, a pre-cursor to the World Junior Tournament where a team of Russian players played two games against a team of Canadians assembled from each of the three CHL leagues. In those two games Bernier posted one goal and an even rating with four shots on goal.
The 6’3” 228-pound right winger was a scoring tear in the QMJHL, registering at least one point in 14 straight QMJHL games. The streak ended January 11th against Lewiston, but Bernier finished December with 16 points in 10 games while compiling 40 shots on goal and registering a +10 rating.
Bernier has been using his ample frame more to his advantage in recent weeks, playing with more of a physical edge and will continue to be a key to Moncton’s success.
Bernier is currently 16th in scoring in the QMJHL, and the Moncton Wildcats are in second place in the Atlantic Division and their .659 winning percentage is third best in the QMJHL.
* = QMJHL totals do not include CHL/Russian Remax Challenge Games
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, and did so by 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 was named the QMJHL Offensive Player of the Week for the week ending December 8th, and the Player of the Month for December, where he registered three hat tricks (December 5th, 28th, and 31st) and overall posted 12 goals and six assists in nine games. Hennessy became only the second player to win the Player of the Month honor this year as phenom Sidney Crosby captured the honor in October and November.
Much of Hennessy’s success has come since being united with St. Louis prospect Alexei Shkotov, who was acquired via trade from Bernier’s Moncton Wildcats earlier in the season. Since arriving in Quebec, Hennessy and Shkotov have combined for 28 goals and 31 assists in just 41 games.
Hennessy is currently the captain of the Quebec Remparts and fifth overall in the QMJHL scoring race, though the Remparts currently sit in last place in the Eastern Division and their .405 winning percentage is only 11 of 16 QMJHL teams.
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 cause real damage.
Tremblay is currently second in the QMJHL in penalty minutes, but his plus/minus rating is fifth worst in the QMJHL, despite all the time he spends in the penalty box. The Titans are in fourth place in the Atlantic Division and their .326 winning percentage is 15 in the QMJHL, ahead only of Victoriaville.
Many accounts suggest that Tremblay has not been defeated in any fight this year, though the rest of his game still needs major improvements to ever make the NHL level.
Sudbury Wolves (OHL)
San Jose added to its collection of German prospects when the team selected netminder 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 backup goalie at just 17 years old) and playing for the German National team in the World Junior Championships and the Five-Nations Tournament.
However, Ehelechner’s playing address changed when he was selected by the Sudbury Wolves in the CHL Import Draft in June 2003 with the sixth overall pick.
Ehelechner endured October, his worst month in the OHL, but he has rebounded with a much better save percentage and goals-against average in November and December.
Returning to Germany for the Division I World Junior Championships in Berlin December 13th-20th, Ehelechner helped Team Germany earn a promotion for the 2005 World Junior Championships by backstopping Germany to a 3-0-2 record. Ehelechner appeared in four games for Team Germany stopping 92 of 99 shots against (92.39 SV%), posted a GAA of 2.33, and was named the Best Goalie in the tournament.
Ehelechner and the Wolves are in last place in the OHL’s Central Division and their .425 winning percentage places them in a tie for 17 in the 20-team OHL.
|DI WJC Totals||4||7||180||99||.924||2.33||2||0||2||0|
Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
The Sharks signed Kelowna Rocket Josh Gorges to a contract in September 2002 after impressing in training camp on a tryout contract. 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. As Kelowna hosts the 2003-2004 Memorial Cup, Gorges will be involved in the tournament for the second season in a row.
Gorges was invited to Team Canada’s World Junior Championship training camp in mid-December, and was impressive enough to make the Canadian team which went 5-0 during round-robin play and lost in the Gold Medal game 4-3 to Team USA. Gorges and St. Louis Blues prospect Shawn Belle led all Canadian blueliners with a +8 rating (and both were only on the ice for one goal against in the entire tournament). Gorges also posted three assists in Canada’s six games and accumulated four penalty minutes.
The 6’1” 190-pound defenseman impressed many at the tournament. In an interview with Warren Henderson of the Kelowna Capital news, Rockets Coach (and 2002 Team Canada WJC Coach) Marc Habscheid noted, “Josh had a great tournament. He did us proud. It’s too bad he didn’t get rewarded. I know how they all feel.”
Kelowna forward Cam Paddock added, “I know the type of guy he (Gorges) is and he absolutely despises losing. We were all rooting for them, obviously. They just couldn’t hang on. Josh is a good leader as it is and the experience there will help him that much more.”
While with team Canada, Gorges missed nine Kelowna Rockets games, but the Rockets kept up and went an amazing 8-0-1.
Prior to the WJC’s, Gorges was also named to the Canadian Team WHL during the ReMax CHL/Russia Challenge, where he posted two goals and one assist in the two games.
Gorges has captained the Kelowna Rockets to the best record in the WHL, as they currently sit atop the B.C. Division with 67 points in 45 games, good for a .744 winning percentage.
Plymouth Whalers (OHL)
San Jose’s eldest CHL prospect, 19-year-old Jonas Fiedler, was selected by the Sharks in the third round of the 2002 NHL Entry Draft and is currently in his third OHL season. The 6’3″ left-winger from the Czech Republic is currently playing in his third OHL season.
Fiedler is a strong skater and a natural athlete. He’s not afraid to go into the corners and throw body checks, and is a surprisingly good fighter, but he could also use improvement as he has been known to get outmuscled on the puck and needs to be less timid in crashing the net.
The Czech winger’s main trouble is putting the puck in the net. In his rookie OHL season, he tallied seven goals in 68 games and only registered a single assist in six playoff games. Prior to his second OHL season, he bulked up and looked primed to break through with a more impressive season, however he only registered seven goals in 63 regular season games, though he did chip in five goals in 18 OHL playoff games. Behind a strong slapshot, Jonas already has 10 goals this year on a Plymouth team that is known for having a very balanced scoring attack, but Fiedler needs to shoot the puck more to become an NHL caliber player: too often he has deked a defender or goalie and fired off a harmless shot or missed the net entirely.
Fiedler is used as a penalty killer by Plymouth and has also played the point on the team’s power play unit. He even played a few games on defense when the team was thin at that position due to injuries and players playing in the World Junior Championships.
Fiedler and the Wolves are in second place in the OHL’s Western Division, and their .563 winning percentage places the team 10th in the 20-team OHL.
Phil Laugher, Brock Otten, and Rich Krisciunas contributed to this article.