Sharks 2004 rookie review

By Jeff Zank

Now that it’s the summer, and the Sharks season over, Hockey’s Future looks at the impact several Shark prospects made with the team in 2003-04. This past season presented several Shark rookies an opportunity as the team subtracted a number of veteran players from the 2002-03 roster in favor of talent youth, including Milan Michalek, Christian Ehrhoff, Marcel Goc, Rob Davison, Niko Dimitrakos, Jim Fahey and Tom Preissing.

Hockey’s Future talked to Sharks assistant coach Rob Zettler to get his feedback on each rookie’s strengths and areas of needed improvement for the coming season.

Milan Michalek

Drafted in the first round in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft with the sixth overall pick, Michalek was expected to play in the AHL entering the 2003-04 season. However, the 19-year-old winger made the opening night lineup based on his speed, strength and consistent play during training camps. The Czech scored a goal in his first NHL game Oct. 9 against the Edmonton Oilers, but the 6’2” 215-pound winger was tore his ACL in his second NHL game, requiring knee surgery. After rehabbing the knee Michalek was assigned Jan. 22 to the Cleveland Barons, the Sharks American Hockey League affiliate. After seven games with the Barons, Michalek retore his ACL Feb. 7 against the Manitoba Moose, ending his season.

Where Michalek starts next season will depend on how he looks in training camp, just like 2003-04.

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Milan Michalek
Season Team League GP G A TP +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG SH
2003-04 San Jose NHL 2 1 0 1 +1 4 0 0 0 1
2003-04 Cleveland AHL 7 2 2 4 +1 4 1 0 0 10
Rob Zettler on Milan Michalek

HF: Milan had a season of highs and lows. He made the team in training camp and scored his first NHL goal before spending most of the season on the injury list. What are his strengths and areas of improvement to become a contributing NHL player?

RZ: We pegged him early on as going to Cleveland or back to his homeland to develop. During both summer development and fall training camps he really impressed us with his speed, strength and competitiveness. His play was also pretty consistent and proved that he belonged in the NHL. His biggest strengths are his speed and strength… unfortunately we did not get the chance to see him over the duration of the season. He’s pretty aware defensively, I don’t think he knows how good offensively he can be yet, and he’s got a very good shot. He needs to use it more when he gets the opportunity, to learn when and where to use his shot, as well as finding the holes and gray areas on the ice to get into position to get the scoring chance.

HF: It’s a shame that he didn’t get to play the whole season.

RZ: Yeah, he missed a whole year of development; it may take 9-12 months to get back to where he was before the injury.

HF: What’s best for him at this point, a year to develop in the AHL or develop his game or play in the NHL?

RZ: It all depends on how he bounces back from the injury and where the Sharks are personnel-wise. We want to take every step and ensure his development is done properly, we don’t want to rush him into a situation that may feel right in the short term yet not be the right long term decision. We want to do whatever is best for Milan and the Sharks in the long term.

Christian Ehrhoff

The 21-year-old Ehrhoff skated his first season on the smaller North American ice sheet in 2003-04 after playing three full seasons with the Krefeld Penguins of the German Elite League (DEL), compiling 23 goals and 57 assists in 193 games. Ehrhoff’s resume also included appearances for the German nation team at the World Junior Championships, World Championships and the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, in which Ehrhoff was the youngest player in the tournament.

With veteran defenseman Brad Stuart out of the line-up due to injury, Ehrhoff cracked San Jose’s opening night roster, skating nearly 23 minutes Oct. 9 against the Edmonton Oilers. The German blueliner was assigned to Cleveland Oct. 21, but was recalled again in November, tallying his first point Nov. 15 with a power play assist and his first goal Nov. 26 against the Chicago Blackhawks, beginning his first point streak of three games with a goal and three assists.

In February Ehrhoff played in the Young Stars Game at the NHL All-Star Weekend, and was then assigned to Cleveland for a three-game weekend, but recalled again to San Jose, only to be sent back to Cleveland after the Sharks acquired veteran defenseman Jason Marshall from the Minnesota Wild for the stretch drive and playoffs.

With 12 points in 41 NHL games, Ehrhoff placed second behind Brad Stuart in points per game for a Sharks defenseman, and Ehrhoff backed this up with 14 points in 27 AHL games, along with a +14 rating for the Barons. Ehrhoff’s playoff production with Cleveland was even more impressive with two goals and six assists in nine games, but his team-worst -9 rating was alarming.

The speedy Ehrhoff could afford to improve the accuracy of his hard point shot, as well as add 20 pounds of muscle to his 6’2” 195-pound frame to help him compete better in front of the net or along the boards. Long-term, Ehrhoff has the potential provide the Sharks with the elite offensive defenseman they’ve lacked since Sandis Ozolinsh was traded to Colorado for Owen Nolan.

Christian Ehrhoff
Season Team League GP G A TP +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG SH
2003-04 San Jose NHL 41 1 11 12 +4 14 0 0 1 58
2003-04 Cleveland AHL 27 4 10 14 +14 43 2 0 2 80
2003-04* Cleveland AHL 9 2 6 8 -9 11 2 0 0 36
Zettler on Christian Ehrhoff

HF: Ehrhoff was able to come from European hockey with a different style of play, difference size sheet of ice and come to his first ever training camp and make the team out of training camp.

RZ: Christian is a tremendous talent, he skates like the wind, he’s quick, and he’s got absolute cannon for a shot and is very good on the power play. He gives you a lot of flash where he’s very exciting to watch, I’ve very excited about the possibilities for Christian. He’ll get a chance to play in the NHL again next season for sure. He needs to work on some things like defensive zone coverage, being stronger on the puck and battling for the puck in defensive situations. He’s a good kid who wants to get better and is great to coach. Here’s another player that just needs some more playing time at the pro level to continue his development.

HF: He has that knack for knowing when to jump into the play.

RZ: Yes he does, he also has the speed to get back into a defensive position when caught up ice.

HF: Rob, how do you “coach” prospects on play at the NHL level. For example: I know that some goalies have a book on player’s tendencies, etc. Being a former NHL defenseman what do you teach these guys?

RZ: Before every game we give tendencies on every player, especially the good players. The intent is to let our defensemen know what to expect from these guys during the game. For the most part, our defensemen are pretty well schooled at how to defend one-on-one, in the corner, or in front of the net. For example: Forsberg likes it when you attack him so you might want to lay off him a bit in some situations. There is a reason why great players are great players: their moves work.

Marcel Goc

After skating the entire regular season with the Cleveland Barons, Marcel Goc made his mark in five playoff games with the San Jose Sharks.

After four full seasons in the DEL with Schwenningen and Mannheim, the 20-year-old Goc put up 16 goals and 21 assists in 78 games with the Barons, serving as one of the Barons top penalty killers because of his strong two-way awareness. With veteran German Shark Marco Sturm injured, Goc was recalled by the Sharks for the playoffs, paying dividends in his first game versus the St. Louis Blues.

In Game 6, Goc acquitted himself well and managed to assist on Mark Smith’s game-winning goal to send the Sharks to the second round. Goc scored the game-winning goal against the Colorado Avalanche in his second game, sending the Sharks to the Western Conference Finals. The young center also played three games against Calgary, but his inexperience was exploited by Craig Conroy in Game 6, when the veteran American center drew a faceoff forward sending Martin Gelinas on for a breakaway goal as Calgary won the series.

The 6’1” 195-pound center has a good shot of cracking San Jose’s roster, especially after trade deadline acquisition Curtis Brown was not given a qualifying offer and has since signed with the Chicago Blackhawks.

Marcel Goc
Season Team League GP G A TP +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG SH
2003-04 Cleveland AHL 78 16 21 37 +3 24 0 1 5 195
2003-04* San Jose NHL 5 1 1 2 +1 0 0 0 1 1
Zettler on Marcel Goc

HF: Goc also played in Europe this prior to this season in North America and had similar adjustments in his game to make. He did not make the team out of training camp and appeared to have a slow start in Cleveland. He finished strong with the Barons and played his first NHL game in the playoffs for the Sharks.

RZ: We were very impressed with Marcel from the get-go because of the way he approached the game mentally: he’s very calm and a very smart hockey player. He’s a very good defensive player, knows where to be and how to support the puck. He’s good defensively in our zone, which really showed in the playoff games. He’s good on faceoffs and is a very smart player: I would think the wingers that play with him will really love it. I would expect that Marcel would have every opportunity to play at the NHL level this year if he plays the way he played in the playoff games for the Sharks this past year.

Rob Davison

After playing 15 games for the Sharks late during the 2002-03 season, defenseman Rob Davison won a permanent spot on the Sharks 2003-04 roster.

As a contrast to Ehrhoff, Davison provides the Sharks with a 6’3” 220-pound physical defenseman willing to drop the gloves and defend teammates. In 55 regular season games, Davison tallied only three assists, but the physical blueliner did accumulate 92 PIMs, second on the Sharks behind only enforcer Scott Parker’s 101 PIMs.

Serving as the seventh defenseman, Davison was scratched numerous times in the regular season, and scratched more often in the playoffs, playing in only five of the team’s post-season matches. However, Davison did put up two assists playing his spirited style replacing then scratched Tom Preissing.

The hard-working Davison still holds the inside track as the Sharks seventh defenseman in 2003-04.

Rob Davison
Season Team League GP G A TP +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG SH
2003-04 San Jose NHL 55 0 3 3 -3 92 0 0 0 33
2003-04* San Jose NHL 5 0 2 2 0 4 0 0 0 2
Zettler on Rob Davison

HF: Davidson’s a good example of a player spending some time working on his game in the AHL and earning the chance to play at the NHL level this past year.

RZ: Yeah, you want to talk about a guy that’s done it the right way. When he was first drafted, if you watched him, I don’t think anybody thought he was going to play in the NHL. It’s really a credit to Rob and the way the scouts and coaches handled him before I got here, and Roy Sommer down in Cleveland did a great job with him through his development as well. Rob’s hard work has enabled him been able to play at this level. He makes the simple play, the simple breakout, he’s physical, he stands up for his teammates and those are the things that got him, and will keep him, in the NHL. Rob is a do-anything-for-your teammate kind of player, which is hard to come by… stand up for your teammates, muck it up in the corner, get dirty. A lot of teams want those kind of players and we’re real happy, and lucky, to have Rob with the Sharks. He gives us depth and quality minutes and is a great example of what can happen if you are patient in the development of a player.

HF: I’ve noticed that Rob has this style of running on his skates for the first two or three steps.

RZ: Yeah, we’re trying to get him to stay down and stay in the power position all the time. He needs to settle down a bit; sometimes late in the game he can a little wound up. He needs to keep it simple all the time, continue to play physical, and he’ll have a good career in this league. If he try’s to get fancy, he gets in trouble. Rob is a real quality and nice guy off the ice also.

Niko Dimitrakos

Despite not cracking the Sharks line-up out of training camp, Niko Dimitrakos soon found his way back to San Jose contributing offensively, most notably in the playoffs.

The 24-year-old right winger started the season with the Cleveland Barons, putting up eight points in seven games. A healthy scratch by Roy Sommer for one game after sulking because of the demotion, Dimitrakos was named the AHL Player of the Week Oct. 27 and recalled by the Sharks.

With his incredibly soft hands, Dimitrakos put up nine goals and 15 assists in 68 games for the Sharks, primarily playing on lower lines with less-talented players offensively. Dimitrakos got a real chance when teamed with Patrick Marleau and Vincent Damphousse on the first line during the second round of the playoffs against Colorado, tallying seven assists in the series. The 5’11” 200-pounder totaled one goal and eight assists in 15 games, fourth in Shark playoff scoring. Despite solid offensive output, Dimitrakos was scratched for two playoff games as the Sharks looked to buckle down defensively.

Now 25 years old, Dimitrakos enters the 2004-05 season with a strong probability of cracking the line-up again, but on what line remains to be determined, as Dimitrakos could once again be the offensive force on the fourth line again.

Niko Dimitrakos
Season Team League GP G A TP +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG SH
2003-04 San Jose NHL 68 9 15 24 +6 49 2 0 4 116
2003-04 Cleveland AHL 7 4 4 8 +7 4 1 0 0 23
2003-04* San Jose NHL 15 1 8 9 +2 8 0 0 1 22
Zettler on Niko Dimitrakos

HF: Dimitrakos is another player that did not make the team out of training camp yet played a lot of quality minutes in the NHL this season.

RZ: Yeah, he’s a very skilled player. He’s crafty with the puck, smooth and probably has one of the softest set of hands on the team; he’s very creative on the ice. He needs to play at a high level every single game, keep moving the puck. When he tries to play a lot of one-on-one hockey, he gets in trouble. There’s a lot of good defense in this league that this [one-on-one play] won’t work on. He’s the kind of player that can bring you out of his seat with his moves or on a breakaway — he’s incredible. He needs to compete every single shift. When he plays with the better players on the team he needs to get them the puck instead of hanging on to it too long.

HF: There is a perception regarding Dimitrakos that he needs to work on the part of the game away from the puck.

RZ: Yeah, that’s a good point also. Sometimes he has a tendency to kind of be off on the side. He’s open, but the puck would have to go through 10 people to get there, so the chances of him getting the puck are pretty minimal. He needs to find the gray areas and holes where his teammates can get him the puck.

HF: He seems to have patented that toe drag move.

RZ: Yeah, he is good at it, no question. He gets a lot of guys on it. You can’t do that move all the time in this league, you’ll get knocked down or guys will catch up with you.

Jim Fahey

A 24-year-old sophomore Shark, defenseman Jim Fahey spent nearly half of the season with the Cleveland Barons, but spent nearly as much time as a scratch for the Sharks.

Fahey started the season in San Jose, but with one assist in 13 games, the 6’0” 200-pound Fahey was re-assigned to Cleveland. Upon arriving in Cleveland, Fahey started playing a more feisty game, putting up 64 penalty minutes in 32 games. Known for the 20 points he accumulated in 43 games for the Sharks in 2002-03, the puckmoving defenseman tallied one goal and 18 assists with the Barons.

Recalled for a Mar. 7 game against Dallas, Fahey demonstrated his new scrappy style against the Stars getting into two fights. Fahey also played the next game Mar. 9, but was a scratch the rest of the regular season. Sharks head coach Ron Wilson scratched Fahey for most of the playoffs as well, appearing in only two games, averaging 4:41 minutes of ice time.

Now 25 years old, Fahey may continue to be the victim of a numbers game in 2004-05, as the puckmoving defenseman is in direct competition with Preissing and Ehrhoff for roster spots. Considering the sheer number of defensemen the Sharks have under pro contract, Fahey could easily be trade bait later in the summer, or a needed veteran to expose in the waiver draft.

Jim Fahey
Season Team League GP G A TP +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG SH
2003-04 San Jose NHL 15 0 2 2 -2 18 0 0 0 19
2003-04 Cleveland AHL 32 1 18 19 -2 64 0 0 0 65
2003-04* San Jose NHL 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Zettler on Jim Fahey

HF: Another player that we did not see much of this past season in the NHL is Jim Fahey, it seems like the Sharks have a glut of talented defense that are NHL ready.

RZ: Yeah, that’s a good problem to have. With the injury and trades last year it was a little bit of too much too soon for Jim. He played a lot of minutes for us, which is not the right way you want to go for young guys. It probably cost him a little bit this year. He needs to be able to focus and compete every single shift, and practice for that matter. It’s getting tough, there’s a lot of competition with Preissing, Ehrhoff, and Doug Murray coming up the pike… Jimmy’s going to have to come to training camp and be ready to compete every game and practice.

HF: Is there a part of his game that needs polishing for NHL play?

RZ: He needs to be a little bit better at d-zone coverage, move the puck a little bit quicker. Sometimes he’ll get caught watching his pass or getting a little puck-focused and not being aware of what’s going on around him. For the most part this happens a lot with young defensemen. Good teams take advantage of all five players on the ice if you’re not aware of what’s going on around you, you can get yourself in trouble. He just needs to compete a little bit better in the defensive zone.

HF: What about his offensive skills and playing on the power play?

RZ: He’s pretty smooth with it back there, he doesn’t panic with it on the blue line, and he does dish it well… [He] finds the open man. That’s one aspect of the game. We expect that players will play all aspects of the game in the NHL.

Tom Preissing

An undrafted free agent signed in April 2003, defenseman Tom Preissing not only made the Sharks opening night roster, the Colorado College grad played the most games and quality minutes of any Shark rookie.

Named the Sharks PlayStation “Rookie of the Year,” the former Hobey Baker top ten finalist compiled two goals and 17 assists in 69 games with the Sharks. Pairing primarily with veteran Shark defenseman Mike Rathje, the 25-year-old Preissing provided the Sharks with a smooth skating smart defenseman who displayed maturity in his own zone compared to the other Shark rookie defensemen.

Preissing also started out as the rookie defenseman of favor in the playoffs, having averaged over 18 minutes of ice time per game during the regular season, but became a healthy scratch for six Shark post-season contests, finishing with one assist in 11 games.

A smaller defenseman at 6’0” 200 pounds, Preissing adjusted rather well to the pace of the NHL game out of college, and committed only six minor penalties during the entire season while many rookie defensemen find themselves hooking and slashing when caught out of position. Preissing enters the 2004-05 season as the Sharks most likely candidate as the fifth defenseman with Jason Marshall an unsigned unrestricted free agent unlikely to return.

Tom Preissing
Season Team League GP G A TP +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG SH
2003-04 San Jose NHL 69 2 17 19 +8 12 2 0 1 89
2003-04* San Jose NHL 11 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 7
Zettler on Preissing

HF: Preissing consistently got the most ice time in the regular season and playoffs out of all the rookies defenseman.

RZ: Yeah, he kind of moved his way up the pecking order in a hurry and that’s a real credit to him. He’s a more mature player, which helped him. He has a great stick, knocked down a lot of pucks, he’s pretty smooth out there. He and Rathje really worked well together. Tommy needs to be a little more competitive on pucks and in his d-zone coverage and work on getting his shot from the point through. We were really happy with the way Tom played, he played a lot of quality minutes for us, last minute of the game and he’ll only get better. He’s a very smart and versatile player. You can count on him to play in almost any situation.

Vesa Toskala

Despite playing one game in 2001-02 and 11 games in 2002-03, the 26-year-old Vesa Toskala still qualified as a rookie by NHL standards in 2003-04, surpassed only by emergent Boston Bruins rookie netminder Andrew Raycroft.

Playing 28 games for the Sharks in 2003-04, Toskala managed an NHL eighth-best .930 save percentage and a fourth-best 2.06 goals-against average, both very comparable to Raycroft’s numbers. Despite accumulating superior numbers to starter Evgeni Nabokov during the regular season, Toskala rode the pine in the playoffs, watching fellow Finn and former Shark teammate Miikka Kiprusoff and the Calgary Flames deal the Sharks an exit from the playoffs.

One of the biggest question marks entering the season was which Shark netminder would be traded, as the Sharks started with Nabokov, Toskala and Kiprusoff. Kiprusoff was traded to the Calgary Flames Nov. 16 as the Sharks held on to Toskala as their back-up goalie.

While Kiprusoff went onto a fantastic season with the Flames, Kiprusoff never established himself superior to Toskala while both were in San Jose. In fact, even Nabokov’s numbers have not equaled Toskala’s each of the past two seasons as the Finn, who will represent Finland at the World Cup. Toskala established himself as one of the NHL’s top back-ups in 2003-04, giving San Jose one of the top goaltending duos in the NHL.

Vesa Toskala
Season Team League GP MIN W L T SV SH SV% G.AA SO
2003-04 San Jose NHL 28 1540 12 8 4 707 760 .930 2.06 1

Zettler on Steve Bernier and Josh Hennessy

Coach Zettler was also shared some thoughts on Sharks prospects developing in the system.

Milan Michalek was not the only first round pick the Sharks had in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, right winger Steve Bernier was also selected by the Sharks with the 16 pick overall. The Sharks power forward of the future, Bernier should sign his first pro contract after he completes the 2004-05 season for the Moncton Wildcats.

Another top Shark prospect is center Josh Hennessy, drafted in the second round of the 2003 draft, who was one of the top offensive forces in the QMJHL in 2003-04. The speedy Quebec Rempart could become the Sharks future second line center.

HF: Steve Bernier is another player the Sharks organization is high on for the future.

RZ: We had him for summer and training camps last season and expect to do the same again this year. Steven needs to work on his skating and get a little bit quicker, he has a tremendous shot, he really has a knack for getting into the right areas to generate scoring chances, he’s not afraid to go to the net, he’s very strong, competes well in front of the net and for scoring chances. I don’t know if we’ll see him next year or not. I know he’s got another year of junior eligibility.

HF: Do you think he’s a couple of years out?

RZ: I would imagine so, again this is a case where the we draft players at a younger age than any other league. We don’t want to rush any player for short term gain at the expense of a longer term career for the player and Sharks overall.

HF: How about Josh Hennessy?

RZ: Had a great year that included a little shoulder injury, which I’m sure he’ll get fixed up and will be ready to go for training camp. He just needs a little more experience. We really haven’t seen a lot of him so it’s hard to predict where and when he’ll arrive.

HF: It’s exciting to have a couple of prospects like Steve and Josh developing for a couple of years out giving the sharks some depth.

RZ: Well that’s just it, if you can have success at the major league level. If there is an injury, or you have to make a trade for what ever reason, it’s nice to know that you have some guys coming up that can fill those roles.

Zettler on Other Shark Prospect Defensemen

HF: The Sharks have several other players developing. Can you provide our readers with any strengths or weakness analysis based on what you’ve seen of these players?

RZ: Sure.

HF: Anything on Matt Carle or Dan Spang?

RZ: Nope, I really haven’t seen much of them to say at this point.

HF: How about Josh Gorges?

RZ: Smaller player, but a really competitive kid who moves the puck well and is good on the power play. He’s a guy that wants to get into the thick of it, plays physical and hits people. With his stature, he’ll have to be a little more patient in defending the rush and the one-on-one play and learn to angle players better and rub them out. His offensive game is very good and he plays a lot of minutes. We expect a lot of him in the up and coming years.

HF: Garrett Stafford?

RZ: Roy Sommer, head coach of the Cleveland Barons, compares him to Dan Boyle of Tampa. Dan bounced around the minors a bit and finally found a home in Florida and Tampa. He thinks Garrett is as good as player as Dan Boyle is as far as he moves the puck, he’s great on the power play, doesn’t panic on the power play, moves it well out of his zone. He’s a little smaller in stature, so I’m not sure how he plays the physical game, but I’ll have a chance to see that in training camp for sure.

HF: Doug Murray?

RZ: Had a tremdous year, he has to work on his foot speed and agility. I saw him play a game in Cleveland and he had three major league hits and every time we ask who’s playing well in Cleveland, Doug’s name always came up. It’s a credit to him because he works tremendously hard. He’s very focused, very coachable. He’s a guy you love to have on your team because he sticks up for his teammates. He’s really fun to watch because he catches guys at just at the right time with his big hits and sends guys flying because he’s a big big man. I think he’s probably a guy to watch down the road too.

Cups of Coffee in 2003-04

In addition to rookies mentioned above, Brad Boyes, Miroslav Zalesak, Lynn Loyns and Patrick Rissmiller all saw limited action with team teal this season. None of these players made an impact at the NHL level, as none of these players tallied a point for the Sharks.

Loyns played two games in 2003-04 for the Sharks after playing 19 in 2002-03, but was traded to the Calgary Flames Jan. 9 to ensure the Sharks received a conditional second round pick from Calgary in 2005 from the Miikka Kiprusoff trade.

Boyes played one game for the Sharks Mar. 7, but was traded two days later to the Bruins in the three-way deal that brought Curtis Brown to the Sharks from the Buffalo Sabres. The young center had been one of the Barons best players since being acquired the previous March with Alyn McCauley in the Owen Nolan trade with Toronto.

Both Zalesak and Rissmiller were returned to Cleveland after short stints. Zalesak played ten games for San Jose in 2002-03, but played on two games for the Sharks in 2003-04. Rissmiller was recalled for a four-game stint in November after a hot start in the AHL. Both Zalesak and Rissmiller were given qualifying offers by the Sharks, but will have to out-compete several more highly-rated prospects to earn another chance in the NHL next season.

Also dressing for the Sharks was goaltender Nolan Schaefer, who dressed as the Sharks back-up on separate occasions when Nabokov and Toskala were injured. The rookie pro started the season with the Fresno Falcons of the ECHL, but Schaefer became the Cleveland Baron’s number one netminder after beating out Dimitri Pätzold while Seamus Kotyk was injured.

Departing Prospects

While prospects such as Zalesak, Rissmiller and defenseman Matt Carkner were given qualifying offers, likely to be assigned to Cleveland, others such as goaltender Seamus Kotyk, right wing Willie Levesque, left wing Yuri Moscevsky and defenseman Robert Mulick were not tendered qualifying offers by the Sharks.

Despite playing his best AHL season to date, the 23-year-old Kotyk finds himself the odd-man out with Schaefer’s emergence as Cleveland’s top goalie. Kotyk appeared in 30 games compiling a 2.48 goals against average and .925 save percentage during the regular season, but only Schaefer played in the post-season. Signed by the Sharks prior to the 2001-02 season as an unsigned pick of the Boston Bruins, Kotyk should catch on with another NHL club for AHL depth.

While Kotyk impressed, Levesque has failed to do so. After playing all of 2002-03 for Cleveland, Levesque split time between Cleveland and Johnstown of the AHL. Returning to the line-up in November from a broken hand, Levesque put up only one goal and two assists in 27 games with the Barons and five goals and six assists in 31 ECHL contests. Levesque also played in seven playoff games for the Barons, adding an assist. With questionable skating skills, Levesque finds himself on the way out and will likely only catch on with a minor pro team.

The Barons primary enforcer the past two seasons, Moscevsky also finds himself on the way out. Tallying two goals and three assists in 52 games, Moscevsky had a team-worst -7 rating. Leading the Barons with 167 PIMs, Moscevsky is not allowed to play in Canada by the Canadian government due to crimes committed in his past, a la Bob Probert. The acquisition of Scott Parker at the NHL level and the signing of junior enforcer Glen Olson, who is eligible to play pro hockey this season after spending 2003-04 with Kootenay of the WHL, made Moscevsky expendable. Moscevsky should provide a minor pro team an enforcer who actually has some skill.

A veteran AHL defenseman of five seasons, Robert Mulick will not return to the Sharks organization in 2004-05. With the additions of Josh Gorges, Scott Ford, and Tim Conboy to the Barons roster in 2004-05, the defensive defenseman became expendable. Like Levesque, the upright skating Mulick should catch on with a team at the minor pro level.

Another prospect defenseman, Jesse Fibiger, finds himself as an eligible Group VI free agent, now 26 years old and having played fewer than 80 NHL games. Fibiger played 16 games for the Sharks in 2002-03, but played the entire 2003-04 season with Cleveland. The smooth skating defensive defenseman totaled five goals and 12 assists in 55 games for the Barons and could catch on as a depth defenseman for another NHL club’s system.

Left winger Jon DiSalvatore also is departing the organization, having signed with the St. Louis Blues. A hard-working player with strong two-way awareness, DiSalvatore put up 22 goals and 24 assists in 74 games, proving he deserved a two-way NHL contract. Unknown at the time, it is now apparent that the Sharks did not sign DiSalvatore to a two-way contract in 2003-04, instead DiSalvatore signed an AHL contract with the Barons. Cleveland’s loss is St. Louis’ gain, as the 23-year-old could challenge for a roster spot on a team looking to cut payroll and insert youth into the line-up. At worst, DiSalvatore should provide a significant upgrade for the Worcester Ice Cats, the Blues AHL affiliate, ready for recall by St. Louis as needed.

Kevin Wey and Aaron Beck contributed to this article
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