Sharks 2004 draft review

By Kevin Wey

Drafting their first two players from Europe, the San Jose Sharks looked toward their familiar unconventional sources in the later rounds of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. Drafting two players from the major junior ranks, the Sharks chose two prep school players, one high schooler, and three junior A players, including one from a league in its first year of existence.

Sharks Director of Amateur Scouting Tim Burke also continued the Sharks trend of selecting college bound players, as six of San Jose’s 10 picks are either college-bound or bound for junior A, which normally leads to college. San Jose’s two European picks also came from sources increasingly familiar.

The Sharks also continued their New England trend, as five of the 10 picks were either from or played for teams in the Northeast.

An odd collection of picks at first glance, the team’s picks seem less odd with further investigation.

Lukas Kaspar, RW

Round 1, 22nd pick overall

Acquired in a trade with the Dallas Stars, the Sharks opened their draft by selecting Czech right winger Lukas Kaspar with the 22nd pick of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft.

In similar style to the Steve Bernier and Josh Hennessy picks in the 2003 Draft, the Sharks traded up by sending the 28th, 52nd and 91st picks to the Stars for the 22nd and 153rd picks. The 52nd pick was a compensatory pick from the NHL for the loss of unrestricted free agent Teemu Selanne, while the 91st pick was a compensatory pick from the NHL for the loss of unrestricted free agent Mark Messier. Messier was acquired at the 2003 Draft from the New York Rangers for future considerations. Acquired for the sole purpose of receiving a compensatory pick, Messier never played a game for San Jose while the Rangers received the 127th pick in the 2004 Draft.

Kaspar split the 2003-04 season between HC Chemopetrol Litvinov’s Extraleague and junior team. In Extraleague play Kaspar tallied only four goals and two assists in 37 games, but Kaspar’s offensive prowess was more evident in junior league play with 21 goals and 14 assists in 23 games. Usti nad Labem of the Czech First Division received Kaspar on loan for one game, where the 18-year-old scored a goal, and HC Most of the Czech Second Division also received Kaspar on loan for one playoff game.

The Czech Republic called upon Kaspar for the World Junior Championships in Finland, where Kaspar tallied three assists after being scratched the first game. In four exhibition games with the Czech U-20 team Kaspar scored three goals and added five assists.

Kaspar also represented the Czech Republic at the 2003 U-18 tournament, sixth in team scoring with two goals and two assists in six games. The young Czech spent most of the 2002-03 season with Litvinov’s junior team, compiling 14 goals and 14 assists in 26 games. The previous two season Kaspar played for Litvinov’s U-18 team, tallying 76 points in 48 games in 2001-02 and 46 points in 48 games as a 15-year-old in 2000-01.

Sharks Director of Amateur Scouting Tim Burke said of the 6’2” 205-pounder that “he has game-breaking ability to go with his speed and size.”

Burke described Kaspar as a “finisher with a good shot,” but some have questioned the Czech’s defensive awareness and physical game. Burke does not agree.

“I think he showed he can play the physical game,” said Burke. “The way his team trains, the winger tends to be high, but we feel we can work on that with him to bring him back defensively.”

The Ottawa 67’s acquired the Czech’s CHL rights when they selected Kaspar with the 29th pick in the CHL Import Draft. Trading David Halasz to the Oshawa Generals for the 26th pick in the Import Draft, the 67’s took Kaspar’s Litvinov Juniors teammate Jakub Petruzalek, who was drafted by the Rangers in the ninth round of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft.

Ottawa 67’s general manager and head coach Brian Kilrea said, “The players we selected played together and were hoping to come to the same team.”

In obtaining both Kaspar and Petruzalek, who scored 38 goals and 51 assists in 53 games, the 67’s may have a very dangerous duo who will likely comprise two-thirds of Ottawa’s first line.

Making a likely move to North America, Kaspar should also play in the World Junior Championships in Fargo for the Czech Republic, looking to increase his production and help the Czech Republic improve upon its fourth place finish at the 2004 WJC’s in Finland.

Analysis: Born on Sept. 23, 1985, Kaspar was one of the oldest players eligible for the 2004 Draft, much like Milan Michalek in 2003. Kaspar provides the Sharks with the finisher it needs in its prospect system and could end up teamed with Michalek and center Patrick Marleau in the future. Aside from prospects named Ovechkin or Malkin, Kaspar has as good of a chance as any other player drafted in the 2004 Draft of becoming an offensive force in the NHL.

Expected Arrival: Drafted out of Europe, Kaspar could be signed and assigned for minor league assignment this season. But scheduled to play for the Ottawa 67’s in 2004-05, he will most likely join the AHL fold in 2005-06 with NHL arrival in mid 2005-06 or 2006-07.

Thomas Greiss, G

Round 3, 94th pick overall

Originally slated to hold the 63rd pick of the draft, the Sharks traded this late second round pick to the Boston Bruins for the 94th, 129th, and 288th picks. With their first pick acquired from the Bruins the Sharks selected German goaltender Thomas Greiss.

Greiss’ 2003-04 season was spent primarily with the Cologne Jr. Sharks of the German Junior League (DNL), playing 1286 minutes, compiling a .910 save percentage and a 2.61 goals against average. Even more impressive were the 6’1” 192-pound netminder’s 2002-03 DNL stats, where Greiss compiled a .933 save percentage and a 2.16 goals-against average in 1613 minutes.

Team Germany also called upon Greiss to back-up Shark draft pick Patrick Ehelechner DI Group A WJC’s in Berlin. Starting one game, Greiss made nine saves on ten shots from outmatched Hungary in a 9-1 victory, helping Germany earn promotion to the elite WJC tournament in 2005 in Fargo, North Dakota. Greiss also played the final thirty-five seconds of Germany’s final game of the tournament as Ehelechner received a standing ovation from the German crowd.

After returning to Cologne, Greiss broke his glove hand in February, returning to action in March, just before the DI Group B U-18 tournament in Asiago, Italy. Less sharp than he would have been without the hand injury, Greiss’ performance suffered with a .867 save percentage and a 3.43 goals-against as fellow German netminder Youri Ziffzer helped Germany earn promotion to the elite U-18’s in 2005.

Another potential highlight in Greiss’ season also ended in lackluster fashion, as he gave up four goals on ten shots for the in his lone DEL appearance for the Cologne Sharks. Pulled after the first period, Greiss did serve as the Cologne Sharks back-up in 11 other games, firmly establishing himself as Cologne’s third string goalie behind Chris Rogles and Leonhard Wild.

Not widely considered to be a first day pick, Sharks Director of Amateur Scouting Tim Burke said in a press release, “We didn’t want to wait until tomorrow.”

“We feel [Greiss] has the potential to be a No. 1 goalie,” said Burke. “We thought he might not be there at 126 tomorrow.”

Complimented by Burke for his patience, technical abilities and puckhandling abilities, Burke also noted that Greiss “has to work on low angles and wraparounds from in close.”

The Füssen native is set to play as Cologne’s back-up goalie in 2004-05 where he will re-join former Junior Shark teammate and San Jose draft pick Kai Hospelt. Greiss also appears to be the odds-on favorite to be Germany’s starting goalie at the WJC’s in Fargo.

Analysis: Greiss becomes only the latest German Shark goaltending prospect, joining 2001 fourth round pick Dimitri Pätzold and 2003 fifth round pick Ehelechner. Ironically, the 2004 third round pick’s resume is not as impressive as the Sharks other two German netminders. Pätzold had established himself with Erding of the German Second League in his draft year, while Greiss only played in the DNL. Although Ehelechner rarely played in for Hannover of the DEL in his draft year, he was regularly dressed by the Scorpions. Also, Pätzold and Ehelechner had established themselves as starters for the German U-18 team as well, while Greiss did not. However, should Greiss have a successful WJC tournament in Fargo, the Sharks unconventional third round pick could prove keen and warranted.

Expected Arrival: Unselected in the CHL Import Draft, Greiss will play 2004-05 in the DEL, or potentially with a German Second League team if Cologne puts him on loan. Drafted out of Europe, Greiss is eligible for minor league assignment this season if the Sharks so choose, but a 2006-07 arrival after two seasons of DEL action is more likely. He could play major juniors in 2005-06 if selected by a CHL team in the Import Draft.

Torrey Mitchell, C

Round 4, 126th pick overall

With a pick acquired from the Boston Bruins in a 2003 draft day deal, the Sharks selected center Torrey Mitchell from Hotchkiss prep school with the 126th pick of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft.

The 5’11” 185-pound pivot started playing for Hotchkiss in 2002-03, scoring 18 goals and 35 assists in 25 games after playing for College Charles Lemoyne of the Quebec Midget AAA League, where Mitchell was on the All-League team and the league Playoff MVP, as College Charles Lemoyne won the league championship.

In 2003-04 the 19-year-old Mitchell was a New England Prep School Ice Hockey Association DI Team West All-Star on the strength of 25 goals and 37 assists in 25 games, leading Hotchkiss in scoring for the second year in a row.

Set to play for the University of Vermont of the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Confenferece in 2004-05, Hotchkiss head coach Damon White praised Mitchell in a Vermont press release saying, “Torrey has impressed me with his work ethic and leadership.”

“In practice and in games he leads by example,” said White. “I don’t think I ever had a player who worked as hard as Torrey every single day.”

White also noted that Mitchell’s hard work in the weight room the past two years helped the Greenfield Park, Quebec native become a more explosive skater and stronger in the corners and around the net.

The Sharks described Mitchell in a press release as an “excellent competitor who possesses good overall speed and very good hands.”

Born on Jan. 30, 1985, Mitchell is the oldest player selected by the Sharks in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft.

Analysis: Mitchell provides San Jose with another talented forward who has a strong work ethic, not unlike 2002 first round pick Mike Morris. Mitchell is also another player in a long line of Shark draft picks who played prep hockey in New England.

Expected Arrival: Likely play four seasons of college hockey with Vermont, which changes to the Hockey East Association in 2005-06, Mitchell will be ready for AHL assignment in 2008-09.

Jason Churchill, G

Round 4, 129th pick overall

Utilizing their second pick acquired from the Boston Bruins in the 2004 Draft, the Sharks looked towards the net again late in the fourth round selecting Halifax Mooseheads goalie Jason Churchill.

After playing for Antigonish of the Maritime Junior Hockey League in 2002-03, the 18-year-old Churchill played 53 games for the Mooseheads in 2003-04, compiling a .886 save percentage and a 3.73 save percentage. Failing to make the playoffs, Churchill’s 2894 minutes played for Halifax was good for eighth in the QMJHL.

The St. John’s, Newfoundland native was described in a Shark press release as a “good skater who has good balance and agility.”

In a phone interview Halifax Mooseheads head coach Shawn MacKenzie described the 6’3” 190-pound Churchill as a “big goalie who moves pretty well and plays a hybrid butterfly/stand-up style common with many taller goalies.”

MacKenzie also said that Churchill has good mobility and a strong mental game aided by the fact that “he’s even-keeled, doesn’t go through highs and valleys.”

A competitive goalie with excellent work habits, MacKenzie also noted that Churchill needs to improve his puckhandling and rebound control, which MacKenzie noted was true of most young goalies.

Churchill, the first goalie from the QMJHL selected in the 2004 Draft, is due to return to Halifax for the 2004-05 season.

Analysis: At 6’3” 190 pounds Churchill is the Sharks’ tallest goaltender prospect, providing the Sharks with a little size in net, a popular trend most visibly with the Edmonton Oilers first round pick Devan Dubnyk. Going from the Maritime League to QMJHL starter in one year, Churchill is likely closer towards the base of his potential rather than the peak.

Expected Arrival: Born Nov. 5, 1985, Churchill will be eligible for AHL or ECHL assignment in 2005-06, but considering how Pätzold and Ehelechner will likely the Sharks two AHL goalies in 2005-06, with the potential for Greiss to be in North America as well, Churchill will likely play two seasons of juniors before likely ECHL assignment in 2006-07.

Steven Zalewski, C

Round 5, 153rd pick overall

With the fifth round pick acquired from Dallas San Jose selected center Steven Zalewski of Northwood prep school.

Northwood’s team captain and leading scorer with 32 goals and 34 assists in 40 games, the New Hartford, New York native was named the New York State DII High School Player of the Year with New Hartford High School in 2002-03.

The Sharks described the 6’0” 185-pound pivot in a press release as a “well-rounded playmaker who is strong on the puck and who plays good defense.”

Scheduled to play for the Clarkson University of the ECAC in 2004-05, Clarkson head coach George Roll agreed with the Sharks assessment, saying in a Clarkson press release that “Steve is a real good two-way player.”

‘He can play a lot of different roles,” said Roll. “He can be a stopper defensively, a guy you can match up against the opposing team’s top line.”

But Zalewski has considerable offensive talent as well, as his production reflects.

“He has good offensive ability,” said Roll. “He has the ability to put up some good numbers.”

Like Mitchell, Zalewski is highly regarded for his character as well.

“I had the opportunity to coach him on the New York U-17 team and he is just a great person and someone who will be very good in the locker room,” said Roll.

Another major accomplishment of Zalewski’s was playing for the USA Select U-17 team that won a gold medal in Slovakia.

While Mitchell was the oldest prospect drafted by the Sharks in the 2004 draft, Zalewski, born Aug. 20, 1986, is the youngest prospect taken by the Sharks in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft and will be one of the youngest players in the ECAC in 2004-05.

Analysis: Like Mitchell, Zalewski is another hard-working forward in the Mike Morris and Jon DiSalvatore mold. Zalewski is also the seventh Shark pick in the last four drafts to be taken from a New England prep school. Two other picks (Hennessy and Michael Hutchins) played prep hockey prior to junior hockey, while Brian O’Hanley went on to play prep hockey after being drafted out of high school.

Expected Arrival: Likely to play four years for Clarkson, Zalewski will should begin AHL play in 2008-09.

Michael Vernace, D

Round 7, 201st pick overall

Continuing their draft-day deals, the Sharks traded down once again in the fifth round, trading the 152nd pick to the Florida Panthers for the 201st and 234th picks. With their first pick acquired from the Panthers, the Sharks selected Brampton Battalion defenseman Michael Vernace in the seventh round.

After playing two seasons for the Mississauga Reps of the Greater Toronto Hockey League, Vernace was drafted in the ninth round with the 163rd pick by the Brampton Battalion in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) Priority Selection Draft. Drafted by an OHL team, Vernace started 2003-04 with the Bramalea Blues, Brampton’s Tier II Junior A team in the Ontario Provincial Junior Hockey League (OPJHL).

After 33 games with the Blues, compiling three goals and 12 assists, the Battalion came calling for the 6’2” 200-pound blueliner at the end of the season. In two regular season games, the 17-year-old Vernace responded with a goal and an assist. Vernace, pronounced Ver-NOTCH, furthered impressed in the playoffs for Brampton leading the Battalion in defense scoring, tallying two goals and three assists in 11 games. According to Brampton head coach Stan Butler, Vernace’s playoff performance was the key to his selection at the draft.

“I think people were really impressed with the way he performed in the playoffs,” said Butler in a Battalion press release. “There weren’t a lot of really talented defensemen available this year, so I think that made him a desirable commodity.”

Bramalea Blues head coach Shawn Hudson said in a phone interview that the offensive defenseman’s “puck skills are phenomenal.”

Although Vernace has good agility, Hudson noted that the young blueliner has an unorthodox skating style that will need to be improved to step up to the next level. Hudson also said that Vernace needed to improve his upper body strength as well as break a tendency to attempt to do too much.

Like many young defenseman, Vernace’s defense needs polishing.

“Vernace is still learning positional play and what to do and where to go away from the puck,” said Hudson.

Complimented by Hudson for his dressing room presence and his work ethic on the ice, Hudson expects Vernace to become a top 10 scoring defenseman in the OHL before his major junior career is over.

Analysis: Unrated by Central Scouting Service, Vernace is a defenseman on a precipitous rise similar to that of Churchill. He appears set to become one of Brampton’s top defensemen in 2004-05 after going unnoticed in the OPJHL for most of 2003-04. Like young Shark defenseman Christian Ehrhoff, a skater in the NHL Young Stars Game at the 2004 NHL All-Star Weekend, Vernace gives the Sharks another puckmoving defenseman with a little size.

Expected Arrival: Born May 26, 1986, Vernace will not be eligible to play a full AHL season until 2006-07, although Vernace could play in the AHL after the end of the 2005-06 OHL season should Brampton miss the playoffs or be eliminated early in the OHL playoffs.

David MacDonald, D

Round 7, 225th pick overall

With their second pick in the seventh round the Sharks took defenseman David MacDonald from the New England Jr. Coyotes of the Eastern Junior Hockey League. It was the first time since 1999 that the Sharks went to the EJHL for a pick, when San Jose took defenseman Doug Murray from the New York Apple Core in the eighth round. Murray went on to become a Hobey Baker top 10 finalist with Cornell of the ECAC and played for the Sharks AHL affiliate Cleveland Barons in 2003-04.

New England Jr. Coyotes head coach Lincoln Flagg noted in an e-mail correspondence that the 6’4” 200-pound MacDonald had grown six inches since he started playing varsity hockey at St. Paul’s prep school in New Hampshire in 2001.

Flagg said when MacDonald started the season with the Jr. Coyotes, he was one of the team’s weaker defensemen, needing work on his skating and his checking game, having come out of the less physical prep school ranks. MacDonald improved his skating during the course of the season according to Flagg, and also learned to utilize his legs more when checking, having now picked up a penchant for physical play with aggressive play, evidence by his 81 penalty minutes in 37 games.

Despite a modest one goal and five assists, MacDonald does possess decent stick skills. In a press release, the Sharks noted that MacDonald is a “very good passer with a hard and accurate outlet pass.”

Flagg confirms this, noting that MacDonald very rarely turns the puck over in his own zone. The 19-year-old from Halifax, Nova Scotia also possesses a hard point shot said Flagg.

Despite having opportunities to play in Hockey East, MacDonald has chosen to play for the Harvard Crimson, looking forward to the academic challenge of the Ivy League school. MacDonald will join fellow Shark prospect defenseman Tom Walsh on the blueline, as well as center Tom Cavanagh.

While Flagg praised MacDonald’s skill and improvement, he noted his character surpassed his hockey abilities.

“I do not believe MacDonald has even scratched the surface of his potential,” said Flagg. “With his attitude and work ethic I believe the Sharks have secured a player that will develop into a big-time NHLer.”

Analysis: MacDonald provides the Sharks prospect defense depth chart with much needed size because many of San Jose’s top defense prospects like Matt Carle, Dan Spang, Josh Gorges and Garrett Stafford hover are around 6’0” 200 pounds. Although prospects like Doug Murray, Scott Ford, Tim Conboy and Tero Määttä provide some size, these prospects will either be Sharks or out of the system by the time MacDonald graduates from college.

Expected Arrival: Committed to academics, MacDonald will play four seasons of college hockey with the Harvard Crimson and be ready for AHL assignment in 2008-09.

Derek MacIntyre, G

Round 8, 234th pick overall

The Sharks second pick from the Florida Panthers saw the Sharks looking to the net for the third time, taking Soo Indians goalie Derek MacIntyre in the eighth round.

Playing for the Soo Indians of the North American Hockey League (NAHL), MacIntyre was named a NAHL Second Team All-Star after compiling with a NAHL fourth best .924 save percentage and a 1.77 goals-against average. Appearing in 39 games, MacIntyre finished with a 31-3-2 record and four shutouts.

Undrafted and untendered by the NAHL before making the Indians on a tryout, the 6’2” 185-pound MacIntyre is set to play for Ferris State of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) in 2004-05. Ferris State head coach Bob Daniels said of MacIntyre in a press release that “Derek is a big butterfly goaltender who’s technically solid.”

In a phone interview, Soo Indians general manager/head coach Joe Shawhan said that MacIntyre “plays a compact style, in the style of J.S. Giguere.”

Shawhan also stressed that MacIntyre is a good athlete, whose athleticism helps him battle for pucks and make many saves.

“MacIntyre makes the easy saves and a lot of the saves he shouldn’t make,” said Shawhan.

MacIntyre also possesses good mobility in Shawhan’s evaluation, which helps him “play the perimeter of the crease well, instead of just hanging back in the paint like so many goalies do.”

Shawhan also said that MacIntyre is a mentally focused goalie.

“MacIntyre lets things roll off of his back,” said Shawhan. “He does get rattled in situations.”

In the era of puckhandling goalies like Martin Brodeur, Marty Turco and Rick DiPietro, Shawhan noted that MacIntyre does need to improve his puckhandling to continue to succeed at higher levels.

MacIntyre could see significant time in his freshman season at Ferris State, as Daniels noted that MacIntyre should challenge goalie Mike Brown for playing time in 2004-05.

Analysis: Like Churchill, MacIntyre gives the Sharks a goalie with some size who is on a precipitous rise after an impressive rookie NAHL season.

Expected Arrival: With four years of college hockey to play, the Sharks can let MacIntyre develop at Ferris State until the 2008-09 season while others like Pätzold, Ehelechner, Greiss, Churchill and Nolan Schaefer sort things out in the minors.

Brian Mahoney-Wilson, G

Round 9, 288th pick overall

Unrated by the Central Scouting Service, the Sharks took a Boston native with their final pick acquired from the Bruins, selecting Catholic Memorial High School goaltender Brian Mahoney-Wilson.

The nephew of Sharks head coach Ron Wilson, Mahoney-Wilson’s selection is not based in nepotism, as the Boston high schooler compiled a remarkable goals-against average of 1.16 on the strength of six shutouts in 24 games. The 18-year-old goalie is set to play for the Walpole Jr. Stars of the EJHL in 2004-05.

Walpole Jr. Stars head coach Jack Sweeney, a former goalie who still works with the Massachusetts select teams and USA Hockey goalie clinics, said in an e-mail correspondence that Mahoney-Wilson, “is as technically sound of a goalie as you’d want to see.”

Sweeney, who watched Mahoney-Wilson ten times last season, also noted that the Sharks fourth goalie taken in the 2004 draft has quickness, good angles and challenges shooters intelligently. Mahoney-Wilson’s future coach also said the Boston netminder displays confidence and composure, generally a prerequisite for all Shark goalies from Evgeni Nabokov on down.

The 5’10” 150-pound netminders primary weakness, according to Sweeney, is that Mahoney-Wilson needs to put on some pounds and gain some strength. But, all hope is not lost, as Buffalo Sabres goalie Martin Biron started his NHL career at 155 pounds.

Analysis: San Jose’s fourth goalie selected in the 2004 Draft provides the Sharks with even more goaltending depth, diversifying their net investments with a smaller goalie also in the stable.

Expected Arrival: With two years of junior eligibility remaining, Mahoney-Wilson may not arrive on the pro scene until 2010-11 after two years of juniors and four years of college hockey, although the Boston native has not committed to any college yet.

Christian Jensen, D

Round 9, 289th pick overall

After drafting Mahoney-Wilson, the Sharks used their second ninth round pick to draft New Jersey Jr. Titans defenseman Christian Jensen with their final pick of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft.

The first Jr. Titan to be drafted by an NHL team, Jensen was named the Atlantic Junior Hockey League’s 2003-04 Rookie of the Year. In 30 Atlantic League games Jensen tallied only three assists and 18 penalty minutes, but the team also played in various junior tournaments, giving Jensen a total of 8 goals and 21 assists in 48 games, as well as compiling 62 PIMs.

Junior Titans head coach Randy Walker said in an e-mail correspondence that the 6’3” 195-pound Jensen is a defensive defenseman who is good in the corners and an effective crease clearer.

Walker also noted that Jensen has good mobility for his size, good two-way awareness, has an accurate first pass and an accurate hard shot from the point. Like most other Shark picks, Walker also complimented Jensen’s strong character.

Jensen’s primary weakness, according to Walker, is his inexperience, as the 18-year-old Plainfield, New Jersey native did not start playing ice hockey until he was 11 years old, primarily playing roller hockey in his youth. Like many big players, Walker noted that Jensen needs to improve his acceleration and lateral quickness as well as fill out his 6’3” frame further.

After playing with the Jr. Titans, Jensen is set to play for the EJHL expansion New Jersey Hitmen in 2004-05. Sparsely recruited in the AJHL, Jensen’s selection by the Sharks and a season in the EJHL should help increase college teams’ interest in the blueliner.

Analysis: Like MacDonald, Jensen provides the Sharks with another prospect defenseman with some size who also is a project player whose true potential could be considerable considering Jensen’s late start.

Expected Arrival: Like Mahoney-Wilson, Jensen could play two seasons of junior A and four seasons of college hockey delaying a pro arrival as late as 2010-11.

Overall Analysis

San Jose addressed it’s need for a finisher in Lukas Kaspar, but Torrey Mitchell and Steven Zalewski could also become offensive forces in college and contribute later in the AHL and NHL.

Mitchell and Zalewski also display another common trend amongst San Jose draft picks: character. Most Shark picks, especially those drafted on Sunday, are known for their character and work ethics. Players like Marco Sturm serve as the prototypical two-way Sharks forwards with strong work ethics that the Sharks crave. At defense, players such as Scott Hannan and Rob Davison lead the character charge, which draft picks like Michael Vernace, David MacDonald and Christian Jensen look to continue. The Sharks know that players that are not bluechip NHLers require a solid work ethic to become contributing AHL and NHL players.

In net, San Jose continues its trend of selecting goalies who play the hybrid butterfly/stand-up style that Warren Strelow teaches. Most visible in the styles of Shark starter Evgeni Nabokov and former Shark Miikka Kiprusoff, most of San Jose’s goaltenders play a patient even-keeled hybrid style, with San Jose’s two exceptions, Vesa Toskala and Brian Mahoney-Wilson, displaying the Sharks template even-keeled demeanor on the ice.

Selecting four players unrated by Central Scouting Service, coming as early as the fifth round in Zalewski, San Jose draws its prospects from unconventional sources such as Germany, prep school, high school and junior A. The Sharks do not draw heavily from major juniors or any European nation not containing the Elbe River.

With such picks the Sharks can also bide their time, as six of the Sharks selections in the 2004 Draft have four years of college hockey to play, with Jensen and Mahoney-Wilson both potentially six years away from being signed. This tendency is more stark when one considers San Jose has not drafted a player out of college since Tom Cavanagh in 2001. Most of the collegiate picks are actually college-bound, giving these prospects four full years to develop off of the Sharks watch and wallet.

The Sharks drafting strategies may be unique, but the results cannot be denied, as 14 of San Jose’s 24 players to play in the playoffs were drafted by San Jose, including back-up Vesa Toskala who only dressed. On top of that, top-six forward, and former first round pick, Marco Sturm was out with ankle injuries.

One final fact strongly demonstrates San Jose’s belief in the draft and a strong farm system: No prospect currently in the Shark system was acquired from another NHL team. Perhaps more than any other NHL team, San Jose indeed builds through the draft.

Copyright 2004 Hockey’s Future. Do not duplicate without written permission of the editorial staff.