Containing no big-name prospects in Europe in 2003-04, the San Jose Sharks still had two players represent their country at the World Junior Championships and two other former WJC players make significant contributions to their Elite League teams.
The latest in San Jose’s list of German draft picks, 2003 seventh round pick Kai Hospelt completed his first full season in the German Elite Hockey League (DEL).
Only 18 years old, Hospelt started the season on the Cologne Sharks third line with Phoenix Coyotes prospect Edward Lewandowski and Tino Boos. Tallying an assist Sept. 7 in the second game of the season, Hospelt soon fell to the fourth line teaming with the talented, but undrafted, Markus Kink and Boris Blank. After the Deutschland Cup break in early November, Hospelt’s linemates varied, but he did score a power play goal Nov. 28, his first DEL goal after 50 DEL games, having played six games in 2001-02 and 21 games in 2002-03.
Hospelt left Cologne Dec. 10 to play for Team Germany at the Division I World Junior Championships. In five games, Hospelt scored two goals and added two assists, center the team’s second line with Axel Hackert and Yannick Seidenberg. Germany won the gold medal, and promotion to the elite division World Junior Championships in 2005, but Hospelt’s four points were only good for ninth in Team Germany scoring. His production was hurt by the disappointing play of Seidenberg, of whom much was expected having averaged a point per game with Medicine Hat of the Western Hockey League.
After returning from the WJC’s, having missed for DEL games, Cologne moved Hospelt from center to right wing on a line with Kink and center Steve Palmer. He tallied an assist in his second game back Dec. 26, but soon found WJC teammate Kink replaced by left winger Ron Pasco in early January. Shortly thereafter, he added his second goal of the season Jan. 11. In Cologne’s next game, Sebastian Furchner was placed on Hospelt’s line, aiding neither in offensive production. Following the DEL All-Star break and the Swiss Cup break in the first two weeks of February, Hospelt’s linemates varied again and the 6’1” 187-pound forward added no further points to his totals.
In 47 regular season games, Hospelt’s two goals and two assists were very modest, but the former scoring ace of German juniors did outscore Kink, who is also considered one of Germany’s top young players. However, Hospelt’s -3 rating was tied for last place on Cologne with former NHLer Alex Hicks. Despite playing primarily on the fourth line, Hospelt did manage to average more than a shot per game with 54 shots.
Cologne made the playoffs on the strength of a 26-14-3-9 record (wins-losses-shootout wins-shootout losses), for a total of 93 points. The fourth seeded Sharks faced the fifth seeded Frankfurt Lions in the first round, winning game one, but losing the series in six games, including three shutout losses in games two through four. Hospelt did not score in six games played, playing on the fourth line with various teammates, but he did find himself taking faceoffs again, compiling a 64.7 percent efficiency after a dismal 38.8 percent in the regular season.
Hospelt’s options in 2004-05 are to remain in the DEL for another season, perhaps as a fourth liner, or make the move to North America where the Sharks could assign Hospelt to the AHL or ECHL. Displaying considerable offensive skill in German juniors, he will be hard pressed to become an NHLer like Marco Sturm or Marcel Goc, but should have a future in the DEL, potentially playing for the senior national team in a few years.
Drafted by the Sharks in the eighth round of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, center Alexander Hult ended up one of the busiest players in Sweden in 2004-05.
The 6’2 205-pound Swede started the season in the Allsvenskan North league with Oskarshamm playing mostly on the third and fourth line. In 22 games prior to Nov. 20, Hult had one goal and seven assists. On Nov. 20, he was recalled by HV-71, the Swedish Elite League (Elitserien) club that owned his rights. In three games on HV-71’s fourth line Hult scored no points and was sent down to Oskarshamm for their six remaining games until the SuperAllsvenskan series. Hult managed a goal in his second to last game before the Christmas break, finishing with two goals and seven assists in 29 games as Oskarshamm finished first in the North.
The 19-year-old Hult departed for neighboring Finland with Team Sweden to play at the World Junior Championships. He managed two assists in six games playing primarily on the third and fourth lines.
After the WJC’s, HV-71 loaned Hult out to Elitserien rival Djurgardens, who had Hult split time with the Elitserien team and their elite junior (J20) team. Hult played 10 games from Jan. 15 to Jan. 30, six with the Elitserien team on the fourth line, and for for the J20 team. Although Hult scored no points in the Elitserien, he did manage to score tally in each of his first four games with the J20 team with two goals and two assists. Hult’s first J20 game for Djurgarden saw him credited with the game-winning goal in a shootout Jan. 17.
After the Sweden Games break, Hult played only three more contests in the Elitserien on Djurgardens fourth line. His eight games with the J20 team after the break saw him compile four goals and eight assists, included a four-point performance Jan. 21 in a 5-2 victory over his old team HV-71, for whom Hult had played elite juniors in previous seasons.
Scoreless in eight games with Djurgarden in the Elitserien, Hult’s six goals and 10 assists placed fourth in team scoring despite playing in only 11 of the team’s 36 games. Had he played the entire season in elite juniors, he would likely have been among the league leading scorers going by his points-per-game average. Strong in the faceoff circle, Hult’s 63.3 percent faceoff efficiency was tops in elite juniors among all players with over 50 faceoffs.
Djurgarden’s J20 team failed to make the playoffs finishing 11 of 16 teams, Djurgardens Elitserien team finished fifth on the strength of a 23-16-11 record. Facing Vastra Frolunda in the first round, Frolunda had Djurgardens measure and swept the team in four games. Hult did not play in the first game of the series, but did play on the team’s fourth line in the last three games.
Hult is already signed to play for Almtuna in the Allsvenskan North division for 2004-05, a team inferior to Oskarshamm, where he should receive more ice time. Hult should eventually become a good third line center at the Elitserien level, but the hard-working center is still a long-shot to make the NHL at this point.
Drafted four years ago with the Sharks second round pick in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft, Tero Määttä has yet to play pro hockey in North America.
The 6’1” 215-pound defenseman did attend the Sharks training camp in September, but was returned to the Espoo of the Finnish Elite League (SM-Liiga) in time for Blues season opener Sept. 13 at JYP. Pairing with veteran offensive blueliner Sebastian Sulku, Määttä picked up a power play assist and two penalty minutes. Pairing primarily with Sulku up to the Karjala Cup break, the 22-year-old had tallied seven assists in 19 games, a considerable boost over the three assists Määttä compiled in 50 SM-Liiga games in 2002-03.
After the Karjala Cup, Määttä was placed on the third defense pairing, teaming with youngster Janne Jalasvaara before being placed with Tommi Pelkonen in mid-December. In the 15 games between the Karjala Cup and Baltica Cup breaks, Määttä had one assist and an empty-net goal scored against lowly SaiPa Nov. 29.
Continuing to be paired with Pelkonen in 11 of the next 12 games before the Sweden Games break, the defensive defenseman’s Jan. 3 games against HIFK saw Määttä add two goals before being automatically ejected for fighting, good for 25 penalty minutes in the SM-Liiga. Määttä also tallied an assist against Jokerit before the Sweden Games break.
Down the ten-game stretch after the Sweden Games break, Määttä often found himself paired with the newly acquired Radek Philipp from the Pelicans Lahti on the third pair. Määttä added three more assists down the stretch, including a short-handed assist against Phillip’s old Pelicans teammates Feb. 28, to give Määttä one goal and 14 assists in 56 games, eclipsing his previous season high 10 points in 2001-02. The only Blue to play all 56 games, Määttä also finished with the highest plus/minus at +8 and was also third in Espoo defensive scoring behind Sulku and Arto Laatikainen, tenth on the team in overall scoring.
Espoo, ninth in the league standings, played Tappara in the first round of the play-offs in a best-of-three series. Määttä assisted on the game-winning overtime goal in the first game in the series, which Espoo won in three games. The Blues faced TPS in the second round, losing in six games with Määttä adding only six penalty minutes to the two he had in game one versus Tappara. After leading Espoo in plus/minus in the regular season, Määttä had the Blues worst plus/minus in the playoffs at -5, playing on the third pairing with Pelkonen for the first six playoff games, then Philipp for two games, and Jalasvaara in the Blues ninth and final playoff game of 2004.
After his best SM-Liiga season to date, Määttä may still find himself with Espoo again in 2004-05. Although Jesse Fibiger and Robert Mulick are departing from Cleveland, both unrestricted free agents, Josh Gorges, Scott Ford and Tim Conboy are all incoming additions to the Cleveland blueline. With Garrett Stafford, Doug Murray, Matt Carkner and David Cloutier all set to return to Cleveland, there does not appear to be room for Määttä in North America in 2004-05. In addition, Cleveland may also see Jim Fahey or Christian Ehrhoff assigned to Cleveland to start the season as well, depending on whether Fahey is traded and injuries with the big club in San Jose.
Määttä still has sixth or seventh NHL defenseman upside, but needs to work on his skating and strengthen his point shot lest he merely end up a slight upgrade over the awkward skating Mulick.
After a difficult regular season interrupted by injuries on three separate occasions, Michal Macho proved his worth in the Slovakian Extraleague playoffs.
Macho began his season attending the San Jose Sharks training camp and playing in the prospects tournament hosted by the Los Angeles Kings in El Segundo, California. After impressing, he returned to Slovakia in time for Bratislava’s first game, tallying an assist in an 2-1 overtime win over Kosice.
Playing anywhere from the second to the fourth line, Macho had two goals and five assists after 11 games with Slovan before going down to injury in an Oct. 7 game against his old club Martin in which the 5’11” 170-pound center had already tallied a goal and an assist.
Returning to action Oct. 24 after missing six games, Macho found the net four times in his next 12 games, adding two assists, before injuring his shoulder Nov. 28 against Nitra, a game in which he had tallied an assist.
After missing seven games, Macho returned to the line-up a month later on Dec. 28 playing in three games, adding a goal, before re-injuring his shoulder playing for Bratislava in the Continental Cup.
This time missing eight games, he returned Feb. 10 after a league break for the Skoda Swiss Cup Break. Receiving less ice time, Macho went scoreless in Bratislava’s remaining seven contests giving the Slovak seven goals and seven assists in 33 games. Known as a good two-way center, he put up an impressive +8 rating.
After a difficult regular season, Macho shined in the playoffs, tallying a point in seven of Bratislava’s 12 games. After beating Skalica in five games in the first round, the third seeded Bratislava team lost to Zvolen in the semifinals in a seven-game series. At his best against Zvolen, Macho tallied four goals and two assists in the series, for a total of five goals and three assists in 12 games. Involved in a couple altercations, he compiled 26 penalty minutes, but demonstrated his two-way ability with a +10 rating.
A good two-way who’s strong in the faceoff circle, Macho has two years remaining in his four-year contract with Slovan Bratislava. Needing to add muscle, he could still hold his own in North America with the Sharks AHL affiliate Cleveland Barons. Given that center Marcel Goc looks likely to play in San Jose in 2004-05 and winger Jon DiSalvatore has signed with the St. Louis Blues, other roster subtractions mean that Cleveland could afford to have San Jose assign a player of Macho’s caliber to the Barons.
Whether Macho is assigned to Cleveland or left in Slovakia for another season is yet to be seen.
Information on the seasons of Czech first round pick Lukas Kaspar and German third round pick Thomas Greiss is available in the Sharks 2004 draft review.
Copyright 2004 Hockey’s Future. Do not duplicate without written permission of the editorial staff.