Headlined by two Quebec Major Junior Hockey League star forwards, one defenseman on Canada’s World Junior Championship team, one Ontario Hockey League All-Star import goalie from Germany and the USA Junior Hockey Player of the Year, the Sharks junior prospect contingent had an impressive 2003-04 season.
Steve Bernier, RW
Left off of Team Canada’s World Junior Championship team, power forward Steve Bernier still had an impressive 2003-04 season leading to QMJHL accolades.
Drafted with the 16th overall pick in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, Bernier missed the Moncton Wildcats first four QMJHL contests while skating at the Sharks training camp. Returning to action Sept. 26, going pointless, Bernier got on track the next night with two power play goals and two assists, named the First Star of the Game, one of 16 times Bernier would be named one of the Three Stars of the Game.
Going pointless for no longer than two games, on two occasions, Bernier compiled a QMJHL 13th-best 82 points in 66 games, second in Moncton scoring behind Karl Gagne. Tenth in the QMJHL with 36 goals, the 6’3” 230-pound Bernier finished first on Moncton with 169 hits, good for 11th in the QMJHL. Bernier’s +39 rating managed to place the power forward fifth in the QMJHL in plus/minus.
Second in the Atlantic Division with a 46-19-3-2 record, third-best record in the QMJHL, Moncton faced Baie-Comeau in the first round of the playoffs, sweeping the Drakkar in four games as Bernier scored five goals and added two assists, named the First Star of the Game twice and the Third Star of the Game in another contest.
The Wildcats faced Prince Edward Island in the second round, where Moncton defeated the Rocket in Game Six with a 3-2 overtime victory with Bernier tallying two goals and two assists in the series. Moncton defeated Sidney Crosby’s Rimouski Oceanic in the QMJHL semifinals in five games as Bernier went scoreless, but added four assists.
Moncton’s luck ran out against Gatineau in the QMJHL finals, as the Olympiques defeated the Wildcats in five games as Bernier managed only two assists, both tallied in Moncton’s 5-4 victory in Game Four of the series.
Limited to two playoff games in 2002-03 due to injury, Bernier 2003-04 playoffs were a major improved with 17 points in 20 games, seventh in QMJHL playoff scoring. Bernier’s physical style was also evidenced by his QMJHL playoff second-best 65 hits.
Despite his production dropping to 82 points from 101 points in 2002-03, Bernier still managed to make the QMJHL Second All-Star Team. Having been criticized for his physical fitness and defensive play prior to the draft, Bernier has improved both of these in 2003-04, seeking to become a better all-around player.
Bernier’s status as one of the QMJHL’s top players was also recognized when he was named to Team QMJHL’s roster against Team Russia for a two game series in November, with Bernier scoring a goal in the QMJHL’s 6-3 victory Nov. 24.
Ineligible for AHL assignment in 2004-05 because of his age, Bernier looks to be a vital cog for a Moncton Wildcats team that should challenge for the QMJHL championship in 2004-05. Long-term, Bernier looks to be San Jose’s premier power forward.
Patrick Ehelechner, G
Drafted out of Hannover of the DEL in the fifth round of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, Patrick Ehelechner made the move to North America after he was drafted a week later in the CHL Import Draft to become one of the OHL’s top young goalies.
Taken by the Sudbury Wolves with the sixth overall pick of the CHL Import Draft, Ehelechner started his season with two appearances in exhibition games for the Sharks in training camp. Returned to Sudbury in time for the Wolves first game of the season, at home no less, Ehelechner posted a shutout in his first OHL start with 33 saves against the Erie Otters Sept. 19 and named the First Star of the Game.
Starting 26 of Sudbury’s next 30 games, and appearing in relief on one occasion, Ehelechner pitched two more shutouts and was named one of the Three Stars of the Game ten more times before traveling to Berlin to represent Germany at the DI Group A World Junior Championships. Back-up Thomas Greiss, drafted by the Sharks in the third round of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, started Germany’s first game against an overmatched Team Hungary, but Ehelechner started the next four games going undefeated with two wins and two ties. Leading Germany to the gold medal, and advancement to the elite pool WJC’s in Fargo in 2005, Ehelechner was named the Best Goalie of the Tournament with a .932 save percentage and a 2.29 goals-against average.
Named the First Star of the Game in two of Germany’s victories, Ehelechner returned to Sudbury to finish with a .915 save percentage and a 2.87 goals-against average. Starting 28 of Sudbury’s final 33 games, Ehelechner was named one of the Three Stars of the Game on 12 occasions, giving the German a total of 22. Fourth in the OHL in minutes played at 3089, Ehelechner fifth-best save percentage helped lead the Wolves to the OHL playoffs as the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference.
Facing the Toronto St. Michael’s, Ehelechner and the Wolves the Majors a run for their money, taking the series to a seventh game. Starting all seven games for Sudbury, Ehelechner put up a .908 save percentage and a stingy 2.15 goals-against average, fourth best in the OHL playoffs. Named one of the Three Stars of the Game three times in the playoffs, had Ehelechner avoided a poor start in Game 5, which Sudbury came back to win in double-over time after Ehelechner had to be relieved after injury, Ehelechner would have finished the playoffs with no real blemishes, pitching two shutouts in seven games.
Ehelechner’s Sudbury team named him the team Rookie of the Year, Season MVP, Playoff MVP and the recipient of the Molson Cup for receiving the most Three Stars of the Game selections. Sudbury’s nominee for the Emms Family Award as the OHL Rookie of the Year, Ehelechner was named to the OHL Second All-Rookie Team and the OHL Second All-Star Team.
After receiving sparse playing time as Hannover’s back-up and third string goalie in the DEL, Ehelechner rebounded from infrequent action the previous two seasons with a spectacular season as one of the OHL’s top goalies. Receiving ample playing time, Ehelechner will likely return to Sudbury for one more year of major juniors, even though the 19-year-old is eligible for minor pro assignment by the Sharks, having been drafted out of Europe.
A 6’2” 185-pound hybrid butterfly/stand-up goalie, Ehelechner appears to have been a steal in the fifth round of the 2003 Draft. Having proven himself as a starter at the major junior level, Ehelechner will be given ample opportunity and time to prove himself at the AHL level in 2005-06 and beyond. Depending on whether Nolan Schaefer is still in the Sharks system in 2005-06, Ehelechner might start that season in the ECHL.
One of three German prospect netminders in the Sharks system, Ehelechner is far more proven than Greiss, and could also surpass fellow German Shark prospect and 20003-04 AHL rookie Dimitri Pätzold as well.
Note: Statistics available at www.ehlechner.com are accurate, while those at the IIHF’s website are incorrect.
Jonas Fiedler, RW
A third round pick of the Sharks in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft, Czech winger Jonas Fiedler improved his production for the second year in a row, but it proved insufficient in San Jose’s eyes.
Named one of the Three Stars of the Game on six occasions, Fiedler put up 18 goals and 28 assists in 63 games for the Plymouth Whalers of the OHL, fifth in team scoring with 46 points, serving as one of the team’s top six forwards the entire season. Fighting six times during the season, the 6’2” 177-pound Czech also compiled 83 penalty minutes.
Second in the OHL’s West Division and fifth overall in the Western Conference, Plymouth faced the Kitchener Rangers in the first round of the OHL Playoffs. Plymouth advanced in five games as Fiedler added five assists in defeating the Rangers. Fiedler and the Whalers were less fortunate in the second round against Guelph, swept in four games with Fiedler scoring a goal and an assist in Plymouth’s Game 3, 2-3 overtime loss. With seven points in nine playoff games, Fiedler finished fourth in Plymouth playoff scoring.
Despite having his best OHL season to date, the Sharks chose not to sign Fiedler by the June 1 deadline, making Fiedler eligible to re-enter the draft. One of three re-entries to be drafted, along with Tim Brent and Martin Vagner, Fiedler went to the Carolina Hurricanes in the eighth round of the 2004 Draft with the 235th overall pick. Of note, the Plymouth Whalers are owned by Carolina Hurricanes owner Peter Karamanos.
A misjudgment by San Jose in the third round of the 2002 Draft, Fielder could prove to be a decent eighth round pick up by the Hurricanes, as Fiedler should eventually contribute as a third AHLer.
Josh Gorges, D
Underestimated at almost every turn, defenseman Josh Gorges may have had the most impressive season of any Shark prospect at the major junior level in 2003-04.
Starting the season in training camp with San Jose, the 6’0” 180-pound Gorges was assigned to the Kelowna Rockets of the WHL, ineligible for AHL assignment because Kelowna native was born in 1985. Losing impact players Kiel McLeod, Jesse Schultz and defensemen Tomas Slovak and Duncan Keith, Gorges’ Kelowna Rockets entered 2004-05 with significantly less firepower. With less offensive support around him, Gorges numbers fell, as the puckmoving defenseman put up a modest four goals and 18 assists in his first 32 games of the season, missing only one game. Scoring only one even strength goal and four even strength assists, Gorges’ primary offensive contribution came on the power play with three goals and 14 assists.
Named one of the Three Stars of the Game in seven of Kelowna’s first 33 games, Gorges’ top game of the first half of the season was Dec. 7 against Kamloops, when the defenseman scored a power play goal, two power plays assists and two more even-strength assists to finish with a +3 rating in a 6-2 victory. To no surprise, Gorges was named the First Star of the Game.
Gorges missed Kelowna’s next nine games, but for good reason, as he was named to Canada’s World Junior Championship team. Paired with Tri City’s Shawn Belle, Gorges tallied three assists and tied Belle with +8 rating over six games, tied for best among Team Canada defensemen. Winning their first five games convincingly, Team Canada appeared destined to take home the gold medal until goalie Marc-Andre Fleury bounced a pass off teammate Braydon Coburn into his own net, allowing Team USA to win the tournament.
Silver medal in hand, Gorges production remained consistent with seven goals and 13 assists in his final 30 games. Despite lower production, Kelowna finished with a WHL best record of 47-21-4-0 record. Helping guide the team defensively, especially with his normal defensive partner Shea Weber out of action the final month of the season, Gorges finished third in Rockets team scoring with 42 points, ninth in WHL defense-scoring despite missing ten games.
With one goal and seven assists in Kelowna’s four game sweep of Kootenay, Gorges followed up with a goal and three assists in the Rockets six-game series against the Tri City Americans. The WHL’s first seeded Rockets met their match against an upstart Everett Silvertips team, with the Silvertips upsetting the Rockets with a 2-1 overtime victory in Game Seven. Coming back from a 3-1 deficit, the Silvertips handed the Rockets three straight overtime defeats. Holding the Rockets to 12 goals in the series, Everett also limited Gorges to three assists, although Gorges still finished the series with a +5 rating.
Eliminated from the WHL Playoffs, the Memorial Cup host team had over two weeks to heal and train for the CHL championship. Where other host teams had failed, Kelowna succeeded and won the Memorial Cup winning all four games, as Gorges and the defense limited Medicine Hat, Guelph and Gatineau twice to only one goal in each game. Gorges was recognized with the George Parsons Trophy as the Most Sportsmanlike Player.
Named the Rockets top defenseman for the 2003-04 season, the WHL recognized Gorges by naming him the Western Conference’s Defenseman of the Year, as well as a place next to WHL Defenseman of the Year Dion Phaneuf on the WHL First All-Star Team.
Leading Kelowna to the WHL regular season title and the Memorial Cup, as well as winning a silver medal at the WJC’s, Gorges had an impressive 2003-04 season. Turning 20 in August, Gorges will no doubt start the 2004-05 season in Cleveland as the team’s second puckmoving defenseman behind Garrett Stafford. Needing to tack on more muscle, Gorges should become a good second tier puckmoving defenseman in the NHL in time who should also prove a reliable force in his own zone. However, like other small defenseman, Gorges will be hard-pressed to consistently win one-on-ones against the NHL’s elite power forwards no matter how intelligently he plays.
Josh Hennessy, C
Despite a season shortened by a separate shoulder, center Josh Hennessy was one of the QMJHL’s top scorers in the 2003-04 season, recognized by the QMJHL for off-ice efforts as well.
Missing the Quebec Remparts first three games while skating at the Sharks training camp, Hennessy returned to Montreal making a major impact almost immediately, named one of the Three Stars of the Game in four of his first six QMJHL games in 2003-04. After a three-goal six-point performance Nov. 23 against the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, Hennessy was named the QMJHL Player of the Week Nov. 24. Hennessy was named the QMJHL Player of the Week again Dec. 8 after scoring six goals and three assists in three games the previous week. Scoring points in all but one December game, Hennessy was named the QMJHL Player of the Month in December with 12 goals and six assists in nine games, including three hat tricks.
Hennessy’s January saw a dip in production with six goals and eight assists in 13 games, still over a point per game, but went on a tear in February scoring nine goals and seven assists in nine games before separating his shoulder Feb. 26 against the Acadie-Bathurst Titans.
Missing Quebec’s eight remaining regular season games, Hennessy finished the season with 82 points in 59 games, 12th in the QMJHL, on the strength of a QMJHL fifth-best 40 goals. Hennessy’s 18 power play goals despite missing 11 games placed the Massachusetts native third in the QMJHL.
Finishing below .500 with a 28-32-7-3 record, the Remparts still made the QMJHL playoffs as the 12th seed, but lost in the first round in five games to the Prince Edward Island Rocket with Hennessy still out of the line-up.
Having missed the playoffs, Hennessy was not named to either the first or second QMJHL All-Star Teams, but Hennessy was named the QMJHL’s Humanitarian Player of the Year.
Playing on a weak QMJHL team, Hennessy may be the second most dangerous player offensively in the QMJHL behind Sidney Crosby. Known for his exceptional speed and skating ability, how much Hennessy relies on his speed and skating for his offense, rather than hands and offensive awareness, is unknown. Ineligible for AHL assignment in 2003-04 as an ’85, Hennessy will return to Quebec for a final season of QMJHL action before he challenges for an NHL roster spot in 2005-06.
Hennessy’s 2004-05 season is already off to a strong start, as he has been invited to Team USA’s WJC selection camp in Grand Forks, North Dakota in August, where Team USA will field two teams in a mini-tournament against Finland and Sweden. After such a strong QMJHL season, Hennessy should have a strong chance of cracking Team USA’s WJC team set to compete on its home turf in Grand Forks in December and January.
Long-term, Hennessy should eventually become the Sharks second line center behind current first line center Patrick Marleau.
Glen Olson, LW
An undrafted fighter out of the British Columbia Junior Hockey League, Glen Olson signed with San Jose in September impressing in training camp and went on to a respectable rookie season in the WHL.
Missing the Kootenay Ice’s first 17 games after breaking his hand in a training camp fight, Olson scored the game winning goal in his first WHL contest Nov. 1. Adding another goal and an assist over the course of the season, Olson missed an additional 11 games re-breaking his hand fighting Ken Patzack of Moose Jaw Nov. 12.
Fighting 13 times in 2003-04, the 6’4” 225-pound Olson compiled 126 PIMs in 41 games. Receiving four misconducts, not included in WHL penalty minute totals, Olson’s penalty minute totals by NHL standards would have been 166.
The eighth seed in the WHL’s Western Conference, Kootenay faced Kelowna in the first round of the WHL Playoffs as the Rockets melted the Ice in four games, with Olson going scoreless playing on Kootenay’s fourth line with Jeremy Schenderling and Aaron Bader.
Born May 1, 1984, Olson is eligible for minor pro assignment, and with Yuri Moscevsky not tendered a qualifying offer by the San Jose Sharks, Olson may become the Cleveland Barons enforcer in 2004-05, as Olson actually possess moderate hockey abilities.
Joe Pavelski, C
Garnering no awards at the Waterloo Blackhawks team banquet and no year-end United States Hockey League awards, center Joe Pavelski still managed to with the USA Hockey Junior Player of the Year award.
Pavelski started his second season with the Waterloo Blackhawks with three assists in three preseason games at the Buc Bowl in Des Moines, hosted by USHL rival Des Moines Buccaneers. The first half of the 6’0” 190-pound pivots season saw Pavelski compile 11 goals and 13 assists in 24 games. Missing one game in Waterloo’s first 25 games, Pavelski missed the Blackhawks next four games while playing for Team USA at the Viking Cup in Camrose, Alberta.
The bi-annual tournament, hosted by Augustana College in Camrose, featured teams from the Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Norway, Slovakia Switzerland, Augustana College and the United States. Pavelski tallied four goals and four assists in six games, named the USA Player of the Game Jan. 3 with two goals and an assist in a 9-2 victory over Slovakia. Winning their first five games in the tournament, including a 17-0 trouncing of team Norway, the U.S. lost to Finland 8-2 in the gold medal game. Ironically, Team USA defeated Finland 4-0 in round robin play Jan. 1, the only game in the tournament in which Pavelski did not tally a point.
The Blackhawks team captain returned to USHL action Jan. 9, starting a month of sparse production for the Plover, Wisc. native, as Pavelski tallied only four assist in 10 games. Playing for Team World in the USHL All-Star Game Feb. 3, Pavelski did not tally in Team World’s 3-4 loss.
Following the All-Star Game Pavelski went on a scoring tear with 10 goals and 14 assists in his final 20 games, scratched in the Blackhawks final contest of the year for rest before the USHL Playoffs. Pavelski’s most outstanding game of the year came Mar. 19 against the Sioux Falls Stampede, as the Blackhawks won 7-0 with Pavelski scoring a goal and adding three assists and firing nine shots on net. Second on the Blackhawks in scoring with 21 goals and 31 assists in 54 games, the two-way center also finished second on the Blackhawks with a +10 rating. Pavelski’s 240 shots on net placed him second in the entire USHL despite missing six games.
Barely making the playoffs with a 30-27-3 (overtime losses) record, Waterloo defeated the East Division regular season champion Chicago Steel in five games, with Pavelski scoring one goal and three assists in the best-of-five series. Waterloo made quick work of Danville in the second round, including a 6-1 victory in which Pavelski scored two goals and an assist April 17. Waterloo finished the job April 21 with a 9-1 victory to face the Western Division champion Tri City Storm. Also the West Division’s regular season champs, the Blackhawks upset the Storm in four games to win the USHL’s Clark Cup.
Making neither the USHL First or Second All-Star Teams, Pavelski also garnered no awards at the Waterloo Blackhawks team banquet. However, having finished in the top 20 in USHL scoring, serving as one of the team leaders of Team USA’s silver medal-winning Viking Cup team, and leading the Blackhawks to their first ever Clark Cup, Pavelski was named the USA Hockey Junior Player of the Year.
Despite winning such awards, Pavelski was not one of the USHL’s most skilled players in 2003-04. Needing to improve his skating, Pavelski does have strong two-way awareness and character. Set to play for the University of Wisconsin in 2004-05, Pavelski still has four years of college hockey to improve his skating, hone his stick skills, and gain muscle. Unlikely to become one of Wisconsin’s top scorers in the next four years, Pavelski could become the team captain before he graduates.
Jonathan Tremblay, RW
A fourth liner enforcer for the Acadie-Bathurst Titans, right winger Jonathan Tremblay led the QMJHL in penalty minutes despite missing ten games.
Missing the Titans first two games while skating at the Sharks training camp, Tremblay missed four more games due to match penalties and game misconducts carrying over, as four other games as a healthy scratch. On the strength of 32 fighting majors, Tremblay compiled 316 minutes in penalties, not including 19 ten-minute misconducts and game misconducts, which would put Tremblay’s PIMs at 506, numbers original Shark über-enforcer Link Gaetz would be proud of.
Not afraid to tango twice with anyone, Tremblay fought Prince Edward Island intimidator Jimmy Bonneau five times, Cape Breton’s scrappy Nathan Veinot three times, Gatineau fighter Francis Wathier twice, Chicoutimi enforcer Patrick Tessier twice, Moncton pugilist Thierry Douville twice and Halifax fighter George Davis twice, whom Tremblay fought in a pre-season prospects game against Anaheim in the El Segundo Prospects Tournament.
Not especially skilled at skating, shooting, passing or stickhandling, Tremblay did tally three goals in 2003-04, including one power play tally Oct. 3 against Chicoutimi. Tremblay was named the Third Star of the Game in an 8-2 loss to Gatineau Sept. 21 scoring a goal, fighting Wathier, taking three shots and making five hits, the 6’3” 240-pound pugilist was only one assist shy of the Gordie Howe Hat Trick.
Born Mar. 3, 1984, Tremblay is eligible for minor pro assignment in 2004-05. Given the 2003 seventh round pick’s need to improve at hockey, look for San Jose to send Tremblay back to Acadie-Bathurst as an overager for another season of development, as Tremblay’s skill level is below that of Olson’s.
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