The San Jose Sharks prospect pool saw a varied amount of post-season experience in 2011-12, with players representing the organization at almost every level of junior hockey.
Though the Sharks AHL affiliate was unable to make the playoffs, the organization did have several prospects join them for the NHL post-season, the most notable being Tommy Wingels.
On his 24th birthday, Wingels played in his first Stanley Cup playoff game and assisted on the game-tying goal which allowed the Sharks to win the first game of the series in overtime. San Jose would lose their first round series 4-1 against the St. Louis Blues and the hardworking fourth line center averaged a little over 10 minutes per game for the five game series. Wingels will hope to use the playoff experience to raise his game to the next level for the upcoming season and find a place on the NHL Sharks' roster out of training camp.
The other AHL prospects called-up were Matt Irwin, John McCarthy, Harri Sateri, and Alex Stalock, but they only saw limited action on the black aces practice squad for the Sharks during the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
J.P. Anderson and his Sarnia Sting team lost a hard fought first round OHL playoff series 4-2 against the Saginaw Spirit with three of the games going into overtime. The netminder wasn't able to elevate his game in the playoffs this season with the Sting, posting a poor 3.71 goals against average but a solid .900 save percentage while facing an average of more than 36 shots per game. The Sting simply had too many injuries to overcome, a problem that was typified when Anderson left game six after being struck in the head with a wicked slap shot. The 20-year-old will probably start his professional career in the ECHL or the AHL for San Jose.
Dylan DeMelo and the Mississauga St. Michael's Majors lost a very tight, physical first round OHL Playoff series 4-2 against the Barrie Colts. The physical, offensive defenseman was only able to contribute a power play goal, an assists, and a minus-three rating while taking 13 penalty minutes (including one fighting major) in the series. The 19-year-old was immediately sent to the AHL for a try-out and signed to an NHL entry level contract but will be most likely returning to the OHL for the upcoming season.
Freddie Hamilton and his Niagara Ice Dogs had a long playoff run to the OHL Finals where the team lost the series 4-1 against the London Knights. In the three earlier rounds, the two-way centerman was a force at both end of the rink but was shut-down by the Knights defenders in the finals. He finished third overall in the OHL playoffs scoring race, putting up seven goals along with 17 assists and a plus two rating in 20 playoff games. The 20-year-old will start his professional career with the San Jose organization at the AHL level next season.
Justin Sefton and the Sudbury Wolves were easily swept 4-0 in the first round of the playoffs by the Brampton Battalion. The big, physical defenseman struggled with a minus-seven rating while taking only eight minutes in penalties and being kept off the scoresheet for the series. The 19-year-old defender will have another year of development at the junior level in the OHL and hopefully with an improved team.
Konrad Abeltshauser and his Halifax Moosehead had a terrific run into the QJMHL playoff semi-finals where the team lost a tough series 4-2 to the Rimouski Oceanic. In the Mooseheads' second round series against the Quebec Remparts, Halifax came back from a 3-0 deficit in the series with an incredible game seven victory in overtime to end the series. The big offensive defender finished second amongst defensemen in the QJMHL playoff scoring, putting in five goals (three on the power play) along with 11 assists and a plus-one rating while taking 16 penalty minutes in 15 playoff games. The 20-year-old will most likely start his professional career at the AHL level with Worcester next season.
William Wrenn and the Portland Winterhawks had a deep run into the WHL Playoff finals where the high powered offensive team lost 4-3 against the Edmonton Oil Kings despite scoring the same number of goals in the seven game series. The defensive defenseman was steady all through the playoffs, contributing only four assists along with a plus four rating while taking just 10 penalty minutes while providing solid leadership to his young team. The 21-year-old will have to wait and hope that the San Jose Sharks want his services at the professional level for next season.
Sean Kuraly and his Indiana Ice team had an inconsistent 2012 Clark Cup Playoffs. After winning their first round series 2-1 over the defending Champion Dubuque Fighting Saints, the Ice were swept 3-0 by the Green bay Gamblers in the semi-finals. Kuraly played well in both rounds of the playoffs, scoring three goals along with three assists and an impressive plus-eight rating in six USHL playoff games. He will be looking to bring his game to a higher level at the Miami (Ohio) University in the NCAA next fall.
At the NCAA level, the prospects' playoffs were all finished in early April with the exception of Isaac MacLeod's Boston College team, which made it to the Frozen Four Tournament in Tampa, Florida and won the 2012 NCAA National Championship.
After a much improved season in the QJMHL, the Sharks signed Konrad Abeltshauser to an NHL entry-level contract on April 13th. The team decided to sign Dylan DeMelo to an early NHL entry level contract on April 20th after the 19-year-old defenseman performed very well in an AHL try-out with Worcester at the end of the season. The Sharks have only William Wrenn left to sign before the June deadline or release him, losing his NHL rights. The Sharks have until next year to make decisions on whether to offer contracts to NCAA seniors, Drew Daniels, Justin Daniels, Lee Moffie and OHL defenseman, Justin Sefton.