Defensemen and depth forwards featured in San Jose Sharks group of CHL prospects

By Craig Fischer
Chris Tierney - London Knights

Photo: Chris Tierney has been a key defensive forward and a leader at the faceoff dot for the OHL's London Knights in 2012-13. (courtesy of Terry Wilson/OHL Images)

 
The San Jose Sharks have six prospects developing at the junior level. While that number is small in comparison to other organizations, it is a case of quality versus quantity for the Sharks. The group consists of three defenders, two centers, and a goalie. All of them could be considered dark horse prospects at their time of acquisition but they continue to develop and surprise.

Led on the back end by two sixth round selections in Konrad Abeltshauser and Dylan DeMelo, the group of CHL prospects is having a fairly successful 2012-13 campaign thus far. There have been some bumps along the way, most notably, J.P. Anderson's struggles in net, but all in all, the future looks promising for the Sharks at this level of hockey. Even if by some miracle the NHL lockout were to end in the near future, it is safe to say all six will be continuing the season playing for their respective junior clubs. A few years of development will be required, but there is considerable potential with a number of these players to become promising, NHL-caliber players.

OHL

J.P. Anderson, G, Sarnia Sting
Acquired: Free agent signing in September, 2010

One would think the rigors of the OHL season would be old hat for someone in his fifth season in the league, but J.P Anderson has struggled to find any sort of consistency since joining the Sting. What looked to be a big season with a Sarnia squad hoping to be more reliable defensively, Anderson and company just have not delivered. The overage goalie is having his worst statistical season so far, with a 0.899 save percentage, 3.24 goals against average, and zero shutouts (just two years ago he lead the league in this category) – all career lows.

While the numbers have not been translating, Anderson still has helped keep his team in the early playoff hunt with an individual 10-9-2 record. As long as the Sting stick around, Anderson will likely retain his job as starter. His backup, Brodie Barrick, is not fairing any better as he has identical numbers in fewer starts, but that does not mean that the organization might not look to deal Anderson to a contending team to serve as a backup. Such an occurrence could be detrimental to the development process of the young goalie, whose only real issues seems to be psychological as he retains above standard form. With his future in his own hands, Anderson is going to need to stop blowing up in net and turn back the clock to 2010-11 where he was one of the OHL's best.

Chris Tierney, C, London Knights
Acquired: 2nd round (55th overall) in 2012

Chris Tierney's season thus far is not easily translatable on the score sheet. At a quick glance, his 19 points in 27 games, seems like a rather lackluster season in terms of development for a center. Perhaps, the offensive side of the game has not developed as quickly as one would hope, but the well-rounded forward plays every facet of the game the right way and continues to excel away from the puck. His two-way game gets better and better every game thanks to mentoring from the Hunters in London. Tierney can also be seen taking the most important faceoffs for the Knights–a skill he continues to work on daily. Some scouts liken him to a less offensively talented Jay McClement–an interesting parallel given, McClement was drafted 57th overall (two spots back of where Tierney was selected) in 2001.

Perhaps it is just a statistical anomaly, but Tierney has been amassing more and more points as the season has gone on. In his last six games, he has tallied three goals and nine points. The offensive numbers could finally start piling up, especially as Tierney has earned the trust of his coaches who covet strong two-way play. It is more likely though, that as the season progresses Tierney will be used more increasingly as a shutdown forward–a valuable commodity come playoff time in the OHL. So while the offensive stats may be tempered, his stock will actually rise within the league and internally as a Sharks prospect.

Justin Sefton, D, Sudbury Wolves
Acquired: 3rd round (89th overall) in 2011

The Sudbury Wolves top-pairing defenseman Justin Sefton will never wow the crowd with his offensive ability, and this season's numbers of a mere seven points in 27 games clearly display that. But what Sefton lacks in terms of offense he makes up for it with his steady and reliable play on the blue line. Sefton currently ranks second on the Wolves in plus/minus with a plus-four rating. Plus/minus is often a highly debated measure of defensive prowess, but in this particular case, it is quite fitting as Sudbury fans would be quick to point out that while his partner, Frank Corrado (VAN), might get a bit more attention nationally, it is Sefton that anchors the team's back end. It is for this reason that the team decreed him their playoff MVP of last year’s playoffs and why he continues to be a fan favorite in Sudbury despite rarely finding the score sheet.

Apart from his strong defensive play, a less talked about facet of Sefton's rising career is that he is noted as being a fine leader in the Wolves dressing room. The alternate captain of the Wolves continues to mentor the young up and coming Sudbury stars of tomorrow and despite being 19 years of age, personally takes it upon himself to help out the Wolves rookies in adjusting to life as a junior player.

Dylan DeMelo, D, Mississauga Steelheads
Acquired: 6th round (179th overall) in 2011

Currently sitting fourth in the OHL in defenseman scoring, with 24 points in 26 games behind two very good prospects in Dougie Hamilton (BOS) and

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