No other NHL team has more invested in college hockey than the San Jose Sharks. With 13 prospects playing in the NCAA and one in CIS, San Jose has nearly twice as many prospects at these levels as any other NHL organization.
The Sharks do not merely have numbers in the collegiate ranks, they have quality. University of Denver defenseman Matt Carle is the top defenseman in college hockey and is a challenger for the Hobey Baker Award for the top player in the NCAA. University of Wisconsin center Joe Pavelski is third in WCHA overall scoring and is one of the top-scoring sophomores in college hockey. University of Vermont center Torrey Mitchell is third in Hockey East Association overall scoring and, like Pavelski, is one of the top sophomores in college hockey. Boston University senior defenseman Dan Spang has become one of the top two-way defensemen in Hockey East and is a finalist for the Walter Brown Award, awarded by the Boston Gridiron Club to the top American-born collegiate player playing in the Northeast. Harvard senior defenseman Tom Walsh is also one of the 15 finalists for the award. Clarkson center Steven Zalewski skated at the U.S. World Junior Championship preliminary camp in August and looks to improve upon his production in his freshman year.
The Sharks are not without some disappointment in the collegiate ranks in 2005-06. Northeastern University senior right winger Mike Morris was supposed to be one of the top forwards in Hockey East in 2005-06, but a concussion suffered in a car accident in the summer has caused the 2002 first rounder to miss every game this season and file as a medical redshirt. Fellow Northeastern winger Carter Lee has failed to crack the Northeastern line-up on a consistent basis in his sophomore season. Harvard sophomore defenseman David MacDonald has been a scratch more often than not in the second half. New Hampshire University senior defenseman Michael Hutchins started the season as a regular in the Wildcats line-up, but he too has consistently been a scratch in 2006. University of Massachusetts left winger P.J. Fenton was named to the Hockey East All-Rookie Team in 2004-05, he’s having trouble finding the net this season. Ferris State University goaltender Derek MacIntyre looked poised to become the Bulldogs starter, but the sophomore has been superseded by a freshman and has not played since January 13. Boston College’s Brian O’Hanley has skated in all but one of the Eagles games this year, but he’s had the title of defenseman/left wing that he also ended up with in his freshman season in 2004-05.
The Sharks also have one of the most unique stories in college hockey. Will Colbert captained the Ottawa 67’s to the OHL championship last season, but he decided to forego his overage season and an opportunity to play AHL hockey with the Cleveland Barons in favor of receiving quality ice time with St. Francis Xavier University of the Canadian Interuniversity Sport. He has been a top defenseman for the X-Men and will take a route through Canadian college hockey.
Matt Carle, D
Denver University – Jr.
Ht: 6’0 Wt: 190 lb. Shoots: Left
Born: 9-25-1984 Anchorage, Alaska
Acquired: 2nd Rd, 47th overall 2003 NHL Entry Draft
Matt Carle was named the USHL Defenseman of the Year a few weeks prior to his selection by the San Jose Sharks in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. Today, he’s the NCAA’s best defenseman.
The former U.S. National Developmental Team member was named to the WCHA All-Rookie Team after his freshman season in 2003-04, and won a national championship with the Denver Pioneers. He made the jump to the WCHA All-First Team and the CCM West All-American First Team his sophomore season, and won another national championship. As a junior, he’s dominating the WCHA from the blue line in an unheard of manner.
With 11 goals and 36 assists in 32 games, Carle leads the WCHA in scoring and is third in the nation in scoring behind Boston College forward Chris Collins and University of Nebraska-Omaha forward Scott Parse. The junior defenseman has been named the WCHA Defensive Player of the Week on four occasions and nominated on four other occasions. He most recently received the award Feb. 13 after he had five assists in Denver 7-4 victory of Minnesota State Feb. 10 and then adding another assist the next night in a 5-1 victory over the Mavericks. The Alaska native was named the Inside College Hockey Player of the Week Dec. 5 after a six-assist, two-victory weekend over Colorado College Dec. 2 and 3.
Carle’s dominance is thanks in part to his skill level.
“He’s a strong skater, he’s got a very good shot, he handles the puck extremely well, and he’s an excellent passer,” University of Denver head coach George Gwozdecky said in a telephone interview.
While Carle’s skill is unquestionable, his success may be because of his mental game.
“He has an innate understanding of where the pressure is coming from,” Gwozdecky said. “He doesn’t get rattled, and he maintains his composure.
“He knows when to dish the puck, he knows when to carry it, and he has a great head for the game and great hockey sense.”
Now a captain for the Pioneers, Carle has been vital to Denver’s success since his freshman season.
“We’re in the National Championship game, and with 80 seconds left in regulation we get called for two back-to-back penalties, and our opponent pulls their goaltender, so it’s a 6-on-3 for the last 80 seconds,” Gwozdecky recalls of the game against Maine. “We have our senior goaltender, a senior forward, and a senior defenseman out there, along with freshman Matt Carle.
“I think that says everything about how he has been able to contribute as early as his freshman year.”
Carle is one of the leading candidates for the Hobey Baker Award this year. The top offensive defenseman in college hockey, Carle is also extremely responsible defensively and plays a physical game, as has been true since his days with the U.S. National Developmental Team and the Omaha (then River City) Lancers. The Alaskan does have one more season of college eligibility left, but many college hockey fans are wondering if Carle might leave early. His coach does not believe it will be to go to Worcester (AHL) either.
“When Matt and San Jose decide it’s time to pursue a professional career, he will be playing in San Jose, I don’t have any doubt about that.”
Whether that comes in 2006 or 2007 is yet to be seen. In Carle, San Jose may have their future No. 1 defenseman. Steadier defensively and more physical than Christian Ehrhoff, and with more offensive talent than Scott Hannan, Carle may become San Jose’s most well-rounded defenseman. At the least, he should provide San Jose with another Tom Preissing.
Will Colbert, D
University of St. Francis Xavier – Fr.
Ht: 6’2 Wt: 205 lb. Shoots: Left
Born: 2-6-1985 Arnprior, Ontario
Acquired: 6th Rd, 183rd overall 2005 NHL Entry Draft
Will Colbert is taking the road far less traveled. He captained the Ottawa 67’s to the OHL championship last year and was more than welcome to play his overage year with the 67’s, but prior to the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, Colbert committed to play for St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, New Brunswick.
Colbert’s commitment to St. FX wasn’t only new to the hockey world, it was new to the X-Men.
“When the captain of the Ottawa 67’s decides he wants to come here, you really better take a look at it,” St. FX head coach Brad Peddle said in a telephone interview. “We don’t typically take 19-year-olds, we like them to play their last year of junior, but he was a different case and wanted to come to school.”
Colbert turned 20 before the end of the 2004-05 season and was eligible to re-enter the NHL Draft after the Ottawa Senators, who drafted the defenseman in 2003, did not sign him. Then San Jose took Colbert in the sixth round of the 2005 Draft, and St. FX was left wondering what might happen to their top recruit.
“It was a little bit of a roller coaster with the draft coming around in June and I saw he was re-drafted and I was like ‘Whoa, one of our No. 1 recruits might not report,” Peddle said.
When Colbert attended Sharks camp in September, the uncertainty was very high, but he followed through with his commitment St. FX. Despite playing in major juniors, Colbert still had to adjust to the level of play in Canadian college hockey.
“I think, as most junior players do, they find that the level of hockey out here is a step up from major juniors,” Peddle said. “So, it takes a while, and he was thrown right into it and adjusted great.”
Colbert has played key minutes for St. FX in all situations. In 28 games the freshman is second in X-Men defensive scoring with three goals and eight assists. The lone NHL draft pick playing CIS hockey, Colbert’s defensive awareness has made him very reliable.
“A lot of his strength comes out of the way he sees the game,” Peddle said. “He’s not a gambler at all, he’s very safe back there, which is very nice to see as a coach.”
Peddle also complimented the 6’2, 205-pound blueliner for having quick feet and for moving the puck well. Mobile for a big defenseman, Peddle would like to see Colbert do more.
“He’s very good defensively, but sometimes we need him to be a little bit more physical,” Peddle said. “He’s one guy that we need to play with a little more of an edge at times.”
Having just turned 21, Colbert is still a few years from reaching his prime as a defensive defenseman.
“If there’s a guy right now on our team who has pro potential, it’d definitely be him, because he’s just gong to get better over the years as he plays more and more,” Peddle said of Colbert.
Colbert’s Ottawa 67’s teammate Brad Staubitz signed a free agent contract with the Sharks and has played as a sixth and seventh defenseman for the AHL Cleveland Barons this season. Colbert could have been doing the same in 2005-06, but he’s receiving quality ice time with St. FX instead of serving as a depth defenseman in the AHL. Time will tell whether Colbert’s unique decision pays off. He could become a fifth or sixth defenseman in the NHL, although it is far from a certainty. Cory Cross came out of Canadian college hockey undrafted, Will Colbert might do the same, only as a drafted defenseman.
P.J. Fenton, LW
University of Massachusetts-Amherst – Soph.
Ht: 5’11 Wt: 177 lb. Shoots: Left
Born: 7-18-1986 Longmeadow, Massachusetts
Acquired: 5th Rd, 162nd overall 2005 NHL Entry Draft
As a freshman, UMass forward P.J. Fenton finished second in Minutemen scoring with 13 goals and 12 assists in 38 games, convincing San Jose to take inaugural Shark Paul Fenton’s son in the fifth round of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. Unfortunately, Fenton is in the throws of a sophomore slump. After 29 games, Fenton has only three goals and nine assists.
“He’s played pretty well, it’s just the puck hasn’t bounced for him, and obviously he hasn’t found the scoring to be as consistent as he had hoped,” UMass head coach Don Cahoon said in a telephone interview.
The 2004-05 Hockey East All-Rookie Team member has still played with the high intensity, grinding game he’s been know for since he played for the New England Junior Coyotes in the Eastern Junior Hockey League. The reason for Fenton’s apparent slump may not be so much anything the 19-year-old is doing wrong, but what he did right last year.
“If he were not in great shape, if he was not competing, if he were not playing with a level of confidence, I’d point to those as being reasons,” Cahoon said. “To be honest with you, he’s just getting a little more attention in terms in coverage.”
And opponents generally need to play Fenton tight.
“I think he’s good on the grind, I think he’s good on the cycle down low, I think he’s real good when he’s coming off the wall and seeing the play develop and seeing the ice opening up,” Cahoon said. “He’s the kind of guy that if he gets the puck in tight areas, he can measure the situation very clearly, he can find where the simplest play needs to be made, and he usually gets it to you.”
The 5’11, 180-pound left winger must continue to improve his leg strength and core strength to become quicker and even stronger on his skates. Very effective from the tops of the circles in and along the boards, Fenton projects to be a fourth line energy forward who can contribute offensively. He will have to play in the AHL first, beginning with the 2008-09 season.
Michael Hutchins , D
University of New Hampshire – Sr.
Ht: 5’11 Wt: 210 lb. Shoots: Left
Born: 10-27-1982 Wolfeboro, New Hampshire
Acquired: 9th Rd, 288th overall 2002 NHL Entry Draft
Michael Hutchins was an aggressive, high scoring defenseman for the Des Moines Buccaneers of the USHL when the Sharks selected him late in the ninth round of the 2002 NHL Entry Draft, but unfortunately the blueliner’s career has not developed as was hoped.
Hutchins redshirted his first season at the University of New Hampshire, but he’s had difficulty cracking the Wildcats roster since the 2002-03 season too. He played 22 games in 2003-04 and 19 games in 2004-05, out several games due to injury.
The 2005-06 season appeared to be the season that Hutchins was going to be a regular in the UNH line-up, playing in all but one of the team’s first 21 games, and the game missed was due to a suspension after fighting UMass-Lowell’s Brad King Nov. 18. However, Hutchins has been a scratch in 11 of the Wildcats last 12 games.
The 5’11, 210-pound blueliner must first improve his conditioning if he is to play regularly.
“What we’re working on with Michael is his durability, and durability is his overall conditioning,” UNH head coach Dick Umile said in a telephone interview.
Illness has complicated the matter in the second semester of the season, but Hutchins has skills he must improve on as well, including his “overall agility and being able to handle his one-on-ones,” according to Umile.
Hutchins is not a weak player, however.
“He’s a tough kid, a physical kid,” Umile said of Hutchins. “When he gets his overall agility to go along with that, that will be his strength.”
The physical blueliner also has a hard shot and a hard first pass. Hutchins has the potential to be a physical defenseman with some offensive potential, but time is running out for Hutchins at UNH. The rest of 2005-06 does not appear promising, so Hutchins only has 2006-07 to prove himself to be one of New Hampshire’s top defensemen. If he does not, he has little hope of earning a three-way contract with San Jose.
Carter Lee. RW
Northeastern University – Soph.
Ht: 6’2 Wt: 195 lb. Shoots: Right
Born: 7-2-1984 St. Louis, Missouri
Acquired: 9th Rd, 276th overall 2003 NHL Entry Draft
Although he did play for Northeastern as a freshman, unlike Hutchins with New Hampshire, Carter Lee is perilously close to mimicking the collegiate career of the Wildcat defenseman. Northeastern needed the Shark draft pick to step up, but it hasn’t happened.
“He’s been a disappointment,” Northeastern head coach Greg Cronin said simply in a telephone interview.
“Carter’s got a great shot, he’s a good skater, and he’s a good athlete,” Cronin said. “His challenge is to demonstrate he can put all of that together and impact the game.”
Lee’s season started with hope in Northeastern’s exhibition game against Toronto University. The sophomore right winger had two goals and an assist on nine shots in the 5-3 victory. He skated in the Huskies first four regular season games and their exhibition game against the U.S. National Developmental Team, but since then has played in only four games. A healthy scratch on most nights, Lee has one assist in nine regular season games. He played in only 11 games as a freshman under previous Northeastern head coach Bruce Crowder.
One of the top players in the New England Prep School Ice Hockey Association in 2003-04, Lee has the tools to become a power forward at the Hockey East level and beyond. However, he must become a regular in Northeastern’s line-up before a professional career above the lower minor pro ranks can be considered.
David MacDonald, D
Harvard University – So.
Ht: 6’4 Wt: 215 lb. Shoots: Right
Born: 4-30-1985 Halifax, Nova Scotia
Acquired: 7th Rd, 225th overall 2004 NHL Entry Draft
David MacDonald stepped into the Harvard line-up as a freshman, pairing with fellow Shark prospect Tom Walsh, but the defensive defenseman has been a scratch in eight of Harvard’s last 12 games as freshmen defensemen Jack Christian and Brian McCafferty have warranted playing time.
“He’s been a little bit inconsistent,” Harvard head coach Ted Donato said in a telephone interview. “He’s a guy that we expect more of. He’s played some very good games this year, but he’s had some games where he wasn’t at his best, and we have other guys who also deserve opportunities.”
MacDonald only had two assists in 33 games as a freshman and only has two assists in 19 games in 2005-06. The 6’4, 215-pound blueliner has many of the tools to be a good defensive defenseman.
“He’s a guy that has very good size, good strength, and is a very good skater for a big guy,” Donato said. “He’s a guy who defensively is very solid, physically he’s very willing, and he has a lot of bite to his game.”
However, MacDonald’s puck skills and offensive decision making need to improve in order for him to reach his full potential.
“I’d like to see him be better with the puck as far as making a good first pass and skating with the puck as far as defensive zone, making good outlet passes,” Donato said. “I don’t think he’s ever going to be a power play type guy, but he can certainly improve his puck skills so he can be a good stay-at-home defenseman with a good offensive guy.”
San Jose’s tallest prospect defenseman, MacDonald has the skating ability and the physicality to become a strong defensive defenseman, possibly even a sixth defenseman at the NHL level. Despite being a defensive defenseman, MacDonald’s success depends upon whether he can improve at some of the offensive aspects of his game.
Derek MacIntyre, G
Ferris State University – Soph.
Ht: 6’2 Wt: 211 lb. Catches: Left
Born: 11-1-1985 Stanwood, Michigan
Acquired: 8th Rd, 234th overall 2004 NHL Entry Draft
Ferris State goaltender Derek MacIntyre gave senior goaltender Mike Brown a run for his money as the Bulldogs starter in 2004-05, but the sophomore has been supplanted by freshman goaltender Mitch O’Keefe in 2005-06.
MacIntyre has not seen any playing time since a 5-0 loss to Northern Michigan Jan.13. Since then, O’Keefe has played every minute in the Bulldog net. The Sharks 2004 eighth round pick also went eight games without action from Oct. 15 until Nov. 18, a 6-1 victory over Bemidji State in which MacIntyre made 24 saves. The former NAHL First Team All-Star’s season appeared to be taking a turn at the Denver Cup. MacIntyre led Ferris State to a 3-3 tie against Boston College on the strength of 40 saves and he led the Bulldogs to a 3-2 victory over the University of Denver, in which he was named the First Star of the Game.
“A lot of it is just simple footwork and movement and trying to reduce the number of holes that he has and trying to play a little bit more within himself,” Ferris State head coach Bob Daniels said in a telephone interview. “Sometimes less is better in terms of reacting to the puck.”
The 6’2, 211-pound MacIntyre is a big goalie who plays a butterfly style and has good athleticism. Aside from the usual technical adjustments, MacIntyre has worked on improving his puckmoving abilities. However, these improvements take time.
“It’s a four-year experience and you have to continually work and push yourself and develop,” Daniels said of MacIntyre’s path. “I don’t think it’s going to be a thing where within a week all of the sudden you’ve got a completely different player.
“I think it’s just going to take time and hard work to develop himself to his full potential, but he has great potential because of his athleticism.”
With other young goalies such as Thomas Greiss, Dimitri Patzold, Patrick Ehelechner, Taylor Dakers, and Jason Churchill in the fold, MacIntyre is not high on the Sharks prospect netminder depth chart. Like each of the previously listed goalies, MacIntyre has good size, a recent San Jose goaltender drafting trend. The Sharks also stress athleticism, which MacIntyre is known for. The 20-year-old fits the mold of the San Jose Shark prospect goaltender, he just is not a high profile prospect. If that is to change, he must first supplant O’Keefe.
Torrey Mitchell, C
University of Vermont – Soph.
Ht: 5’11 Wt: 193 lb. Shoots: Left
Born: 1-30-1985 Greenfield Park, Quebec
Acquired: 4th Rd, 126th overall 2004 NHL Entry Draft
A fourth round draft pick taken out of Hotchkiss of the New England prep school ranks, Torrey Mitchell is meeting all expectations San Jose could possibly have had in the center.
Mitchell was named to the ECAC All-Rookie Team after scoring 11 goals and 19 assists for the University of Vermont in 2004-05. The Catamounts have moved to the more competitive Hockey East for 2005-06, and Mitchell and UVM have adjusted without problem. Vermont lies sixth in the HEA and are ranked 15th in the most recent USCHO/CSTV Division I Men’s Poll. Mitchell is leading the Catamount charge with 12 goals and 23 assists in 32 games, third in Hockey East overall scoring. The sophomore center leads UVM both in overall and conference scoring and has been named to the Hockey East Honor Roll on six occasions. His three goals and eight assists in six games in October earned Mitchell Hockey East Runner Up Player of the Month honors and a strong start to the year.
While Mitchell’s offensive numbers strongly hint at his offensive ability, his two-way play is what makes him truly effective.
“He’s got incredible skills, but at the same time he takes a lot of pride in his defensive abilities, whether it’s winning key faceoffs late in the game in our own zone or killing penalties,” UVM head coach Kevin Sneddon said in a telephone interview.
Mitchell has skated with a number of Catamount forwards, primarily Brady Leisenring, Jeff Corey, Peter Lenes, Matt Syroczynski, and Chris Myers. Whomever Mitchell is with, he’s Mr. Popular among UVM forwards.
“Everybody on our team wants to play with Torrey,” Sneddon said. “They see that he’s not only highly skilled, but extremely competitive.
“He makes people around him much better.”
The speedy center has good hands and a strong, accurate shot, but it doesn’t always translate to the scoreboard for UVM.
“We have him as a shooter on our power play, and sometimes he dishes the puck a little bit more than he should,” Sneddon said. “He’s a very unselfish player, but with his ability to shoot the puck as well as he can, he needs to generate more shots on goal.”
Aside from taking more shots and honing his skills, the next step to Mitchell’s game is becoming a leader for the Catamounts.
“He’s been kind of the young talent here, fortunately other guys have been great leaders,” Sneddon said. “He now needs to take on that role and lead players next year.”
Already one of the top offensive threats in Hockey East as a sophomore, Mitchell could challenge for the Hobey Baker in his junior or senior seasons. Despite his offensive prowess at the collegiate level, his professional career will likely start as a defensive center.
“He so good from a defensive perspective, and certainly he does some amazing things at the offensive level from this standpoint, but I think it may take some time for him to become a goal scorer in the National Hockey League,” Sneddon said. “I would see him as a really, really solid third line center to start and then I certainly think he can move up as he matures as a player and finds his offense at that level.”
Mitchell should join the professional fold in 2008-09 as a 23-year-old. Whether that is in the AHL as a second or third line center or straight to the NHL is to be seen. Long term, the fourth round pick has the potential to become a strong third line center who could fill in on higher lines as needed, perhaps as a more physical version of current Shark center Alyn McCauley.
Mike Morris, RW
Northeastern University – Sr.
Ht: 6’0 Wt: 188 lb. Shoots: Right
Born: 1-10-1983 Braintree, Massachusetts
Acquired: 1st Rd, 27th overall 2002 NHL Entry Draft
The 2005-06 season was supposed to be the season Mike Morris became a Hockey East First-Team All-Star and led Northeastern to success under new head coach Greg Cronin. The Sharks 2002 first round draft pick was supposed to finish his collegiate career strong in 2005-06 en route to a professional career in 2006-07. Instead, Morris hockey career is in question after 2005-06.
Morris suffered a concussion in 2004-05 and a car accident over the summer left him with a seven-inch cut in his scalp and another serious concussion. The 23-year-old has been declared a medical redshirt and is hoping to finish his collegiate career in 2006-07.
“He’s a leader, he’s done it before,” Cronin said. “He’s a critical part of a fragile puzzle here.”
Cronin has not been able to coach Morris on the ice, but he scouted the right winger a great deal before the 2005-06 season.
“He’s got a good handle on the game,” Cronin said of Morris. “Some guys can shoot and skate, but they don’t have the handle to employ those skills during the game.
“He’s a hockey player. He understands the game.”
Morris has an abundance of both awareness and skill. He finished second in Northeastern scoring behind senior Jason Guerriero with 19 goals and 20 assists in 34 games in 2004-05. The speedster’s absence has been felt by the Huskies in the standings. Northeastern’s 2-13-6 conference record places the team ninth in Hockey East standings. Unlike 10th place Merrimack, Northeastern has no wins in non-conference play.
Although the 2005-06 season may be lost for both Northeastern and Morris, Cronin has confidence in his returning senior.
“I expect him to pick up where he left off his junior year,” Cronin said. “I have no reservations saying this, but if he’s healthy, he should be a First-team All-Hockey East guy.”
Morris had figured to project as a strong third-line player who could fill in on higher lines, but now his concussion problems raise concerns about his future. If Morris can overcome his concussions and return to his old form, he should have a future in San Jose or elsewhere in the NHL. If not, he’ll become part of a sad list of players who had head injuries prematurely end their careers.
Brian O’Hanley, D/LW
Boston College University – Soph.
Ht: 5’11 Wt: 190 lb. Shoots: Left
Born: 12-18-1984 Quincy, Massachusetts
Acquired: 9th Rd, 267th overall 2003 NHL Entry Draft
Boston College’s Brian O’Hanley was a regular in the Eagles line-up as a freshman in 2004-05 and is so again in 2005-06, but what position he lines up at is far from regular.
Drafted as an offensive defenseman with good speed, a hard shot, a quick release, solid stickhandling, and a knack for pulling the puck off the boards, O’Hanley was converted to a forward at even strength last season and has been such for most of the 2005-06 season as well. The 21-year-old started the season on the Eagles third pairing with freshman Tim Kunes, but he was placed on the fourth scoring line in November, normally skating with Boston College High School teammate Matt Greene at center and either freshman Andrew Orpik or sophomore Pat Gannon on the right wing.
O’Hanley has still received time on the point of the Boston College power play, where he has one power-play goal and two power-play assists, half of his two goals and four assists in 29 games so far this season. Despite his positional identity crisis, O’Hanley has found some success this season, as he was named to the Hockey East Honor Roll Jan. 2 after scoring a goal in each game of the Denver Cup in late December.
Known as an offensive defenseman in Boston public high school and then prep school with Salisbury, O’Hanley needed to work on his commitment to defense and his physical play prior to entering college. The same still holds true. If O’Hanley is to become a regular defenseman, instead of a skilled power play defenseman who receives spot time on the fourth line at even strength, he must improve on these areas. However, his situation is a conundrum. O’Hanley needs ice time at defense to improve in these areas, but he needs to improve in these areas if he’s to receive regular time at defense for one of the top teams in college hockey. One potential positive sign is that O’Hanley paired with Brett Motherwell on the blue line this past weekend.
Joe Pavelski, C
University of Wisconsin – Soph.
Ht: 5’11 Wt: 185 lb. Shoots: Right
Born: 7-11-1984 Plover, Wisconsin
Acquired: 7th Rd, 205th overall 2003 NHL Entry Draft
Joe Pavelski specializes in proving people wrong. The Wisconsin high school star was supposed to struggle his first year in the USHL because of his skating. Pavelski scored 36 goals and 33 assists in 60 games for the Waterloo Blackhawks and was named USHL Rookie of the Year. As an exclamation point, in his second season of junior hockey he was named the USA Hockey Junior Hockey Player of the Year after captaining Team USA to a silver medal at the Viking Cup and Waterloo to the Clark Cup in 2004. He was supposed to struggle in the college game at Wisconsin, because his skating still needed some work. He led the Badgers in scoring with 16 goals and 29 assists in 41 games and was named to the WCHA All-Rookie Team.
It’s more of the same in 2005-06. Pavelski is tied with linemate Robbie Earl (TOR) in Wisconsin scoring with 17 goals and 24 assists in 31 games, placing him fifth in WCHA overall scoring. His 34 points in 24 conference games places Pavelski third in WCHA conference scoring, despite the knocks on his speed and skating.
“He may not be the fastest player on the ice, but he knows where the puck is going and makes it back,” Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves said in a telephone interview.
Pavelski’s two-way awareness combined with his hard shot, crisp passing, and strong stickhandling skills makes him one of the top sophomore forwards in college hockey. The seventh round pick captained his high school team to a Wisconsin state championship, Team USA to a silver medal, and the Waterloo Blackhawks to the USHL championship, and it’s safe to say a letter is in his future in Madison.
“I think the captain needs to be one of your better players that’s one of your hardest workers, and he’s a guy that’s going to be on the ice in key moments,” Eaves said.
“Joe has the ability to look around the locker room and be in tune with what’s going on, he understands the team concept, how important it is to have everyone pulling the rope, and if there are things that are happening that are not going that way, I think he has the awareness and respect of his teammates to step in and say, ‘Look, some things aren’t right right now, and we have to fix them,'” Eaves said
“So, I wouldn’t be surprised in his last two years to see him in some kind of leadership role.”
Pavelski is already a key player on the power play and penalty kill and one of Wisconsin’s top faceoff players. The next step in Pavelski’s collegiate career is living without senior Adam Burish on the right wing and improving his skating, but the latter might be further along had the 21-year-old not faced adversity last year.
“He still hasn’t had a pure summer as far as being able to really make gains with his strength,” Eaves said. “His freshman year he played most of the year with a bum shoulder and he had surgery on that, so he rehabbed more than he could train and increase his physical strength.
“He’s a better skater this year than he was his freshman year, just because of natural growth, but he has room for improvement there.”
A healthy summer should help Pavelski get closer. Like Mitchell, Pavelski projects to potentially be a third line center capable of playing on higher lines if necessary. However, unlike Mitchell, Pavelski still has the questions about his skating. Boston’s Brad Boyes is proving to be a decent second line center despite his speed deficiency, so Pavelski has hope. Pavelski is not set to join the pro ranks until the 2008-09 season, but when he does, it will likely be with San Jose’s AHL affiliate. The seventh round pick already appears to be a success though.
Dan Spang, D
Boston University – Sr.
Ht: 6’0 Wt: 207 lb. Shoots: Left
Born: 8-16-1983 Winchester, Massachusetts
Acquired: 2nd Rd, 52nd overall 2002 NHL Entry Draft
Dan Spang was a surprise pick in the second round of the 2002 NHL Entry Draft, but four years later the Winchester High School grad is one of the top defenseman in Hockey East.
Spang’s selection wasn’t surprising merely because he was drafted directly out of Massachusetts public high school hockey on the first day of the NHL Draft, it’s that his senior season was limited to six games by a car accident. However, Spang has improved each of his four seasons with Boston University.
“He used to be too quick to the puck and sometimes run too quickly to the corner and the guy would easily beat him out of the corner,” BU head coach Jack Parker said in a telephone interview. “Since the first semester of his sophomore year he’s made great strides in that way, so now he’s a real force.
Regarded primarily as a defensive defenseman prior to this season, Spang is fourth in Hockey East overall defensive scoring with three goals and 17 assists in 30 games, and tops the Terriers in that category. The Boston native is also one of the 15 finalists for the Walter Brown Award, given to the top U.S-born collegiate hockey player playing NCAA DI hockey in the Northeast.
“He’s been a great leader for us as a senior defenseman,” Parker said. “He’s gotten a lot of ice time, he played well on the power play and been a very good offensive defenseman for us.”
Some players skate well and have good strength in the gym, but not all can translate it to the ice like the 6’0, 207-pound Spang.
“Besides being a strong skater, skating ability-wise, he’s very strong on his skates,” Parker said. “He can take a hit and give a hit.”
The 22-year-old blueliner must still work on his consistency.
“I think he can continue to work on his overall game as far as focus is concerned,” Parker said. “Sometimes he’ll have a couple of shifts where he’s not at the top of his game and then all of the sudden he’s back up again.”
Along with shift-to-shift focus, Spang could also become more effective on the power play given his skill set.
“I think he has the ability to make plays and be more of an offensive defenseman that he is,” Parker said.
Parker still thinks that Spang will be more of a defensive defenseman in the pros.
“He probably will not be a power play guy at the NHL level, but he’ll be a guy who can create some offense because he can jump into the play and fill a lane,” Parker said. “He’s real good at that.”
“But most importantly, he’ll be a guy that can be depended upon to defend a rush and defend out front.”
A rarity in college hockey as a 22-year-old senior, Spang’s only beginning to enter the age where defensemen tend to hit their prime. His skating ability, strength, and then his strength on his skates should ensure he’s solid defensively at the pro level. Spang is also starting to show some of the necessary offensive ability to succeed at the pro level. He’ll start off in Worcester next year, but the Boston native could become a fourth or fifth defenseman for San Jose.
Tom Walsh, D
Harvard University – Sr.
Ht: 6’0 Wt: 195 lb. Shoots: Left
Born: 4-22-1983 Arlington, Massachusetts
Acquired: 5th Rd, 163rd overall 2002 NHL Entry Draft
Tom Walsh has established himself as one of Harvard’s top defensemen in 2005-06 and is one of the 15 finalists for the Walter Brown Award, given to the top American-born collegiate hockey player playing in the Northeast, but the fifth round pick of the 2002 NHL Entry Draft is still a long-shot to follow Harvard grad Tom Cavanagh to the Sharks AHL affiliate.
Walsh has a couple of exceptional skills that could earn him a three-way contract from the Sharks.
“He’s a guy that has great foot speed and is very strong and has a great release, I’d say it’s a big league NHL-caliber snap shot that he possesses,” Harvard head coach Ted Donato said.
Walsh is tied with Dylan Reese (NYR) to lead Harvard in defenseman scoring with two goals and 10 assists in 27 games, but he is only 19th among ECAC defenseman in scoring. He possesses the tools of an offensive defenseman, but he’s far from an impact offensive defenseman at the ECAC level.
“He still has to improve his decisions under pressure and his gap control defensively and being a little bit better taking away passing lanes and shooting lines and overall having a better stick defensively,” Donato said.
The fact that Walsh has failed to prove himself as a top offensive defenseman in college hockey may mean he will have an identity crisis in pro hockey.
“He possesses some of the skill set of a very good offensive defenseman, but at this point hasn’t really proven to be a guy that you rely on his offense alone,” Donato said. “I think that’ll be one of the challenges he faces, what kind of a defenseman he will be.”
Walsh will have to be a two-way defenseman at the pro level, and his upside is likely a third or fourth defenseman in the AHL. It is uncertain whether San Jose will have any openings in Worcester in 2006-07. Any openings created would first be filled by Spang and Brampton Battalion defenseman Michael Vernace. Finnish defense prospect Tero Maatta would also likely be considered for AHL assignment before Walsh. San Jose could choose to sign Walsh to an AHL contract first, a la Garrett Stafford and Mike Iggulden, and see how he fares before deciding whether or not to offer him a two- or three-way contract.
Steven Zalewski, C
Clarkson University – Soph.
Ht: 5’11 Wt: 189 lb. Shoots: Left
Born: 8-20-1986 New Hartford, New York
Acquired: 5th Rd, 153rd overall 2004 NHL Entry Draft
Steven Zalewski finished third in Clarkson scoring in 2004-05 and led all Golden Knight freshmen in scoring with 12 goals and 9 assists in 39 games. Named Clarkson’s Unsung Hero last season, Zalewski is on pace to increase his point production, but it’s not the jump that was hoped for.
Zalewski has seven goals and 11 assists in 29 games in 2005-06, missing three games due to a concussion suffered against Bemidji State Dec. 30 at the Catamount Count. The sophomore center is still the same two-way player though.
“He’s worked extremely hard at both ends of the ice, but for whatever reason, he and his linemates haven’t been able to contribute on the scoring sheet the way that we’d like them to,” Clarkson head coach George Roll said in a telephone interview.
Despite being ninth in Clarkson scoring, Zalewski has still been the Golden Knights first or second line center most nights and has been somebody Roll can rely on. The 19-year-old’s biggest strength is probably his advanced defensive play for his age.
“He’s very responsible defensively,” Roll said. “If you need a stopper out there, he’s the guy.”
Zalewski is far more than a defensive forward though.
“He’s on the power play, he kills penalties, he takes big draws for us,” Roll said. “He’s a guy that you can rely on in every situation.”
Although Zalewski plays a fairly complete game, he could improve his skating. However, his game could go to the next level without any power skating.
“I think he’s awfully hard on himself,” Roll said. “His expectations are awfully high, and sometimes the more pressure you put on yourself the tougher it is. He doesn’t have that self-confidence in a lot of situations that he should have, because he does have the ability to be very effective at our level and the next level.”
Despite having a good shot, Zalewski needs to use it more.
“He’s a guy who can shoot the puck and attack the net more,” Roll said. “He’s always looking to make the extra pass instead of driving the net and getting pucks on net.”
One of the top young two-way forwards in the ECAC, Zalewski’s future is likely as a defensive forward.
“I don’t know if he’s ever going to be a top six or top nine guy in the NHL,” Roll said. “But, I think he can be a guy that a coach can rely on defensively late in the game, being up a goal and needing to protect a lead or stopping the other team’s top line and winning faceoffs at crucial times of the game.”
Like current Shark prospect and Cleveland Baron Tom Cavanagh, Zalewski’s upside is that of a strong fourth line forward who can fill in on the third line when needed. Like Cavanagh, Zalewski’s first destination will be the AHL in 2008-09, when he’ll only be 22, young for a player coming out of the college ranks.
|San Jose College Prospect Player Stats 2005-06|
|Will Colbert||St. FX|
|Michael Hutchins||N. Hampshire|
|Brian O’Hanley||Boston Coll.|
|Dan Spang||Boston U|
|San Jose College Prospect Goalie Stats 2005-06|
Copyright 2006 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.