Sharks 2001 draft evaluation

By Kevin Wey

The San Jose Sharks surprised the hockey world at the 2001 NHL Entry Draft by selecting German prospects with each of their first three picks in the draft. Five years later, the Sharks are well on their way toward getting the last laugh.

All six of the Sharks picks from the 2001 Draft were signed to entry-level contracts, and all are still in the organization five years later. No Sharks draft previous to the 2001 saw all of the players signed by the organization, and each player selected in 2001 still has a legitimate shot at playing in the NHL, if they are not already doing so.

Two of the Sharks three German picks are already regulars in the San Jose line-up. Marcel Goc played nearly every game in 2005-06 and provides San Jose with a young forward with excellent two-way awareness and ability. Christian Ehrhoff has overcome some defensive deficiencies and showed his considerable talent in the 2006 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The third German the Sharks selected in the 2001 Draft, goaltender Dimitri Patzold, has yet to play an NHL game for San Jose, but he was an emergency recall in 2005-06 and could still figure into the team’s plans.

Fifth round pick Tomas Plihal, the Sharks fourth pick in the 2001 Draft, should contend for a spot in San Jose in 2006-07 after finishing 2005-06 with the Cleveland Barons in strong fashion. Fellow Baron Ryane Clowe, a sixth round Shark pick in the 2001 Draft, has already played for San Jose and should compete for a full-time spot on the Sharks roster in 2006-07. The Sharks final pick in the 2001 Draft, Tom Cavanagh, played his rookie pro season last season with Cleveland and showed the same two-way awareness he showed in the college game.

Depending on how the 2001 Draft class continues to develop for the Sharks, it could become one of the best in San Jose franchise history. Thus, the Sharks receive high marks for translating unconventional into exceptional.

The six picks have played 204 NHL games, for an average of 34 games per pick.

Marcel Goc, C
1st Rd, 20th overall
Status: NHL Player
NHL Games: 81

Entering the 2001 NHL Entry Draft, Marcel Goc was considered the best prospect Germany had produced since Marco Sturm. Five years later, San Jose’s second German first round pick is well on his way toward becoming one of the top two-way forwards in the NHL.

After playing four seasons in the DEL Goc came to North America for the 2003-04 season to play for the AHL Cleveland Barons. The 20-year-old Goc scored 16 goals and 21 assists in 78 games for Cleveland, but he also impressed in five playoffs games with the San Jose Sharks. The lockout kept him out of the NHL in 2004-05, but with the return of the NHL came the arrival of Goc in San Jose as a regular in the line-up.

Goc started the 2005-06 season as a second and third line center, but he was moved down to the third and fourth lines after the acquisition of Joe Thornton. However, after Alyn McCauey was injured against Nashville in the first round of the 2006 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Goc was again on the third line full-time and playing a high-energy forechecking game.

The 22-year-old has displayed keen two-way hockey sense since he was a teenager in Germany, but the smooth skating Goc also has soft hands and offensive abilities. His defensive awareness and effort, mixed with his offensive skills, should help Goc contend for the Selke Trophy later in his career. Goc will never be a regular first line forward in the NHL, but players like Goc help win Stanley Cups.

Christian Ehrhoff, D
4th Rd, 106th overall
Status: NHL Player
NHL Games: 105

Goc has turned out well, but fourth round pick Christian Ehrhoff looks poised to become the Sharks top selection in franchise history.

Erhrhoff was the youngest player at the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City and established himself as a talented offensive defenseman in three full seasons in the DEL with the Krefeld Penguins. After winning the 2003 DEL Championship with Krefeld, Ehrhoff made the move to North America for 2003-04, splitting the season between San Jose and Cleveland. The 21-year-old Ehrhoff impressed enough in his NHL action to be named to the 2004 Young Stars Game and was among the Barons leading scorers in the 2004 Calder Cup Playoffs with two goals and six assists in nine games, but his -8 rating proved he had work to do.

The 2004-05 season with Cleveland was more of the same for Ehrhoff, scoring points but failing to play with enough intensity on defense. Ehrhoff was a semi-regular healthy scratch for the first half of 2005-06, but a four-game assist streak prior to the 2006 Winter Olympics and a one-goal, one-assist performance after playing for Germany in Turin marked a turning point. Ehrhoff “got it” and received around 20 minutes of ice time per game the rest of the season.

Ehrhoff took his game to another level in the 2006 Stanley Cup Playoffs, where the 23-year-old was San Jose’s most effective defenseman offensively and defensively against the Edmonton Oilers in the Western Conference Semifinals. If Ehrhoff can fill out his 6’2, 195-pound frame, he’ll have the combination of speed, skating, skill and size to be one of the best defensemen in the NHL. The 2004 fourth round pick is starting to live up to his considerable potential.

Dimitri Patzold, G
4th Rd, 107th overall
Status: NHL Prospect
NHL Games: 0

Taken with the pick immediately after Ehrhoff, goaltender Dimitri Patzold has yet to play a game for San Jose, and it’s up in the air whether he’ll get the chance.

Patzold only received spot duty over three years of DEL action, two with Cologne and one with Mannheim, but he was thoroughly impressive when he represented Germany’s junior national team, especially at the 2003 World Junior Championships in Nova Scotia. Patzold stood on his head to prevent Germany from being blown out by the Finns and Czechs and had a 49-save performance against Team Canada, limiting Germany to a 4-1 loss.

Patzold started the 2003-04 season as the backup netminder for Cleveland, but Nolan Schaefer rose from the ECHL to establish dominion in the Cleveland net in the 2004 Calder Cup Playoffs. Schaefer and Patzold platooned in 2004-05, and Patzold even had superior numbers with a .915 save percentage and 2.88 goals-against average. In 2005-06, San Jose recalled Patzold under emergency conditions in late October, but he did not see an NHL action in his short stint. Inconsistency was the word for Patzold’s 2005-06 AHL campaign, as the 23-year-old Patzold finished with a .869 save percentage and a 3.97 goals-against average. A knee injury suffered in early December that kept him out for a month further hampered Patzold’s 2005-06.

Patzold must receive a qualifying offer by 5:00 p.m. ET the Monday after the draft to remain a restricted free agent. With Thomas Greiss and Patrick Ehelechner both signed, it’s uncertain whether San Jose will re-sign Patzold and give him the chance to develop under goaltending coach Warren Strelow, who is starting to regain his health.

Tomas Plihal, C/LW
5th Rd, 140th overall
Status: NHL Prospect
NHL Games: 0

Despite unimpressive stats the past three AHL seasons, Tomas Plihal is on the verge of cracking the San Jose line-up.

Drafted out of the Czech Republic, Plihal played for the Kootenay Ice in 2001-02 and finished third in WHL rookie scoring with 32 goals and 54 assists, playing with Marek Svatos on a line that helped Kootenay win the 2002 Memorial Cup. After scoring 35 goals and 42 assists in his second WHL season, without Svatos, Plihal made the jump to the AHL in 2003-04.

Injuries in his first two AHL seasons limited forced him to miss over 40 games over that time and also limited his production to 16 points in 2003-04 and 28 points in 2004-05. Plihal’s stats in 2005-06 weren’t that impressive either, but the seven goals and one assist he scored in his final seven games of the season earned him recall to San Jose April 11. Plihal did not play, but he did practice with the Sharks to end the season and throughout the playoffs.

The 23-year-old Czech has re-emerged as a legitimate NHL prospect, not just because of the goal scoring he showed to close the AHL season, but because of the two-way game he has developed over his five seasons in North America. A healthy Plihal has the speed, skill, size (6’1, 195 pounds), and two-way awareness to become a contributing fourth line Shark in 2006-07, and the confidence he gained at the end of the 2005-06 season may just be enough to carry him to a roster spot next season, proving the 2001 fifth round pick was worth the wait.

Ryane Clowe, RW
6th Rd, 175th overall
Status: NHL Player/Prospect
NHL Games: 18

Ryane Clowe is on the cusp of cracking San Jose full time.

Clowe established himself as one of the top power forwards in the QMJHL over the course of three seasons and signed and quickly adapted to the AHL. In 2003-04, Clowe’s rookie pro season, he scored 11 goals and 29 assists in 72 games and appeared to have an outside shot of cracking San Jose in 2004-05. The lockout prevented Clowe from getting a shot in 2004-05, but he did lead Cleveland in scoring with 27 goals and 35 assists in 75 games.

Clowe cracked the Sharks line-up out of training camp in 2005-06, but he was sent down to Cleveland in mid-November when San Jose started struggling. He was recalled in mid-December, but suffered a knee injury Dec. 30 that kept him out of action for two weeks. Reassigned to Cleveland, Clowe finished the 2005-06 AHL season with 13 goals and 21 assists in 21 games. Clowe was recalled for the Sharks final game of the season and also played one game in the playoffs after Milan Michalek was injured.

The 23-year-old should challenge for a spot in San Jose for 2006-07. The 6’2, 215-pound Clowe has good size, is good along the boards, and has the hands to finish chances around the net. In order to become a full-time Shark, Clowe must adjust to playing only eight minutes a game on San Jose’s fourth line and play his intimidating power game every minute of every shift. The sixth round pick has the potential to be a fourth liner who can contribute on higher lines if needed.

Tom Cavanagh, C
6th Rd, 182nd overall
Status: NHL Prospect
NHL Games: 0

Unheralded Tom Cavanagh is still plugging away at becoming a fourth liner for San Jose.

Cavanagh was drafted out of Phillips Exeter Academy, where he set a school record of 42 goals in one season, but he established himself as one of the ECACHL’s top two-way forwards in his four years at Harvard. The Crimson center was a two-time finalist for the Walter Brown Award given to the top American-born player playing college hockey in the Northeast, and was the ECACHL Defensive Forward of the Year his senior season, as well as an All-ECACHL Second Team member and a unanimous First Team All-Ivy selection.

Despite missing no games in his collegiate career, Cavanagh required knee surgery after his senior season and had to rehab instead of train for his first season of AHL hockey. After missing the first 16 games of the Cleveland Barons season, Cavanagh scored a goal and two assists in his first AHL game. Cavanagh’s was inconsistent in the scoring department in 2005-06, scoring only 10 goals and 11 assists in 62 games, but his effort on the forecheck was never questioned. Despite overcoming a weaker leg, Cavanagh still showed decent quickness and power in 2005-06 and should be an even better skater in 2006-07.

Cavanagh will play for Worcester in 2006-07, the new home of the Sharks AHL affiliate, and should be a second or third line forward. Long term, Cavanagh has the potential to become a puck pursuit fourth line forward who has the hands and offensive awareness to capitalize on his chances.

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