Sharks Top 10 Prospects
1. Matt Carle, D
2. Devin Setoguchi, RW
3. Steve Bernier, RW
4. Josh Gorges, D
5. Josh Hennessy, C
6. Marc-Eduoard Vlasic, D
7. Lukas Kaspar, LW
8. Thomas Greiss, G
9. Doug Murray, D
10. Dimitri Patzold, G
After losing to the Edmonton Oilers in the Western Conference semifinals, it is clear that San Jose needs more mobility on defense. Christian Ehrhoff sparkled while veterans Scott Hannan and Kyle McLaren struggled with Edmonton’s speed and tenacity. Hobey Baker winner Matt Carle should help compensate for this deficiency as he gains more NHL experience. Prospect blueliners Marc-Eduoard Vlasic, one of the top defenseman in the QMJHL, and 2006 East First-Team All-American Dan Spang should provide relief in the future. The Sharks lost the bidding war for Scott Niedermayer, now they can only hope their in-house players develop to their full potential to improve the mobility of the Sharks d-corps.
The Sharks defense also lacked physicality against Edmonton. In some cases, it was because players were stumbling trying to keep up with the Edmonton forwards, and in other cases it was playing too cautiously and trying to avoid penalties. Unfortunately, total package defensemen are future Hall of Famers, not a common commodity. It is for this reason that Erik Johnson could go first overall in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. Even if the Sharks put together some uberpackage to acquire the first overall pick from the St. Louis Blues, “EJ” couldn’t address San Jose’s immediate need. The answer lies in Ehrhoff continuing to play a physical game and Hannan, McLaren and Doug Murray improving their mobility.
The Oilers also exposed a lack of toughness on the Sharks squad. Raffi Torres had his way with the Sharks in the playoffs and took much of the team off their game. Injuries or not, no Shark player stepped up to do anything about Torres or goaltender Dwayne Roloson, who routinely stopped play by losing equipment faster than Rob Ray ever could. Ville Nieminen was largely ineffective in getting the Oilers off their game, and Mark Smith may have spent more time cleaning the ice than the Zamboni in the Edmonton series. The Sharks need 6’2, 215-pound Ryane Clowe to assume and accept the role of a true power forward in 2006-07. He’s strong along the boards and must play a high-intensity checking game at the NHL level to best serve San Jose. Clowe can also devastate in fights. Nobody in the Sharks organization has the tools to fill this need any better than Clowe. Scott Parker does not have Clowe’s skill and Steve Bernier can’t throw like Clowe, nor should Bernier be expected to.
The Sharks have excellent prospect depth at defense. Matt Carle could contend for a spot on the NHL All-Rookie Team in 2006-07 and should provide San Jose with excellent puck movement and hockey sense for years to come. Marc-Eduoard Vlasic is one of the top defensemen in the QMJHL and he’d be AHL bound in 2006-07 if he weren’t only 19 years old. Dan Spang ended 2005-06 with the Sharks AHL affiliate and has the potential to be a strong fifth or sixth defenseman at the NHL level. Spang has tremendous strength on his skates or in the weight room. Ottawa 67’s defenseman Derek Joslin is also on his way toward establishing himself as one of the top two-way defensemen in the OHL. Add in Christian Ehrhoff and Josh Gorges, the Sharks have no dearth of talented young, mobile defensemen.
San Jose also has a lot of offensive talent at forward waiting in the wings. Right winger Devin Setoguchi has been signed and could challenge for a spot in San Jose in 2006-07. The team’s first round pick from the 2005 Draft has the speed the Sharks like and a dangerous shot. The 19-year-old Setoguchi will either be in San Jose or with the Saskatoon Blades, burning out red lights across the WHL. Left winger Lukas Kaspar, the Sharks 2004 first round draft pick, also brings a lot of skill to the ice. The 6’2, 200-pound Kaspar has speed, a hard shot, and excellent stickhandling abilities, he just needs to drive to the net harder and make his moves lower in the offensive zone. Right winger Mike Morris brings a lot of speed, skill, and two-way awareness to the Sharks organization, he just needs to recover from a concussion that kept him out of the entire 2005-06 season. If regains his health, whether he plays for Northeastern University or the Worcester Sharks in the AHL in 2006-07, he’ll be a force. Although he’s not a winger, center Josh Hennessy also has the trademark Shark speed and skill. Hennessy led the AHL Cleveland Barons in scoring in 2005-06 and will contend for an NHL roster spot in training camp. In addition, young power forwards Milan Michalek and Steve Bernier has already established himself on San Jose’s second scoring line after finishing 2005-06 strongly.
In net, the Sharks already have two No. 1 netminders in Evgeni Nabokov and Vesa Toskala, but the organization also has four prospect goaltenders with NHL potential. Restricted free agent Nolan Schaefer impressed in his NHL stint in 2005-06 and could become the Sharks backup in 2006-07 if one of the top two are traded and Schaefer is tendered a qualifying offer. What could keep Schaefer from receiving a qualifying offer is the fact the San Jose has three talented German netminders. Thomas Greiss was signed before the June 1 signing deadline and will play in North America in 2005-06, likely with the Worcester Sharks. Greiss established himself as the top young German netminder by earning a spot on the German Olympic team as a 20-year-old. Patrick Ehelechner was signed last summer after two seasons with the Sudbury Wolves and could return to North America in 2006-07. Whether Ehelechner comes over depends on whether Dimitri Patzold is tendered a qualifying offer. Patzold has played the last three seasons in the Sharks system without much one-on-one tutelage from goaltender coach Warren Strelow, who has been ill the past two years. Given additional instruction from Strelow, Patzold could rebound from a subpar 2005-06. The Sharks have so much depth in net that talented QMJHL goaltender Jason Churchill was not signed by the June 1 deadline, meaning the 21-year-old will become an unrestricted free agent.
The Sharks have a lot of speed and skill in their line-up and in their prospect depth chart, but could use more players who have speed, skating and physicality.
San Jose has plenty of young offensive talent at forward with veterans such as Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, and Jonathan Cheechoo, with young NHLers like Milan Michalek, Steve Bernier, and Marcel Goc, and prospect such as Setoguchi, Josh Hennessy, Kaspar, and Mike Morris. The Sharks could afford to take prospect forwards who many only have third or fourth line NHL offensive potential, but who tremendous potential when it comes to open-ice hitting, forechecking, and puck pursuit. Clowe is a start, but the Sharks need more power forwards who punish opponents with clean hits and fight from time to time when needed.
This is also true at defense. Doug Murray can punish opponents, but he could also use more mobility. The Sharks skilled defensemen in Ehrhoff and Preissing and prospects such as Carle and Vlasic. An all-around package like Erik Johnson would ideal, but even physical defensive defensemen who have the skating and speed to succeed without clutching and grabbing would be enough. These defensive defensemen need not necessarily have elite offensive abilities, they only need have sufficient offensive skills to make a reliable outlet pass and skate the puck some if needed. They do need to be able to punish opponents in the corners, in the open ice, and to be able to stand up for teammates.
Acquiring such prospects who mix size, speed, and skating will be difficult, as many other NHL teams could use such players as well.
The Sharks trade up to get their man, or men. In 2003, the Sharks packaged the 21st, 66th, and 107th overall picks to the Boston Bruins for the 16th overall pick to draft Steve Bernier. San Jose traded the 50th and 75th overall picks to the New York Rangers in the 2003 Draft to take Josh Hennessy with the 43rd overall pick, and they also traded the 97th, 143rd, and 173rd overall picks to the Calgary Flames in 2003 to take Matt Carle with the 47th overall pick. In 2004, San Jose traded the 28th, 52nd, and 91st overall picks to the Dallas Stars for the 22nd overall picked and subsequently drafted Lukas Kaspar. In 2005, the Sharks traded the 12th, 49th, and 207th overall picks to the Atlanta Thrashers for the eighth overall pick and used it to take Devin Setoguchi. All five of these prospects figure prominently in San Jose’s future.
The Sharks also value players with strong work ethic and leadership abilities, especially in mid- and late-round picks. Current Sharks prospects such as Joe Pavelski, Torrey Mitchell, Derek Joslin, Steven Zalewski, Tom Cavanagh, and Will Colbert are all prime examples of this focus. Pavelski may epitomize this trait. The 2003 seventh round pick captained his high school team to the 2003 Wisconsin state championship, the Waterloo Black Hawks to the 2004 USHL championship, Team USA to a silver medal at the 2004 Viking Cup, and was a leader on the University of Wisconsin’s 2006 national championship team.
The Sharks are also in no rush with their prospects. San Jose has no problem drafting a prospect out of junior A, high school, or prep school and allowing him to play more junior A hockey and then college hockey. The Sharks organization just wants to make sure that each of its prospects are receiving quality ice time at whatever level they’re playing, be it junior A, NCAA hockey, or even CIS hockey in Colbert’s case.
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