Young Sharks making the cut for 2006-07

By Martin Christ

Five San Jose Shark prospects made the 2006-07 opening night roster, and while four of them were simply meeting expectations, the fifth was a complete
surprise. Defenseman Matt Carle and forward Steve Bernier were locks to make the team. Josh Gorges may not have been a lock, but as anticipated, he won back his shut down role on defense. Rugged winger Ryane Clowe succeeded in the fourth-line grinder battle, though he was at first placed on injured reserve. Marc-Edouard Vlasic was the biggest revelation in camp, making the Sharks’ blue line to start the season at just 19. Though the Sharks can decide to return Vlasic to the QMJHL after a nine-game NHL trial, current indications are he will stay with San Jose.

Marc-Edouard Vlasic, D

Sharks scouts first noticed Vlasic during
the 2003-04 season while following the development of his teammate,
2003 San Jose draft pick Josh Hennessy. Vlasic’s poise and steady play on the Quebec Remparts defense convinced the Sharks to put him high on their list of 2005 draft eligible players and they surprised many, claiming him 35th overall with a draft choice acquired from the Miikka Kiprusoff trade.

While the Sharks’ staff gave Vlasic a high rating, Hennessy gave his
young teammate an even more favorable report. “He’s awesome. I think people are really going to be pleasantly surprised,” predicted Hennessy to HF writer Kevin Wey in January of 2006. Looking back at Vlasic’s emergence on the Remparts blue line, Hennessy reflected, “Some people were surprised to see him get drafted so high, I could have seen him going even higher. It’s pretty amazing, he went from actually originally getting cut as a 16-year-old from our team to the end of that same season being called back up and being pretty much our best defenseman. He’s going to be a really good player.”

Though it was Vlasic’s defensive strengths that prompted the Sharks to
select him in 2005 after he put up a modest 30 points while registering
a +39, the selection looked even better when he collected 73 points in
2005-06, showing scoring ability on a more offensively-oriented Remparts team. Vlasic narrowly missed out on a gold medal when he was
one of the last cuts from Canada’s 2006 World Junior team, but made up for that by playing a major role in Quebec’s Memorial Cup victory. He gave high praise to his Quebec coach, hockey legend Patrick Roy, crediting him for lending the insight which would speed his transition from the junior to the professional level. Another advantage for Vlasic is that while he is the first French Canadian defenseman ever selected by the Sharks, his English is fluent owing partly to his American born father. Vlasic would face no language barriers in training camp.

Participating in the Pacific Division Shootout early this September,
Vlasic led the Sharks team in scoring with two goals and four assists.
While this was very impressive, doubters pointed out that it was merely
against rookies, and judgment had to be withheld until the rookie was viewed against stronger opposition.

The first preseason test came against the Los Angeles Kings on
Sept. 19 when Vlasic played a strong 20 minutes, a quarter of which was killing penalties, and then looked poised again two nights later against the Vancouver Canucks. Sharks coach Ron Wilson felt the 19-year-old was his best defenseman in camp at this point. While other Sharks defensive prospects like Dan Spang and top 2006 draft pick Ty Wishart had their training camp auditions curtailed, Vlasic remained in camp for an extended stay, allowing Wilson to apply a severe test to the young defender’s resolve.

During the Sharks third preseason game in Fresno against the Anaheim
Ducks, Wilson followed through on his plan. With the Sharks shorthanded by two men, Vlasic was thrown out on the penalty kill. He showed no panic, drew an Anaheim penalty, and the Ducks were turned back. Late in the game the Sharks, defending a one-goal lead, were one man down and the Ducks pulled their goalie to give themselves a six players to four advantage. Vlasic was again thrown into the fire and he helped the Sharks maintain their lead to the final buzzer without flinching. Vlasic, given the opportunity to fail, had passed with such a high grade that making the team was looking realistic.

Further helping his cause, Vlasic hit the score sheet on Sept. 27
against the Calgary Flames with a power-play goal against Kiprusoff. There had to be a little extra satisfaction for San Jose management, in that Vlasic’s first preseason goal came against the same player the Sharks traded to enable Vlasic’s acquisition. His perfect preseason suffered a minor setback when he was -2 in the first period of the Sept. 29 5-2 loss to Los Angeles, but he bounced back the next night against Calgary when he helped kill a two-man disadvantage early in the game and then picked up an assist on a Patrick Marleau goal as the Sharks cruised to a 5-1 win.

Vlasic’s strong final game of training camp made Ron Wilson’s decision
easy. With the Sharks’ season opener against the St. Louis Blues nearing, the coach announced “Pickles” would be on the roster, paired with veteran Scott Hannan. Vlasic had not only made the team, he had a new nickname, and Hennessy’s prophetic powers were confirmed. Vlasic had indeed “pleasantly surprised a lot of people” and it does very much look like he’s going to be a really good player.

Matt Carle, D

Matt Carle enhanced predictions that he would be a Calder Trophy
candidate by scoring the Sharks’ first goal of the preseason and then followed that up with the Sharks’ first goal in each of their first two regular season games. He now has three points in three games.

Josh Gorges, D

Josh Gorges averaged over 20:00 of ice time in five preseason
games. He finally won a roster spot over Rob Davison and Doug Murray
during the final preseason game on Sept. 30 against the Calgary Flames. He will likely graduate from prospect status in November.

Steve Bernier, RW

Steve Bernier scored a preseason hat trick against the
Flames on Sept. 27. In addition to his scoring talents he took on the role of protector during preseason, challenging the Flames’ Robyn Regehr and Brad Ference when the situation demanded fistic action. He has five points in three regular season games.

Ryane Clowe, LW

Ryane Clowe displayed his abrasive style in four preseason games,
scoring a power-play goal on Sept. 19 against the Kings. He started the season on the injured reserve with a foot injury and was inserted in the lineup on Oct. 9 when an injury to Mark Bell opened up a position on the wing.

Briefly tracking other Shark prospects

Devin Setoguchi missed the entire preseason with a knee injury
and was traded from the Saskatoon Blades to the Prince George Cougars
shortly after being returned to the WHL. The trade makes Setoguchi a teammate of the Sharks 2006 first round draft choice Ty Wishart. Wishart played only three games with the Cougars before suffering a concussion on Sept. 30, in a 5-3 win versus the Chilliwack Bruins when Wishart was involved in a fight with Chilliwack’s tough left wing Myles Stoesz (ATL). Setoguchi and Wishart played together for the first time on Oct. 11, when Cougars battled the Swift Current Broncos.

Goaltender Thomas Greiss stopped eight of nine shots during his only period of preseason play on Sept. 20 against the Anaheim Ducks. He is currently on the roster of the Worcester Sharks where he shares the goaltending chores with Dmitri Patzold and Nolan Schaefer. He did not see any action in Worcester’s first two games.

Lukas Kaspar co-led the Sharks in scoring during the Pacific
Division Shootout and then saw preseason action in two games in which he averaged 11 minutes of ice time and registered one assist before being assigned to Worcester. In Worcester, Kaspar failed to get on the score sheet in the first two games of the season, though he was the only Shark to score in a shootout against Jason LaBarbera of the Manchester Monarchs on Oct. 7 during a 5-4 loss.

Patzold played the second half of the Sept. 19 preseason game against Los Angeles, making 11 saves on 12 shots. He completed the first two Worcester games, both of which ended in shootouts. He won the first game and lost the second.

Goaltender Taylor Dakers did not play any preseason minutes for
the Sharks. As expected, he returned to the Kootenay Ice as an
overage junior where he won his first three starts, allowing only six goals and making 70 saves.

Jamie McGinn, returned to junior with the Ottawa 67’s, in his first six games was leading the team with five goals and seven points.

Torrey Mitchell picked up a goal and an assist in his first two
games with the University of Vermont Catamounts while Mike Morris will captain the Northeastern Huskies in their opening game of the season on Oct. 10 against Boston College. The two Sharks’ prospects will meet head to head on Oct. 14 when Northeastern battles Vermont.

Joe Pavelski saw action in three of the San Jose Sharks
preseason games, picking up a power play goal in the opener on Sept. 19
against Los Angeles. In his first two games with Worcester, Pavelski is the team leader in points with one goal and three assists.

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