If the Sharks organization does not consider the 2002 NHL Entry Draft a complete disaster already, they could soon. The Sharks, known for being one of the most effective at the draft table, chose only one player who has laced up in the NHL thus far. In this draft, where only about half of the first round selections have been able to establish themselves as NHL players, the Sharks did manage to pick up a couple players who still could turn out, however. The window of opportunity for these prospects is slowly closing as they are being surpassed on the depth chart by younger and better prospects.
The team strongly emphasized defensemen in this class, particularly from the less-scouted United States Hockey League and the American high school ranks. Right wing Mike Morris, as well as defensemen Dan Spang and Tom Walsh represented half of the six U.S. High School players taken in the draft, all hailing from Massachusetts. Late-round picks Tim Conboy and Michael Hutchins played in Topeka and Des Moines of the USHL, respectively. The organization’s other two selections were forwards from the Ontario Hockey League — Czech winger Jonas Fiedler of the Plymouth Whalers and Canadian winger Kris Newbury of the Sarnia Sting.
Of these seven draft choices, only four remain within the organization and, the top two picks Morris and Spang represent the only realistic possibilities of being San Jose regulars. The seven picks averaged just 2.1 NHL games among them, the third worst average in the league.
Mike Morris, RW – St. Sebastian’s High School (Mass.)
1st Round, 27th Overall
The surprise first-round choice, Morris, had a fifth year of college at Northeastern this season. After red-shirting the previous season due to injuries, the team captain could not remain healthy and played only 20 games for the Huskies recording seven goals and 11 assists. His last game of college hockey came with much of the season yet to be played. Morris signed with the Sharks in April and should start his pro career in Worcester of the AHL next fall.
Morris’ strength is that he is a solid all-around player with no real flaws in his game. He can skate, score and is very competent in his own zone. He has a chance to earn a spot in the Sharks lineup within a few years if he manages to remain healthy. His upside is that of a second or third line winger capable of scoring a few goals while being defensively responsible. Goaltenders Josh Harding and Hannu Toivonen, as well as center Jarret Stoll, were available at the time of this selection.
Dan Spang, D – Winchester High School (Mass.)
2nd Round, 52nd Overall
Dan Spang spent four solid years as a Boston University Terrier before moving on to pro hockey last season in the AHL. The 6’0, 205 lb defenseman signed with the Sharks in 2006 and was assigned to Worcester after training camp.
He joined a defense corps which had a mix of younger players and veterans. In 48 games, Spang recorded four goals and 21 assists and a -4 rating. He missed 29 games during the season including the final 16 contests, as well as Worcester’s six playoff games.
Spang has become very strong and, although he has some mild offensive ability, his NHL future is that of a depth defensive backliner who is solid in his end. In the next two seasons, he should get a shot to show what he can do in the NHL, and that will go a long way in deciding what kind of career he will have. At this position, the Sharks could have picked up an NHLer like Matt Stajan, Duncan Keith or Jiri Hudler.
Jonas Fiedler, RW – Plymouth Whalers (OHL)
3rd Round, 86th Overall
Jonas Fiedler was chosen from the Plymouth Whalers, where he completed his OHL career. After going unsigned by the Sharks, the Carolina Hurricanes selected him in the eighth round of the 2004 draft.
Fiedler had a very short stint in the ECHL, before going back to Europe to start his pro career in the Czech professional ranks. He spent last season in the Czech 2nd league playing for his hometown team in Jihlava and his chance at an NHL career is all but over. At this pick, the Sharks could have selected Matthew Lombardi or Valtteri Filppula, who went slightly later in the third round.
Kris Newbury, RW – Sarnia Sting (OHL)
5th Round, 139th Overall
Kris Newbury was never signed by the Sharks and ended up signing with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2004. Newbury spent three years in the Leafs’ farm system, reaching 60 points in 2005-2006 for the Toronto Marlies of the AHL.
This year, Newbury started the season in the AHL, but was called up at midseason and saw some time on the Leafs third and fourth lines in an effective grinding role. His season came to an abrupt end in February when he was knocked unconscious in a fight with Pittsburgh’s Ronald Petrovicky. He would go on to miss the remaining 26 games with a concussion, and finished the year with two goals, two assists and a +4 rating in 15 games with the Leafs.
Newbury’s NHL potential is that of an energy line player or checker. He currently has more NHL games under his belt than any other 2002 Sharks draftee. At this pick, only Chicago defenseman James Wisniewski taken 156th has seen more action at the NHL level.
Tom Walsh, D – Deerfield Academy (Mass.)
5th Round, 163rd Overall
Tom Walsh played a full four years of college hockey at Harvard where he was a solid, but unproductive defenseman. He went to the Worcester Sharks training camp in the fall of 2006 and signed an AHL contract.
In his first year of pro hockey, he spent most of the season in Fresno, the Sharks’ ECHL affiliate, where he was an all-star. He was called up to fill in for fellow 2002 draftee Spang in Worcester for 29 regular season games and six playoff games. In his AHL stint, he put up one goal and eight assists, while showing steady, disciplined play.
Walsh will be a solid minor league defenseman, but has neither the offensive productivity nor the defensive strength to make it as an NHL player. With this selection, the Sharks were in position to take players such as Paul Ranger, Ian White or Jaroslav Balastik.
Tim Conboy, D – Topeka (USHL)
7th Round, 217th Overall
After two decent seasons with St. Cloud State University in Minnesota, the Sharks signed Tim Conboy to an entry-level contract and he joined the San Jose’s AHL affiliate in Cleveland. He spent three seasons there, wih limited progress. Last summer, he was not offered a re-up with the Sharks. He was signed by Carolina and spent the 2006-07 in Albany of the AHL, where he put up 10 points in 75 games.
Although, Conboy’s chance at seeing some time in the NHL are not entirely without hope, he will likely be no more than a veteran defenseman at the AHL level who can help younger players learn how to become pros. At this pick, NHLers Maxime Talbot, Petr Prucha and Dennis Wideman were available.
Michael Hutchins, D – Omaha (USHL)
9th Round, 288th Overall
Michael Hutchins spent his college career at the University of New Hampshire. He graduated in 2006 after a fairly unproductive three seasons, where his highest total was five points in 2004-05.
Hutchins is a project defenseman, who does not have ideal size. He failed to show any significant development and was not offered a contract by the Sharks.
Hutchins did not play any significant pro hockey in 2006-07 and it is fair to say that his pro career is over. Selected at the fourth to last pick of the draft, none of the players selected after him have played a game in the NHL.
Copyright 2007 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.