In the 1999 draft, the Sharks made further inroads towards building their defensive unit, which was already one of the envies of the league. By drafting Jeff Jillson with the 14th pick of the draft, the Sharks added a third prospect, all of whom could possibly pass as #1 dmen someday in the NHL. The other two players being Brad Stuart and Scott Hannan.
Jillson was the second defenseman taken in the 1999 draft, in addition to being the first player chosen out of college. The general opinion on Jillson is that he was pretty high on a lot of lists, but the teams that were picking ahead of the Sharks simply had their own players in mind. The fact that the Islanders had so many picks in the top 10, and that Jillson simply did not fit into their plans, probably was a factor in him being chosen as late as he was. A perfect example of how a trade between two teams can effect a third, who’s not even involved in any way, quite drastically.
Playing for the University of Michigan, Jillson earned a spot on the World Junior squad for Team USA and was selected to the CCHA All-Rookie Team. Ever since, his stock has only risen. In the preliminary Central Scouting Bureau rankings, he was ranked 6th among all collegiate hockey players. By mid season, he was ranked 15th among North American skaters. By the time the CSB finished, he was ranked 11th. The Hockey News accurately ranked him to go 14th, but named him as a candidate to crack the top 10 picks.
Next year will be an interesting one for the Sharks’ primary affiliate, the Kentucky Thoroughblades. Much of the core of Kentucky will be, or is already gone from last year’s team, which was just one game shy of playing in the Calder Cup Finals.
Names that are already gone include Andrei Zyuzin, Shawn Burr, and co-leading scorer Steve Guolla-all traded in the deal that brought Nik Sundstrom to San Jose. The team’s other leading scorer, Herbert Vasiljevs (Florida prospect) was also traded, to Atlanta, for Trevor Kidd. With their two main offensive threats gone, they then found themselves without one of their starting goalies, as Sean Gauthier will not return, as he is an Unrestricted Free Agent, and is looking for playing time somewhere else. To cap it off, Dan Boyle will likely find himself playing in Florida next year. He was one of the main guys on defense last year. Other names who may not be back include: Jarrett Deuling (possible), Mike Craig (possible), Steve Lingren (gone), Peter Allen (gone).
This draft, the Sharks took a very interesting approach to the draft. Normally, you’ll see teams going after a mix of players. There are the players from the CHL who are generally closer to the NHL than college players. These players may be ready to join their team in 1-3 years. They may account for 75% or more of teams’ picks. Then the college players who may not play for your team for four or five years. A team will usually only pick one or two of these players in one draft. And of course you have the European influence. These players may play for you the next year, or not until five years.
Of the Sharks’ seven picks, the Sharks chose only one player out of the CHL. The other six picks were from Finland (1), high school (2), and college (3). One fear that some had was that the Sharks were having a repeat of the 1995 draft where they had a European “theme” to nearly all their picks. I admit that I was one of these people who feared that. However, as I looked back on the picks, I noticed another theme, which makes far more sense.
It would seem as though Sharks picks centered around two characteristics.
1) Players who need time to develop their skills, not play 60 or more games a season. Often, players in the CHL are good at lasting during the long NHL season, but need to develop their skills. The college players may have the NHL skills once they graduate, but the course of an 82 game schedule wears them down. Read more»
The last three years, the Sharks have aggressively traded on draft day to trade up for either a second pick in the first round, or an early first round pick. In 1996, the Sharks traded two second round picks to Chicago, obtaining the 21st selection in the first round, picking Marco Sturm. In 1997, the Sharks traded a second and third round pick to Carolina to pick defenseman Scott Hannan with the 23rd selection in the first round. In 1998, the Sharks traded down one spot, moving from the second to the third, and obtaining the first selection in the 2nd round, choosing Jonathan Cheechoo with the 29th overall selection in the draft.
So far, each of these trades has proven beneficial to the Sharks. Marco Sturm has proved to be one of the Sharks main players this year, proving his worth, although at the time, many San Jose fans feared another European draft, from the year before. In picking Scott Hannan, the Sharks chose a player on my top five list of underrated prospects. Swiping Hannan out from underneath teams like Colorado and Detroit very well may prove to be a great move for the Sharks. Last year, people really scratched their heads at the Sharks trading down one spot, passing up on David Legwand, and picking Brad Stuart. Now, it looks like that move may turn out best for the Sharks as well. In addition, they picked up the first pick in the second round to pick up a player who very well may turn out to be a good player in Jonathan Cheechoo, although he is a project.
For the last few years, the Sharks have consistently been ranked in the NHL’s top 10 in regards to team prospects. Given this, it is not at all surprising that for the last couple years, the Sharks have had several rookies playing for the team. In 97-98, it was the trio of Andrei Zyuzin, Marco Sturm, and Patrick Marleau. This year, it was Alexander Korolyuk and Andy Sutton who were the main rookie forces. Neither were ever touted nearly as much as the other three, but they were effective none the less. (Scott Hannan and Shawn Heins both played in 5 games, but saw only limited time and will still be considered rookies next year). Then the question is set to ask what new, young faces can you expect to see next year?
The answer at this point isn’t quite so clear given how early it is regarding free agent signings. Also, given the Sharks logjam at defense, someone will eventually be left in the cold. Conceivably, as many as six rookies who could possibly play for the Sharks next year. The two most obvious names are defensemen Brad Stuart and Scott Hannan. In addition to those two, there is defenseman Shawn Heins, right wing Matt Bradley, center Mark Smith, and goaltender John Nabokov. Barring serious injury problems, no more than two of these men will open the year with the Sharks. The only way it would be three is if John Nabokov is presented with one of the situations mentioned below.