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.
Five years from now, the 1997 draft may very well turn out to be the best draft in San Jose Sharks history. With their second overall selection, they chose the highly touted center, Patrick Marleau. They then traded up in the first round with Carolina to pick defenseman Scott Hannan. Not picking again till the fourth round, they then chose the once highly regarded right wing, Adam Colagiacomo, acquiring three players rated to go in the top 30 by The Hockey News’ 1997 Draft Preview. All players chosen out of the Canadian Hockey League must be signed before the 1999 draft, or they may re-enter the draft. Players chosen from Europe or College are still property of the Sharks for three or two more years respectively.