In 1999, if you were to ask me which position were the San Jose Sharks
weakest at I would have easily answered goaltending. With Miikka
Kiprusoff still in Europe and Evgeni Nabokov a serious question mark, it
was a concern.
Now fast-forwarding to 2001, one can make an easy case that the Sharks
are most comfortable between the pipes. With Nabokov winning the Calder
Trophy as the league’s best rookie in 2001 and Kiprusoff who is
considered one of the best young goalies in the game, the Sharks have
two young goaltenders considered at the top of their position among
young players. In addition, they have Vesa Toskala who will be the next
starting goaltender next season in Cleveland, the Sharks’ new AHL
affiliate, and Nolan Schaefer who is quickly turning heads at Providence
When a team drafts a player in the ninth round they hope that he will
make it to their AHL team. If he can make any kind of impact in the
AHL, that pick is considered a success. Rarely does a ninth round pick
make a serious impact in the NHL, in fact, most fans would be hard
pressed to name ten players currently making an impact in the NHL chosen
so late. However, Shark fans can easily name two, center Mark Smith
chosen in 1997, and Nabokov chosen with the 194th pick in 1994.
For a long time Nabokov was considered to be a typical ninth round
selection-a player who would struggle for a while and once he did make
it to Kentucky of the AHL, in all likelihood only make it as a backup.
He struggled immensely in his first season with Kentucky Read more»
As the 2001 NHL Entry Draft has now concluded, teams look at their
prospects to determine where they stand in depth, skill, and overall
strength of their prospects.
The requirement for being on this list is simple: 25 games played or
less at the NHL level. I rank the players on two categories: 75% of
their ranking is obviously based on skill and 25% based on how quickly
the player will make an impact on the roster. After the player review
is listed where the player will likely play in 2001, followed by when I
expect them to be a regular on the Sharks.
1st: Remaining atop the list of Sharks prospects is Jeff Jillson,
however, his lead is not as wide as it was last year. While Jillson has
done nothing to reduce his standing, others have improved theirs,
getting within arms reach of the top spot on the Sharks depth chart.
The winner of the CCHA Player of the Week for October 23rd, Jillson led
Michigan’s defense to second place with ten goals and 20 assists in 35
games, finishing the year on an impressive note in his offense. He
recorded a +17 on the season, and spent 74 minutes watching the game
from the penalty box.
While his offense has been down at times, the upside is that Jillson has
been playing a much smarter game than 99/00 and has been more
responsible defensively. He has refrained from committing the types of
penalties resulting of him not reading the play quick enough, then being
forced into a penalty to prevent a goal.
The main reason Jeff Jillson returned to Michigan last season was
toimprove his consistency an Read more»
There’s some good news and some bad news for the Sharks. The good news is that the Sharks have one of the best young defensive corps in the league, a position that will take the Sharks as far as talent on the blue line can take them. The bad news is that the Sharks also have one of the youngest defenses in the league, which not unlike raising children, results in a lot of excitement, and a lot of frustration as well.
With the Sharks’ system of defense first, it is essential that they get defensive production not only from the blue line, but also from the forward positions while on the transition. The Sharks have reason to be happy with the defensive play of Brad Stuart, Scott Hannan and Shawn Heins back on the blue line, however, it has often been from the forwards where the Sharks have lacked defensive production.
As Shawn Heins finishes his unusual road to the NHL, he has found himself in various roles for the Sharks, and has done quite well. Not only has he stepped in on defense as the team’s seventh defenseman, but he has also stepped in nicely as a fourth line wing when necessary.
Heins’ best weapon has always been his shot, which has been clocked as the hardest shot in professional hockey. In the past however, he has always struggled in reading defenses, reacting accordingly, and getting his shot unleashed at the right times.
This year, while his reaction times still leave something to be desired, he is reading plays much better, and thus has learned to use his shot to his advantage better. He has improved his accur Read more»
As the Sharks’ 2000/01 campaign passes its 1/3rd mark, one can not discount the impact of several Sharks youngsters such as Mark Smith, Patrick Marleau, Marco Sturm, and of course, the NHL’s Rookie of the Month for November, Evgeni Nabokov. One thing is for certain, if not for the Sharks’ core of young players, they would not be in a position where many teams are beginning to key on the Sharks as one of the top teams.
“It’s a real eye-opener that top clubs are getting ready for us now. We’re not going to sneak up on people anymore,” said Jeff Friesen after a tie against the Western Conference Champion, Dallas Stars.
For the Sharks to continue their development they will have to continue playing well and beat teams like the Dallas Stars, and others who are perennial favorites to win their respective divisions. It is one thing to beat the teams you are supposed to beat, however, to make the next jump to the next level, the Sharks must begin beating the top teams in the league. To do that, they will need help from every source available.
To start the year, the Sharks began with two rookies at forward, Mark Smith and Matt Bradley. The return from injury by Owen Nolan, impressive play of Tony Granato, and inconsistent play has resulted in Bradley being assigned to the Kentucky Thoroughblades of the AHL after being a healthy scratch in several games. Not having Matt Bradley on the roster for the Sharks results in a slight loss of team speed, and an extra player who has the ability to pinch in offensively as well. If he can Read more»
As the Sharks started their 10th season, there were areas that were unquestionably keys for the Sharks if they were to succeed. By far, the two most important areas were getting the free agents signed, and the improvement of young players such as Patrick Marleau, Marco Sturm, Brad Stuart and Scott Hannan. Of those two objectives, the first was accomplished successfully, with only Owen Nolan out opening night. However, the jury is still out on the development of the younger players.
The first two games of the year, Patrick Marleau looked more out of place than he did last year. There were times when he literally stood there and did practically nothing, while his opponents were whizzing past for scoring chances or turnovers. However, after those first couple games, Marleau has improved a great deal.
Since then, Marleau seems to have taken on a new attitude towards his game.
“The key is to keep the intensity up and play level high,” said Marleau after nearly connecting on several chances vs. Boston, and scoring once.
In that game he scored a bit of a fluke goal, but created many more chances that were either saved, shot wide, or hit the post. The biggest difference is that he’s creating chances that he wasn’t creating last year. He’s using his speed and natural ability to if nothing else, get the puck deep in the offensive zone. He may not get a point, but it’s often his work that is paying off in the long run of a 60-minute game.
One could make a case that Marco Sturm has been the unsung hero of this young season. While his numbers don’t j Read more»