When Jeff Jillson decided to leave the University of Michigan after his junior year last season, he had a specific goal in mind—to make himself as ready for his first professional hockey season as possible. Jillson spent most of the summer of 2001 in San Jose working out with the Sharks’ Strength and Conditioning Coordinator Mac Read, trying to prepare himself for the faster, bigger, and stronger competition at the professional level, but it’s not the first time he’s had to adjust and turn himself into a different player.
It was only four years ago that many felt he would have been better suited to play in the Canadian Hockey League as opposed to college, but Jillson decided not only to make the decision that was best for his hockey career, but also what was best for his own personal development.
“I saw a few games in the junior leagues and then I saw a couple in the college leagues and figure I got the best of both worlds, (I got to) play a high level of hockey and at the same time continue my education,” said Jillson. “The thing is at Michigan is that you get so much exposure even though it’s a college team as far as hockey goes and you can get the best of both worlds to continue to work on your game as well as continue on with your education, so it works out pretty well.”
In another sign of Jillson’s constant strive for improvement, not just in hockey, but in life, Jillson recently registered for classes on the Internet at Michigan where he was a constant All-Academic selection. He said that the early plan is to do most of his coursework Read more»
The importance of a team’s depth at all positions was proven last year when at various times in the season many of the Sharks top players such as Owen Nolan, Vincent Damphousse and Steve Shields missed games due to injuries or suspensions. Without the contributions of players like Tony Granato, Jim Montgomery and Bill Lindsay, it is hard to say where the Sharks would have finished in the playoff race. Particularly Granato filled a role where he patched holes where necessary; ending up playing 61 games in what will likely be his last NHL season.
As the Sharks close in on training camp, the core of their team remains in tact. The addition of Adam Graves and the retention of Gary Suter gives the Sharks four solid scoring lines and three experienced defensive pairings. The only players still unsigned are defenseman Mike Rathje, center Patrick Marleau, and right wing Todd Harvey.
While the Sharks have prospects such as Marcel Goc and Jeff Jillson who are considered solid to blue chip prospects, if in need of help, players such as these may not necessarily be the best choice, as further playing time in various developmental leagues may be in order, or in the case of players in college or playing in CHL, can’t play in the NHL even if they were ready.
Last season it was the Sharks forward lines that were plagued by the injury bug. With Nolan missing 25 games due to various injuries and a 12-game suspension by the NHL, and Damphousse missing almost half the season with a shoulder injury, the Sharks were without their two best players, much of which at the s Read more»
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»