Collegiate prospects dominate Sharks prospect awards

By David Thicke
Photo: Travis Oleksuk is one of many free agent signings in the San Jose prospect pool. Oleksuk managed 21 goals and 32 points in 41 games with Minnesota-Duluth before signing an entry-level deal. (Photo courtesy of Fred Kfoury/Icon SMI)

The 2012 HF Awards are based on the Sharks prospects 2011-12 regular seasons performances in all the leagues in which they have played this year. The award winners are selected by the HF writers and decided on after all the tabulations.

Hardest Worker: Tyson Sexsmith, G, Worcester Sharks (AHL)

After struggling to find his game for the last two years while being sent up and down between the ECHL and the AHL, Sexsmith worked extremely hard training over the past summer. The netminder has strong lateral movement, a quicker glove hand, calm demeanor, hates to lose or be scored on, and never quits or blames his defenseman. The third year goalie was selected to the 2012 AHL All-Star game. He finished the year with a 13-12-7 record with a 2.33 goals against average, a very good .916 save percentage in 34 AHL games.

The other prospects who were considered for the Hardest Worker award are Justin Sefton, William Wrenn, and Matt Irwin.

Hardest Shot: Matt Tennyson, D, Worcester Sharks (AHL)

Tennyson scored 11 goals (six on the power play) for the Western Michigan University and has very quick accurate shot for the point or from the top of the circle. The offensive defenseman put up solid numbers in the NCAA adding 13 assists and his shot will only get faster and harder as he develops more strength at the professional level.

The other players under consideration for the hardest shot were Nick Petrecki, Konrad Abeltshauser, and Sena Acolatse.

Best Offensive Prospect: Travis Oleksuk, C, Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs (NCAA)

Oleksuk was the second-leading scorer for the Bulldogs of the WCHA, scoring 21 goals along with 32 assists in 41 games. He was named 2011-12 All-WCHA (third team) and his 53 points ranked him tied for fourth in all of Division 1 hockey. The Sharks signed him to an entry-level contract as a free agent on March 30th, 2012 and he's their best offensively skilled player after Hamilton. The playmaking centerman's 15 career game-winning goals are tied for the school's all-time record and he was also part of the UMD squad that won the NCAA Championship last season. The two-way offensive talent has good speed, balance, solid hockey sense, and vision while also being able to play reliable defense in his end of the ice. Oleksuk could make the Sharks' roster out of training camp, if not he will most likely be a welcome addition to the Worcester Shark at the AHL level.

The other players considered for Best Offensive prospect were Freddie Hamilton, Matt Nieto, Sean Kuraly, and Cody Ferriero.

Best Defensive Prospect: Konrad Abeltshauser, D, Halifax Moosehead (QJMHL)

Abeltshauser has size, puck moving abilities, and can lead the teams' power play, but has also played the shutdown role and the penalty kill this season. The big defenseman has the well-rounded game to play at the professional level and has significantly improved his defensive play over last season. The 20-year-old finished the regular season with good offensive numbers, scoring eight goals along with 36 assists and a plus-17 rating in 57 QJMHL games while ending up ninth amongst defensemen for the regular season.

The other prospects considered for this award were Lee Moffie, Dylan DeMelo, and Matt Pelech.

Fastest Skater: Matt Nieto, RW, Boston University Terriers (Hockey East)

Nieto has quick acceleration and uses his explosive speed to help offensively while force the oppositions' defenseman to be cautious about their gap control against his speed. The offensively talented winger is equally fast with or without the puck and is always a threat for the stretch pass. The sophomore winger scored 16 goals along with 26 assists in 37 NCAA games this season.

The other players under consideration for the fastest skater award were Sebastian Stalberg, Colin Blackwell, and Sean Kuraly.

Prospect of the Year: Freddie Hamilton, C, Niagara Ice Dogs (OHL)

Hamilton played less games this season but had more points again (35 goals, 51 assists) while improving his defensive game with a plus 29 rating in 61 OHL games. The physical centerman can play the shutdown role and plays on both the specialty team units for the Ice Dogs. The quick skating forward represented Canada at the WJC Championship and played a significant role during the tournament against the oppositions' best forwards.

The other players considered for Prospect of the Year award were Lee Moffie, Dylan DeMelo, and Sean Kuraly.

Breakout Player for 2012-13: Lee Moffie, D, Michigan Wolverines (CCHA)

Moffie is a poised, mobile defenseman who has demonstrated a willingness jump into the rush and is not afraid to shoot the puck. The offensive defenseman possesses a very good shot and can get pucks through the traffic to the net by traversing the blue line to change the shoot angles and finding better lanes. His skating is outstanding with smooth strides; good speed and can play both sides of the ice effectively. As a senior, Moffie will be expected to lead the team's power play and improve the level of his overall game while providing leadership on the blue line.

The other prospects considered for possible Breakout Player for 2012-13 season were Cody Ferriero, Travis Oleksuk, and Matt Nieto.

Most Improved Prospect: Sean Kuraly, C, Indiana Ice (USHL)

Kuraly improved his offensive numbers this season by over 40 points, scoring 32 goals along with 38 assists, finishing second on his team in scoring and fourth in the USHL. The offensively gifted two-way centerman also had a team record six shorthanded goals while playing on both specialty teams. The 19-year-old has improved his overall game but will have to impress the coaches and teammates from the start, as a freshman at Miami (Ohio) University next year.

The others players under consideration were Tyson Sexsmith, Dylan DeMelo, and Lee Moffie.

Overachiever: Sebastian Stalberg, C/RW, Vermont Catamounts (NCAA)

Stalberg had a very good season for the Catamounts where the speedy, versatile forward led his team in scoring for the second year. The Swedish-born forward decided to leave university after his junior year and manages to get a two year NHL entry-level contract.

Stalberg is a very different type of prospect than his brother Viktor, who is currently with Chicago.

Tyson Sexsmith and Sean Kuraly were also considered for this award

Underachiever: Taylor Doherty, D, Worcester Sharks (AHL)

So much was expected of the big defenseman after an excellent final season at the junior level. There are always skating issues for tall players but even more for tall defenseman because as the speed of game increases, their pivots and balance problems become more apparent. Doherty was playing lost all year long and was out of place positional all over the ice while being late to react to the play. The big blueliner will need to work heavily on his skating and physicality but it will still takes two to three years at the AHL level to hopefully see improvement if he's going to develop into an NHL caliber defenseman.

The Worcester Sharks had a difficult season of blown chances and poor management so there have been a lot of underachievers but the others considered for underachiever were Nick Petrecki, Brandon Mashinter, and Marek Viedensky.

Highest Risk/Reward Prospect: Colin Blackwell, C, Harvard Crimsn (ECAC)

Blackwell is playing at Harvard where education will always come before hockey. His coach, Ted Donato played 13 years in the NHL which will help with his development and work ethic to play at the professional level. The undersized forward plays with energy, high speed, an attack the net mentality, solid hockey IQ, and can be a shooter or a playmaker. He's a real long-shot to make the NHL at this time but his work ethic, desire and passion for the game are extreme high.

The other players considered were Sean Kuraly, Chris Crane, and Taylor Doherty.

Most Perseverance: Alex Stalock, G, Worcester Sharks (AHL)

Stalock was out of hockey for about a year with a severed tendon in the back of his knee when it was cut with a skate late last season. There were concerns about whether or not he would be able to walk right let alone continue on playing hockey. The hardworking goalie trained as much as possible and finally returned to play a couple of AHL games late this season. He was sent down to the ECHL for conditioning before returning to the AHL and agreed to be loaned to the Peoria Riverman to get more game action for the rest of the season. The talented goaltender started to show his old All-Star form in the last three games, having a 1.13 goals against average with a .964 save percentage and a shutout for the Riverman. Stalock could challenge as the starter for the Worcester Sharks next season.

Others prospects considered were Tony Lucia, Tommy Wingels, and Matt Irwin

The Unsung Hero: William Wrenn, D, Portland Winterhawks (WHL)

Wrenn plays on the talented Portland Winterhawks of the WHL where star defensemen like Joe Morrow (PIT), Tyler Wotherspoon (CGY) and rookie Derrick Pouliot gets most of the attention. The solid defensive defenseman plays the shutdown role, shot blocker while finishing the regular season with 16 points and a defenseman leading plus-20 rating in 60 games. The team's captain has led by example with his work ethic, discipline and team first mentality which has made the Winterhawks a successful team this season.

Others considered for the award were Brodie Reid, Isaac MacLeod, and Sena Acolatse.