Sharks’ Underclassmen Mid-Season Report

By Kevin Wey

The San Jose Sharks’ six collegiate underclassman are led by San Jose’s lone sophomore Tom Cavanaugh, while much of the Sharks 2002 NHL Entry Draft picks continue to establish themselves in their rookie season.

Tom Cavanaugh
Harvard center Tom Cavanaugh, the Sharks’ 6th round pick (182nd overall) in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft, has continued to develop for the Crimson after a solid freshman season. The 5’11” 190-pound sophomore from Warwick, Rhode Island has found himself centering either the second or third line for the Crimson this season with Tim Pettit, Tyler Kolarik, Charlie Johnson, and Dan Murphy having been regular wingers. Lately Cavanaugh has been centering Pettit, the Crimson’s leading scorer, and Murphy.

Cavanaugh and the Crimson haven’t played since Jan. 11, and won’t until Jan. 31, when they face Brown. With six goals and eight assists in 19 games, Cavanaugh is 6th in Harvard scoring. In 14 ECAC games, Cavanaugh has five goals and five assists; making Cavanaugh sixth for the Crimson in ECAC-scoring. After a somewhat lackluster start, Cavanaugh tallied 13 points (6 goals, 7 assists) in Harvard’s 12 games between Nov. 23 and Jan. 10. Only three of Cavanaugh’s 14 points have been on the power play. (Two goals and 1 assist) Cavanaugh’s biggest feat this season is probably his 10-game scoring streak from Nov. 29 through Jan. 10.

Harvard is currently second in the ECAC behind Cornell, with an 11-3-0 record. Overall, the Crimson’s record is 12-6-1, which has Harvard 13th in both the United States College Hockey Online Poll and the USA Today/American Hockey Magazine Poll.

At this time, it’s difficult to know how far Cavanaugh will go, but he shouldn’t have too much difficulty playing for the Cleveland Barons, assuming Cleveland is still San Jose’s affiliate, after he graduates from college hockey.

Mike Morris
The Sharks’ first round pick in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft (27th overall) got off to a good start for the Northeastern Huskies, but a concussion suffered in practice on Jan. 16 looks to shelve Morris until mid-February. The right wing earned a spot on the Huskies’ first line with senior Mike Ryan and sophomore Jason Guerriero. (Junior Eric Ortlip has also played on Morris’ line in a few games.) The 19-year old Morris played in each of Northeastern’s first 18 games, tallying four goals and 10 assists. In Hockey East conference games, Morris has two goals and five assists in 10 games. The 6’0” 180-pound right wing also played on the point on the power play, similar to what ex-Shark Ray Whitney has done in his career while with Florida and Columbus.

Although Morris has personally excelled as a freshman, prior to his concussion, Northeastern finds itself near the cellar of Hockey East with a conference record of 3-12-1. The Huskies’ overall record of 8-14-2 is a little better, but it’s certainly below what the team would like. It is hoped that Morris will appear in the Huskies final six games of the season. Regardless, the Sharks do appear to have a forward on their hands who could end up a second or third line right wing at the NHL level. The Braintree, Mass. native is similar to the Sharks’ German center/prospect Marcel Goc, as both are good all-around players with no major weaknesses. Goc should be in North America, if not San Jose next season, while Morris can look forward to three more seasons of college hockey.

Tim Conboy
The Sharks’ 7th round pick (217th overall) got his college hockey career of to a good start with the St. Cloud State Huskies, but since suffering a back injury his production has dropped off markedly. The 6’2” 210-pound Conboy’s November was especially productive, has the physical defenseman racked up three goals and six assists in eight games, all of which were scored on the power play. The right-shooting Conboy, who played for the Topeka Scarecrows of the USHL late season, missed all five of St. Cloud State’s games in December, including an exhibition game against the Italian National Team, as the Italian team made a five-game WCHA tour. In his last eight games Conboy has only one assist, scored on the power play naturally.

Conboy, who has teamed with Colin Peters as St. Cloud’s third pairing most of the season, has three goals and eight assists in 20 games this season. In 14 WCHA games Conboy has two goals and seven assists. Conboy was among the USHL’s penalty minute leaders with 193 PIM’s in 43 games, and has 28 penalty minutes so far this season.

Despite missing four WCHA games, Conboy is still 9th in WCHA defenseman scoring, and the top-scoring freshman defenseman. In order to maintain his rookie-defenseman scoring lead, he will have to start scoring again, which in Conboy’s case means more power play time/efficiency, as Alaska-Anchorage’s Matt Hanson could easily take the lead.

St. Cloud State currently finds itself 5th in the WCHA with an 8-7-3 record, and combined with it’s 12-9-3 overall record, the Huskies are ranked 12th in the nation in the USCHO poll and 14th in the USA Today college hockey poll. Since Conboy returned to action from his back injury, St. Cloud State is 6-2-1. However, fourth through seventh in the WCHA is separated by only three points. The Huskies will have to finish strong in order to earn a birth in the NCAA National Tournament.

Tom Walsh
Succeeding where many other freshmen defensemen fail, Tom Walsh has established himself as a regular with Harvard, a top ECAC team and the 13th ranked team in the nation. Walsh, a 5th round pick of the Sharks in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft (163rd overall), started the season on Harvard’s second pairing with sophomore Ryan Lannon, but now finds himself on the Crimson’s third pairing with junior David McCulloch. In 18 games Walsh has one goal and six assists. Walsh’s six assist all came in his 13 ECAC games, which places Walsh second in rookie defenseman-scoring behind Vermont’s Jamie Sifers, who has seven assists in 12 games.

Walsh should continue to be a regular for the Crimson, who will try to overthrow Cornell for the top spot in the ECAC and fight for a birth at the NCAA Tournament. Each of the six DI conference champions earn a birth to the tournament while 10 “At Large” teams fill out the field.

Dan Spang
Spang, a 5’11” 200 pound defenseman drafted by the Sharks in the 2nd round (52nd overall) in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft was one of the most recruited prospects in the Northeast last season, despite missing most of the season from a concussion suffered in a car accident. Boston University landed the Winchester, Mass native, who turned 19 last Aug., and Spang has done pretty well after a slow start. Spang did not score any points in BU’s first four games, did not play in the next three, and didn’t score until three games later Nov. 16 with an assist against Maine.

In 19 games Spang has two goals and five asssists, and in Hockey East conference games Spang has two goals and three assists in 11 games. If Spang had played in all 25 of BU’s games, he could possibly find himself in the top 10 in defenseman scoring in Hockey East, as it is he stands 17th. One bright spot for Spang was when he was honored as Hockey East’s Rookie of the Week for the week of Dec. 16. However, Spang’s most productive game was Jan. 5 against Northeastern, where the skilled defenseman scored a goal and two assists, including his first point on the power play this season on an assist. Lately, Spang has found himself on the Terriers’ third defensive pairing with senior defenseman Mike Bussoli. (A logical pairing: youngster with a vet.)

Spang has missed seven games this season (reasons not ascertained at this point, will report when discovered), including two of BU’s last three games. Central Scouting Bureau described Spang as an offensive defenseman with good skating skills, really good hands, with good hockey sense giving him good playmaking abilities. Spang is also known for his physique. (His 200 pounds isn’t fat.) Spang’s awareness, strength, and skating allows him to make hits as well. Spang should become a number 1 or 2 defenseman for the Terriers before the end of his collegiate career. (Latvian freshman defenseman, and Columbus Blue Jacket pick, Jekab Redlihs will give Spang some competition.)

The Terriers find themselves in 14th on the USCHO poll and 12th in the USA Today poll.

Michael Hutchins
Defenseman Michael Hutchins was the Sharks’ final pick in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft in the 9th round 288th overall after a solid season for the Des Moines Buccaneers of the USHL. Despite Hutchins’ status as an impact USHL defenseman and a NHL draft pick, Hutchins has yet to play for the University of New Hampshire this season, as the 5th ranked team in the nation in both the USCHO and USA Today polls hasn’t had any freshmen players crack the line-up full-time. However, fellow freshman defenseman Brian Yandle has played in 16 of the Wildcats’ 25 games. New Hampshire finds itself in second place in Hockey East with an 11-3-1 record, and is in a three-way battle for first with Maine and Boston College. The Wildcats’ overall record is 17-5-3.

That said, the 20-year old Hutchins is likely to play next season for the Wildcats as senior defensemen Garrett Stafford and Kevin Truelson graduate. Hutchins could also out-compete Robbie Barker and perhaps Yandle on the defensive depth-chart next season if Hutchins works hard this summer. The 5’11” 197-pound Hutchins is expected to be a skilled defenseman for the Wildcats and could be the Wildcats’ fourth defenseman next season. A spot as the fifth or sixth defenseman is more likely though. When with the Buccaneers, Central Scouting Bureau noted that Hutchins is a good skater, with a hard shot from the point, playmaking abilities, and aggressive.