Sharks: Prospect ratings for 2003-04

By Kevin Wey

Although lacking in outstanding bluechip talent, San Jose boasts a very deep prospect depth chart with 16 players ranked at 6.0 or higher. The members of the Sharks Top 15 have not changed, but the ratings and rankings have changed, some significantly. As follows is each of the top 15 player’s previous rating, previous ranking and current rating and an explaination for each player.

1. Milan Michalek, LWPrevious Rating: 7.5 (1)Current Rating: 7.5

Michalek impressed in training camp and earned a spot on the Sharks roster as an 18-year-old with his strong skating abilities and passing skills. Currently out with at torn ACL, Michalek still projects to be a strong second line player and could move up to an 8.0.

2. Steve Bernier, RWPrevious Rating: 7.5 (2)Current Rating: 7.5

Although Bernier did not impress that much in training camp, the big QMJHLer seemed to become more comfortable as training camp progressed. Bernier still has the talent, but a drop in QMJHL production would see a direct drop in his rating.

3. Christian Ehrhoff, DPrevious Rating: 7.0 (3)Current Rating: 7.0

Ehrhoff impressed in training camp with his offensive abilities and speed. Not lacking in defensive abilities and size, Ehrhoff could still be beaten out this season by fellow prospect Tom Preissing. Long-term, Ehrhoff has the advantage.

4. Marcel Goc, CPrevious Rating: 6.5 (6)Goc did little in training camp to create doubt that the German center will become a strong third line NHL center. Possessing good overall skills and awareness, Goc’s jump in the rankings comes down to others disappointing, rather than Goc exceeding expectations.

5. Dimitri Patzold, GPrevious Rating: 6.5 (9)Current Rating: 6.5

The German netminder started his AHL career off with a shutout. With a couple seasons experience in the DEL, the AHL should not prove to be overwhelming for Patzold, who still projects to be an above-average back-up goalie. Patzold could see his rating rise into the 7.0 range with a strong AHL rookie season as a 20-year-old.

6. Josh Hennessy, CPrevious Rating: 7.0 (5)Current Rating: 6.5

Hennessy failed to truly impress at training camp, which sees his rating drop slightly, resulting in a slight drop in rank. Still, possessing great speed, Hennessy could easily jump back to a 7.0 with an improved QMJHL season.

7. Tom Preissing, DPrevious Rating: 6.5 (11)Current Rating: 6.5

Although Preissing’s rating hasn’t improved, there are now fewer doubts about his future, meaning he’s passed by many others who still have much to prove. A strong training camp has been followed with additional responsibility early on in the 2003-04 Shark season for Preissing, making the free agent collegiate signee a major acquisition for the Sharks.

8. Mike Morris, RWPrevious Rating: 6.5 (8)Current Rating: 6.5

Morris’ 2003-04 collegiate season for Northeastern is just getting underway, so his rating has neither risen nor dropped, with the right wing’s ranking also staying the same while others around him rise and fall in Shark prospect rankings. Morris will be a leader at Northeastern this season, and will have to impress to continue to justify his 6.5 rating.

9. Niko Dimitrakos, RWPrevious Rating: 6.5 (7)Current Rating: 6.5

Dimitrakos finds himself dropping two spots after failing to secure a spot on San Jose’s 2003-04 opening night roster. Needing to improve his defensive play, Dimitrakos does have the offense and scrappiness necessary to succeed long-term.

10. Brad Boyes, CPrevious Rating: 7.0 (4)Current Rating: 6.5

Boyes’ rating has dropped only .5, but his ranking has free-fallen as the center failed to impress in camp and was assigned to Cleveland on Sept. 26, a week before Goc, Dimitrakos, Miroslav Zalesak, and Lynn Loyns were similarly re-assigned. Boyes still lacks speed and size, regardless of San Jose listing him at 6’1″ 195 pounds on their training camp roster. With more speed and grit, Boyes could compare to Mighty Duck Andy McDonald. However, having failed to make a strong push to crack San Jose in September, there are now serious doubts as to whether Boyes will ever be a full-time NHL player.

11. Matt Carle, DPrevious Rating: 6.5 (12)Current Rating: 6.5

Like Morris, Carle’s season is only beginning, so his rating stays the same, but does advance one spot as Grant Stevenson moves down the ratings. Carle will have to have a solid rookie season for Denver University to justify his 6.5 rating.

12. Patrick Ehelechner, GPrevious Rating: 6.0 (15)Current Rating: 6.0

Ehelechner’s rating hasn’t changed, but he’s advanced over some other 6.0’s in San Jose’s ratings based on his strong training camp and early OHL season. Like Patzold, Ehelechner could see his rating rise during the season, as Ehelechner should see far more time with the Sudbury Wolves than he has seen in his two DEL seasons combined.

13. Doug Murray, DPrevious Rating: 6.0 (13)Current Rating: 6.0

Murray stands pat, although the big Swede was sent to Cleveland on Sept. 22. Still, Murray’s size and shot are major strengths and a full AHL season should help Murray adjust to pro hockey, where his skating will have to improve, whereas in college Murray could dominate on size alone and not have to skate much.

14. Grant Stevenson, CPrevious Rating: 6.5 (10)Current Rating: 6.0

After training camp, Stevenson appears more likely to become a scrappy third line player with some offense. With a good rookie AHL season, Stevenson could easily rise back to a 6.5. Stevenson’s drop of four spots should not be construed as a loss in confidence in Stevenson, just a clearer projection than when he had no Shark training camp experience.

15. Dan Spang, DPrevious Rating: 6.0 (14)Current Rating: 6.0 (P>

Because Ehelechner has proven himself some at training camp and is well into his OHL season, Spang finds himself dropping one spot as his season gets underway. The read on Spang has not changed; he’ll become a good two-way defenseman who utilizes his physical strength well despite being only 5’11.”

Other Changes

Forwards that have seen their rating change include Craig Valette, C, Ryane Clowe, RW and Miroslav Zalesak, RW. Valette’s rating has increased from 3.5 to 5.0, as it now appears that Valette has a good chance to become a fourth line forward after impressing in training camp. Clowe finds his rating adjusted from 5.5 to 5.0, as his potential upside for third line play seems less likely. Zalesak, at 5.5 for a while, finds himself back down to 4.0: the level of elite AHL and European Elite League players. Having been cut in training camp, it does not appear that Zalesak will be a consistent NHLer at this point.

At defense, Rob Davison has proven himself as a future sixth/seventh defenseman, meaning his rating has risen to the corresponding 5.0, rather than the 3.5 of a solid contributor at the AHL level. Jesse Fibiger finds himself at a 4.0 from 3.5, having played some NHL games last season and demonstrating ample ability, but may get lost in a numbers game.

Lastly, in net, Nolan Schaefer’s rating has dropped from 5.5 to 4.0, to correspond with the ranking of a probable future third-string goalie. The ranking makes even more sense when one considers that Schaefer will be hard pressed to beat out Patzold and Ehelechner, let alone Evgeni Nabokov, Miikka Kiprusoff or Vesa Toskala. Schaefer has not disappointed, but goaltending at all levels of professional hockey is impressive today and Schaefer will be hard pressed to become anything more than an AHL starting goalie. Schaefer starts the season in Fresno of the ECHL.