Sharks collegiate prospects 2003-04 review

By Kevin Wey

Starting the season with seven collegiate prospects, the Sharks ended up with nine by the end of 2003-04 after signing two undrafted senior standouts. With three prospects receiving recognition from their respective conferences at the end of the season and three others as integral components on their respective teams, San Jose’s collection of collegiate prospects had a strong season.

Matt Carle

Considered a surprise pick in the second round, the San Jose Sharks packaged three picks to the Calgary Flames to take Alaskan Matt Carle with the 47th pick in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. So far, the Sharks appear to have nabbed one.

Drafted out of River City of the USHL, Carle’s freshman season with Denver University started out well enough with two goals and three assists after eight games, but against his hometown Alaska-Anchorage Seawolves on Nov. 14 Carle injured his ankle, forcing him to miss 10 of Denver’s next 11 games, with an aborted attempt against the University of Wisconsin Dec. 5.

Carle returned to action not for Denver, but for the United States at the World Junior Championships in Finland. Paired with Corey Potter on the third pairing, Carle tallied a goal against Sweden Dec. 30 and was a plus player in every game except for the team’s gold medal-winning game against Canada in which Carle was beat wide twice for goals.

Gold medal in hand, Carle returned to action for Denver Jan. 9 against the University of Minnesota-Duluth. Putting up only one assist in his first six games back, Carle caught on fire in February, tallying two goals and 13 assists over Denver’s remaining eight games. Carle was named the First Star of the Game Feb. 13 with one goal, two assists and a +5 rating against Minnesota State-Mankato. The Mavericks’ interstate rival University of Minnesota Golden Gophers faced Carle’s onslaught Feb. 28 with a power play goal and three assists, also named the First Star of the Game. Nominated as the WCHA Rookie of the Week Feb. 2, Carle took the award the next three weeks and was nominated again for the WCHA’s final week Mar. 7. With 12 points in six games n February, Carle was named the national Rookie of the Month.

Despite missing eight conference games due to injury and the WJC’s, Carle still finished first among all WCHA defenseman in conference scoring, fifth among rookies, and eleventh in points per game in conference play with four goals and 15 assists. Carle’s overall numbers at the end of the regular season were five goals and 17 assists in 24 games.

Denver found itself fourth in the WCHA standings with a record of 13-10-5, but fifth in the United State College Hockey Online poll (USCHO) and sixth in the USA Today poll with a record of 23-10-5. Unceremoniously swept by Colorado College in the first round of the WCHA playoffs, Denver still was invited to the NCAA National Tournament, where the team caught fire again.

The Pioneers defeated Miami in the West Regional Semifinal Mar. 26, with Carle adding an assist, as he had in both games against Colorado College. Denver then eeked out a 1-0 victory against the University of North Dakota to win the NCAA West Regional. Carle tallied an assist in Denver’s NCAA Semifinal 5-3 come-from-behind victory over the University of Minnesota-Duluth. After winning the gold at the WJC’s, Carle took home an NCAA Championship ring after the Pioneers defeated the University of Maine 1-0 April 10.

With four assists in six playoff games, Carle’s season totals were raised to five goals and 21 assists in 30 games, earning a spot on the WCHA’s All-Rookie Team. The Pioneers also recognized Carle by naming him the recipient of the Barry Sharp Memorial Award as Denver’s Rookie of the Year.

On his current track, Carle should become a Hobey Baker top ten finalist before his collegiate career is over, as long as he does not leave early like Shark prospects Grant Stevenson. A smooth-skating defenseman with solid ice awareness, at 6’0” 190-pound Carle is very similar to Shark defenseman Tom Preissing, a graduate of Colorado College. Carle’s development is ahead of Preissing’s however, because Preissing did not play defense until playing for the Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL. Carle loses defense partner Ryan Caldwell to graduation however, who should sign with the New York Islanders who drafted him, meaning Carle will have to adjust in 2004-05 to achieve similar impressive results.

Matt Carle: 2003-04

Tom Cavanagh

An unheralded sixth round pick in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft, center Tom Cavanagh has developed into one of the best two-way forwards in the ECAC.

A consistent scorer for the Harvard Crimson, Cavanagh’s longest pointless streak was two games three times during the season. Beginning the season with a goal and two assists in an 8-0 exhibition victory of the University of Guelph Oct. 24, Cavanagh tallied four goals and three assists in eight games in November.

Cavanagh started December with a bang, named the First Star of the Game Dec. 5 in a 4-2 victory against Colgate in which Cavanagh scored a hat trick, thanks in part to an empty net goal. The end of December proved equally as impressive, as Cavanagh scored two goals and an assist Dec. 28 against Clarkson in a 3-3 tie at the Coffee Pot Tournament in Providence, Rhode Island, named the First Star of the Game again. Perhaps more impressive were the 12 shots Cavanagh managed in the performance, helping Cavanagh earn ECAC Co-Player of the Week honors Dec. 29.

With only one goal and two assists in five games in January, Cavanagh rebounded with a goal and six assists in February, helping to even up Cavanagh’s totals to 13 goals and 14 assists in 29 games, leading Harvard in scoring.

Harvard only finished sixth in the ECAC with a 10-10-2, unranked in national polls. The Crimson turned red-hot in March though, starting with two victories over the University of Vermont as a quaint farewell as Vermont joins the Hockey East in 2004-05. After three assists in two games against Vermont, Cavanagh added two assists in Harvard’s first game against Brown and the game winning overtime goal to finish off Brown Mar. 13. Named the First Star of the Game Mar. 13, the ECAC named Cavanagh the Player of the Week March 15.

Cavanagh went scoreless in Harvard’s ECAC semifinal victory against Dartmouth, but did contribute with two goals and an assist as the Crimson defeated Clarkson to win the ECAC Championship. With nine points in six ECAC playoff games, Cavanagh was named to the ECAC All-Tournament Team.

Propelled by their ECAC Championship, Harvard was invited to the NCAA Tournament, but lost in the East Regional to Maine 5-4. In seven playoff games, Cavanagh tallied three goals and six assists along with a +5 rating, finishing with 16 goals and 20 assists in 36 games for the Crimson, not including the Guelph exhibition. Cavanagh’s totals placed him first in Harvard scoring and tenth in ECAC overall scoring.

Despite a solid season, Cavanagh did not win any team awards or an Honorable Mention by the ECAC, but both should be expected of the assistant captain in 2004-05. The 5’11” 190-pound pivot should earn himself a two-way contract from the Sharks if he finishes his senior year as strong as his first two years at Harvard. With the potential to become a fourth line center in the NHL, Cavanagh should at least start out his pro career in the AHL as a third line center.

Tom Cavanagh: 2003-04

Tim Conboy

While Carle and Cavanagh both served as vital cogs for their teams, physical defenseman Tim Conboy struggled to find his niche with the St. Cloud State Huskies in 2003-04.

Conboy’s season got off to a decent start in St. Cloud’s second series with two power play assists against Michigan Tech Oct. 24 and 25. Scratched Oct. 31, Conboy returned the next night with a goal and followed up with an assist Nov. 7 against Minnesota-Duluth. Thirteen games later, Conboy would finally tally against with a goal Dec. 28 against Providence in the Coffee Pot Tournament.

Attempting to catch up academically, Conboy missed St. Cloud’s first four games in January before returning Jan. 23. With a goal and an assist against Minnesota State Jan. 24, Conboy added two goals and an assist in St. Cloud’s final ten games, to give the blueliner five goals and five assists in 31 games, third in defense scoring on the Huskies, with one goal and four assists coming on the power play.

Entering the WCHA Playoffs sixth overall in the WCHA with a record of 12-12-4, and 15 in both the USCHO and USA Today polls, St. Cloud’s season came to an end after two defeats to the University of Minnesota in the first round of the WCHA Playoffs. Conboy failed to tally a point, but the former USHL fighter did manage 22 penalty minutes in the two games.

Realizing college life wasn’t for him, Conboy signed on with San Jose’s AHL affiliate Cleveland Barons for the AHL playoffs, making his first appearance April 29 against the Hamilton Bulldogs, tallying a power play assist. Conboy followed up with two more power play assists the next night against Hamilton n a 4-1 victory known nationwide for the stick-swinging incident between Alexander Perezhogin and Garrett Stafford, sending Stafford to the hospital with a third degree concussion, the loss of a few teeth, and facial lacerations.

Conboy did not add any points in Cleveland’s 1-3 loss in Game 6, eliminating the Barons out of the playoffs, but his three games served as a solid precursor as to what the Barons can expect from Conboy next season. The 6’2” 210-pound defenseman should provide the Barons with a physical defenseman, willing to drop the gloves, who should also contribute with his point shot on the second power play unit.

Long-term, Conboy could become a sixth or seventh defenseman for San Jose, similar to Rob Davison, who showed increased puckmoving ability in the playoffs. Part of San Jose’s glut of defense prospects, Conboy might merely end up trade bait in the future should the Sharks stick with Davison long-term.

Tim Conboy: 2003-04
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Non-ConfSt. Cloud St.WCHA7213800016
PlayoffsSt. Cloud St.WCHA2000220002
OverallSt. Cloud St.WCHA33551082100
Exhib.St. Cloud St.WCHA1000+120001

Scott Ford

An undrafted defenseman out of Brown University, the 6’3” 225-pound Scott Ford is now on track to become an NHL blueliner.

The 24-year-old Ford started the season paired with junior defenseman Paul Crosty on the first pairing through Brown’s first 12 games, starting each game. Ford’s first ten games saw increased production from the senior defenseman with two goals and five assists, all but one assist coming on the power play.

Brown picked up in 2004 with a power play assist Jan. 3, 2004 against Union, but Ford went the next seven games without any points until he was named the Third Star in a two-point performance Feb. 6 against Princeton, now teaming with freshman Dylan Row on the first pairing. Brown finished the regular season as the First Star of the Game Feb. 28 with two goals and two assists against the University of Vermont in a 6-0 win. The four-point performance games Ford six goals and nine assists in 29 games, all scored in ECAC conference play. Ford four-point performance also saw him named to the ECAC Honor Roll for the week of Mar. 1.

Fifth in ECAC conference scoring among defensemen, Ford’s Brown Bears finished third in the ECAC with a 13-7-2 record. The Bears faced off against the Harvard Crimson in the first round of the ECAC Playoffs, losing two straight games to the eventual ECAC champions. Ford did not tally in either game as Brown’s season came to an end.

Ford’s season brought the Fort St. John, British Columbia native a fair amount of recognition for his accomplishments. The ECAC named Ford the Defensive Defenseman of the Year, an Honorable Mention, and also a member of the All-Academic team. The Ivy League also named Ford to their First Team All Ivy. Brown’s coaches recognized Ford with the Patrick S. Jones Memorial Award as the player or “generates the most spark and enthusiasm in building team spirit.”

The San Jose Sharks must have been sufficiently impressed as well, signing the undrafted defenseman March 31. Ford should start the 2004-05 season with the Cleveland Barons, receiving regular ice-time in all situations and could surpass fellow Baron Doug Murray on San Jose’s depth chart coming out of training camp as San Jose’s first recall should a physical defensive defenseman be needed.

Scott Ford: 2003-04

Aaron Gill

Another undrafted player, Notre Dame captain Aaron Gill propelled himself onto the San Jose Sharks depth chart finishing his collegiate career with an impressive senior year.

The 24-year-old Gill started his regular season with a three-point performance Oct. 10 against Ohio State, good for Second Star of the Game. The 6’0” 180-pound center went on to score in 12 of his first 16 games for the Fighting Irish, compiling six goals and 13 assists centering a line with sophomore Mike Walsh and junior Cory McLean. Gill was also named one of the Three Stars of the Game on three more occasions in Notre Dame’s first 16 games.

After a three game pointless streak, Gill was back on track Jan. 9 against Bowling Green as the pivot was named the Third Star with a two-point performance in a 5-4 overtime loss. A three-point performance Jan. 30 against the University of Alaska-Fairbanks earned Gill Second Star status, as Gill was re-united with Walsh and McLean after Notre Dame coach Dave Poulin had juggled lines, with much team success, in January.

Gill’s regular season ended on a three-game pointless streak, but the Rochester, Minnsota native still had compiled 12 goals and 18 assists in 34 games. With 10 goals and 17 assists in 28 CCHA conference games, Gill finished the regular season seventh in CCHA scoring and sixth in assists and power play goals with five.

Notre Dame entered the CCHA Playoffs as the fifth ranked team with a 14-11-3 conference record, and went on to defeat Western Michigan in the first round as Gill managed a goal and an assist in three games. Gill broke out with a supreme individual effort in a 5-6 overtime loss against Ohio State in the ECAC Semifinals, scoring a hat trick and adding an assist and named the Second Star of the Game.

The Fighting Irish barely qualified for the NCAA National Tournament and lost in their first regional game against the University of Minnesota 2-5, but Gill contributed on both Notre Dame goals, scoring one and assisting on the other. Gill thus finished his season with 17 goals and 21 assists in 39 games with a +13 rating. Gill five goals and three assists in five playoff games is equally as impressive, with Gil named to the NCAA Tournament All-Regional Team. The CCHA Second Team All-Star was also named Notre Dame’s team MVP.

With his collegiate season over, Gill signed an amateur tryout with the Cleveland Barons of the AHL, playing in six games for the Barons down the stretch scoring one goal. Gill also appeared in three playoff games for the Barons, tallying no points, but the San Jose Sharks were nonetheless impressed and signed the center to a contract April 23.

Known as a two-way center with a strong work ethic who constantly hustles, Gill should enter the 2004-05 season as a contender as Cleveland’s third line center. The two-way pivot, also good in the face-off circle, could become a fourth line NHL center in the future with the prerequisite work ethic of a dependable fourth liner and enough ability to contribute now and again offensively. Gill will be hard-pressed to crack San Jose though, as San Jose has a number of prospect centers who could become dependable depth centers.

Aaron Gill: 2003-04
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Non-ConfNotre DameCCHA6213+1020014
PlayoffsNotre DameCCHA5538+4020016
OverallNotre DameCCHA39172138+131690095
Exhib.Notre DameCCHA2033+200004

Michael Hutchins

After not dressing in any games for the University of New Hampshire in the 2002-03 season, defenseman Michael Hutchins’ sophomore season can be seen as a slight improvement, but far from impressive.

Scratched in New Hampshire’s first two regular season games, the 5’11” 197-pound defenseman played in 12 of the Wildcats’ next 15 games, going pointless pairing with nearly every UNH defenseman at one time or another. Known for taking ill-advised penalties, with 20 penalty minutes in his first 12 games, Hutchins was scratched in UNH’s next 10 games before playing against Feb. 6, having not played since Dec. 13.

Hutchins finished the season playing in seven of UNH’s last nine games, picking up his first collegiate point Feb. 22 with a goal against Northeastern in a 6-5 victory. Having seemingly reduced his penalty minutes, Hutchins returned to form with eight penalty minutes Feb. 28 versus Boston College and four more Mar. 3 against Boston University. With six minors in two games, Hutchins was scratched in UNH’s final regular season game, giving the 21-year-old one goal, no assists, and 34 penalty minutes in 19 games.

Scratched in New Hampshire’s first two playoff games, Hutchins did play in UNH’s Hockey East Quarterfinal and Semifinal games, tallying in neither. Hutchins also played in UNH’s 1-4 loss against Michigan in the NCAA Northeast Regional game. Although Hutchins tallied no points in three games for the Wildcats, the aggressive Hutchins went unpenalized in the playoffs.

Playing in just over half on UNH’s games, Hutchins will work to become a regular in the New Hampshire roster in 2004-05. Hutchins will be aided by the fact that senior defensemen Tim Horst, Mike Lubesnick and Mick Mounsey are all graduating, but UNH could have four recruits at defense joining the team in 2004-05. A tremendous turnaround will be needed for the Sharks to consider signing their ninth round draft pick in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft. Drafted out of the USHL, Hutchins has the upside to become an aggressive small defenseman who contributes offensively at the minor pro level.

Michael Hutchins: 2003-04
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Non-ConfNew HampshireHE5000+140002
PlayoffsNew HampshireHE3000000001
OverallNew HampshireHE22101-63400014
Exhib.New HampshireHE1000020001

Mike Morris

A surprise first round draft pick in 2002, right wing Mike Morris skated to a super sophomore season in 2003-04.

After only two points in his first five games for Northeastern University, Morris started tallying points in November with four assists in six games, but no goals and only one goal after 11 games. Although the Huskies only played four games in December, Morris had a goal and four assists as he was now paired with Steve Sanders and Jason Guerriero. With a goal and three assists in the final weekend of December, Morris was named to the Hockey East Honor Roll Dec. 29.

January was even more productive for the 19-year-old, as he started scoring goals with four in eight games. Morris was named the Third Star of the Game Jan. 3 in a 3-0 upset shutout over Boston College with a goal and an assist and was named the Third Star again Jan. 17 with the game-tying goal in a 3-3 tie against Providence College. The 6’0” 180-pound right winger was named the First Star Jan. 24 with the game-winning goal and an assist in a 3-2 victory over Merrimack. Hockey East recognized Morris again Jan. 26 with a spot on the Honor Roll.

Morris continued scoring with four goals and four assists in February and made the Hockey East Honor Roll again Mar. 1 after he scored two goals and an assist in a 6-3 win versus Boston University, including the game winning goal. Named the Second Star of the game Feb. 28 against BU, Morris was also named the Third Star of the Game on Valentine’s Day despite going pointless. Normally a rarity, Morris’ six shots in the 0-0 tie against Maine qualified the Braintree, Mass. native for the honor.

The following week Morris was named the Third Star again Mar. 5 with two assists in a 4-0 shutout win over UMass. Scoreless in his final game, Morris finished with 10 goals and 20 assists in 34 games for the Huskies, second on team scoring behind Guerriero. With seven goals and 13 assists in 24 Hockey East conference games, Morris finished 15 in HE scoring and fifth amongst all sophomores in conference scoring.

Due to a disastrous start that saw Northeastern winless after their first 11 games (two ties), Northeastern missed the Hockey East playoffs with a conference record of 5-13-6. The Huskies played well in non-conference play however, giving them an overall record of 11-16-7. At the team awards banquet, Morris was awarded with the Husky Radio Award as the most exciting player during radio broadcasts.

Morris looks set to play out his final two years at Northeastern as San Jose has no particular need to rush the two-way winger. Possessing good speed and a solid work ethic, Morris projects to become a third line winger in San Jose and should reward the Sharks for off-the-board selection in the first round of the 2002 draft.

Mike Morris: 2003-04

Dan Spang

San Jose followed the Morris selection in 2002 with another off-the-board selection in the second round, but defenseman Dan Spang seems to be rewarding the Sharks for their unconventional pick.

Scoring a power play goal in Boston University’s first game, a 6-1 exhibition victory of the University of Toronto, Spang started the 2003-04 season on a strong scoring pace. After scoring two goals against Providence College Oct. 24, Spang was named to the Hockey East Honor Roll Oct. 27. The 5’11” 205-pound blueliner had another two-point performance Nov. 30 with two assists in a 7-2 victory over Yale. After 16 games, not including the exhibition, Spang had scored four goals and six assists, with two goals and three assists on the power play.

However, after scoring the game-tying goal in a 5-5 tie against the University of Minnesota Jan. 3, Spang added only four points over 18 games, with three coming the final weekend of the regular season. Spang had another two-point performance in a 3-3 tie against UNH March 4, and an assist March 6 against UNH in a 4-3 overtime win. This strong end to the season gave Spang five goals and nine assists in 34 games with a favorable +8 rating on a team that finished with a 10-15-9 record.

Although Spang did not tally in the playoffs, the Terriers did score an upset 2-1 series victory over powerhouse Boston College. The Terriers also fought hard against the University of Maine in the Hockey East semifinals, but were eliminated in a 1-0 loss. Finishing with an even rating in the playoffs, Spang’s +8 led the Terriers over the 38 game season.

Spang’s strong season did not go unnoticed as the 20-year-old was named BU’s Most Improved Player. The Terriers also recognized Spang with the Clifford P. Fitzgerald Scholarship as the Most Outstanding Freshman or Sophomore defenseman.

The Terriers have no graduating defensemen, meaning Spang will likely play 2004-05 as the third or fourth defenseman, possibly paired with Kevin Schaeffer again, a strong freshman defenseman in 2003-04 with whom Spang was paired most of the season. Spang should become the Terriers top defenseman in 2005-06, with Schaeffer as a strong number two. Long-term Spang could become a fourth defenseman for the Sharks, providing two-way play and utilizing his physical strength down low and in the corners.

Dan Spang: 2003-04
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Non-ConfBoston UHE10156+5000010
PlayoffsBoston UHE4000020006
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Exhib.Boston UHE1101001003

Tom Walsh

Drafted in the fifth round of the 2002 NHL Entry Draft, defenseman Tom Walsh took a step backwards in 2003-04 after a decent freshman season.

The 6’0” 195-pound blueliner started the season in style with two assists in an 8-0 exhibition victory over the University of Guelph, but then went 14 games before scoring two assists in a 3-2 over Union Jan. 2. Walsh was also scratched in Harvard’s third and fourth regular season games in November.

Walsh’s two-point performance earned him a spot on the ECAC Honor Roll Jan. 5, and the Arlington, Mass. native followed this up with a goal the next week against Cornell Jan. 9. However, by Valentine’s Day Walsh was a scratch again, scratched in three of Harvard’s final five games of the season. Walsh did not appear in any playoff games for the Crimson.

Having played in 32 of Harvard’s 34 games in his freshman season, Walsh played in 24 of Harvard’s 36 games in 2003-04, with only one goals and four assists, all scored in ECAC conference play.

Known as a puckhandling defenseman with strong skating skills, Walsh’s mere five points in his sophomore season is alarming. However, Harvard has three senior defensemen graduating, which should help ensure 21-year-old Walsh a place on the roster every game in 2004-05. With continued work, Walsh should be Harvard’s third or fourth defenseman in his senior season. Long-term for San Jose, Walsh’s future appears to be limited to that of minor league depth.

Tom Walsh: 2003-04