Nearly two dozen San Jose prospects had the opportunity to strut their stuff as the Sharks opened a five-day mini camp at Logitech Ice to the public on the final day of the camp.
Forwards who skated at the five-day mini camp included Steve Bernier, Marcel Goc, Josh Hennessy, Mike Morris, Shane Joseph, Ryane Clowe, Grant Stevenson, Aaron Gill, Tomas Plihal, Glenn Olson and Miroslav Zalesak.
Joining the forwards were defensemen Christian Ehrhoff, Matt Carle, Josh Gorges, Scott Ford, Tim Conboy, and Matt Carkner. Two goalies, Nolan Schaefer and 2004 eight round draft pick Derek MacIntyre, also took part.
Notables absences included 2004 first round draft pick Lukas Kaspar and top prospect Milan Michalek, who was still rehabbing a torn MCL suffered in February.
The final day of camp was marked with a three-on-three game and finished with some skating drills and stretching exercises. Overall, there was very little physical play as many players prepare for their own team’s camps in a few weeks.
Below are some players that made an impression on the final day of the mini camp.
The fastest defensive player on either side, Ehrhoff made several solid defensive plays that shut down plays or players and his one-on-one positioning looked improved over training camp last season. Ehrhoff’s offensive skills were clearly the best of all of the defensemen on this day. On one play, Ehrhoff had the puck before the other team’s blue line and in a quick burst of speed and power split through both defensive players, broke in on the goalie and had an excellent scoring chance in which he missed the net. The 22-year-old German also joined the play several times resulting in excellent scoring chances for his team.
Ehrhoff will be a strong contender to make the Sharks when training camp starts next month having played 41 games for the Sharks in 2003-04, tallying a goal and 11 assists.
After a solid freshman season for the University of Denver and the gold medal-winning Team USA World Junior Championship team, Carle impressed with his smooth and fast skating skills and his aggressive defensive play.
Demonstrating why he had 26 points in 30 games with Denver, Carle showed very good speed, playmaking and defensive coverage talents and was able to jump into the play either leading or participating in the rush a couple of times. In addition, he was very aggressive at defending the breakout play and was able to either neutralize or disrupt it leading to a turnover for his side.
After Ehrhoff, Carle was the most impressive defenseman at the camp on the final day and was asked to lead the stretching at the end of the practice. Look for Carle to have a strong training camp and season with Denver after being named to the WCHA All-Rookie Team in 2003-04.
One of the top offensive players in the QMJHL with the Quebec Remparts in 2003-04, Hennessy showed he is a very quick player on his feet with quick acceleration who has crisp turns and very good overall speed. Hennessy also displayed very good ice vision and responsible defense during the scrimmage.
The 6’0” 190-pound center was also very good in the corners and won most of the battles against larger slower players. On one play Hennessy was able to use his speed to take the defensive player wide, beat him to the net and create a scoring chance. On another two-on-one play with Ehrhoff acting as the decoy, Hennessy was able to stickhandle around the fallen defender and get a good scoring chance showing his puck control and composure.
In a system where awards are based on performance, even in development camps, Hennessy lead the skating drills after practice. The first drill was a turn and balance drill where each player went around two gloves turning on one foot showing each player’s balance and skating agility and then repeated with players being allowed to skate and cross over. Hennessy’s skating in the second drill was one of the quickest with the shortest path around the turns and minimal over-skating. In the final drill players stopped and started on one foot with Hennessy again one of the quicker players.
After recovering from a separated shoulder in late February, Hennessy looks poised for an excellent Sharks training camp and season with Quebec of the QMJHL after his performance at the mini camp.
One of the top 10 prospects in the Canadian Hockey League’s “Top 35” Prospects poll after tallying 34 goals and 40 assists with Moncton of the QMJHL, the 6’2” 230-pound Bernier made a couple of excellent power forward plays in protecting the puck and taking it to the net to generate scoring chances. Criticized for his defense prior to the 2003 Draft, Bernier made a good defensive play by getting back into the play and breaking up the play in his team’s end.
Also criticized for his skating, Bernier’s overall skating appeared improved and looked average compared to others today. One positive is that when Bernier had the puck he was very difficult to knock off the puck and now looks poised for a strong Sharks training camp next month.
Many of the prospects at the mini camp are also slated to play for the Sharks at a prospect tournament Sept. 9-14 against prospects of the Phoenix Coyotes, Los Angeles Kings and the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. Last season the Sharks prospects played teams of prospects from the same three NHL teams at the Kings practice rink in El Segundo, California. San Jose chose to go with a team of pure prospects in 2003, as the only player with North American pro experience on the Sharks roster was defenseman David Cloutier.
The prospect tournament, to be hosted by Anaheim, could also mark the end of Sharks training camp, as the NHL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement expires on Sept. 15.
Kaspar to Play for Ottawa 67’s
Sharks 2004 first round draft pick, right wing Lukas Kaspar has confirmed that he will make the move from the Czech Republic to major junior hockey in the Ontario Hockey League.
Selected by the Ottawa 67’s in the CHL Import Draft, Kaspar will be joined by friend and Litvinov Juniors teammate Jakub Petruzalek, a ninth round pick of the New York Rangers in the 2004 Draft. The 67’s will have a high-scoring duo with their two Czechs, as Kaspar scored 21 goals and 14 assists in 23 games in Czech juniors while Petruzalek scored 38 goals and 51 assists in 53 games. Kaspar also played 37 games for Litvinov in the Czech Extraleague, scoring four goals and two assists.
The 19-year-old Shark prospect will be in trusted hands, as Ottawa coach Brian Kilrea, the winningest coach in CHL history, also coached San Jose Sharks General Manager Doug Wilson when the former Norris Trophy winner played junior hockey. The Sharks will rest easy knowing Kaspar’s development will be in the hands of one of the best coaches in hockey in a strong hockey town.
“We’re excited about that,” said Wilson. “It is a good situation and they average eight to nine thousand [fans] a game.”
Both Kaspar and Petruzalek should crack the 67’s top line to begin the 2004-05 season.
Kevin Wey contributed to this article.