Sharks 2006 draft review

By Kevin Wey

For the fourth straight draft, the San Jose Sharks traded up to get their man.

In 2003 it was to select Steve Bernier, Josh Hennessy and Matt Carle, in 2004 it was to select Lukas Kaspar, and in 2005 it was to select Devin Setoguchi. All five of these players are among the top prospects in the Sharks system, and Sharks general manager Doug Wilson used the same strategy to acquire their first, second and third picks in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft.

San Jose’s first move on draft day was to trade the 20th and 53rd overall picks to the Montreal Canadiens for the 16th overall pick, which the Sharks used to selected defenseman Ty Wishart of Prince George of the WHL. Without a second round pick after the trade with Montreal, the Sharks struck another deal and sent the 85th and 113th overall picks and a second round pick in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft to the Columbus Blue Jackets for the 36th overall pick, which the Sharks used to select left winger Jamie McGinn of the Ottawa 67’s of the OHL. The Sharks had traded their lone third round pick to Columbus, but San Jose compensated by acquiring an early third round pick from the New York Islanders for the 108th and 173rd overall picks in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. The Sharks then used the 98th overall pick, acquired from the Islanders, to select defenseman James DeLory of the Oshawa Generals of the OHL.

Suddenly, the Sharks had addressed two major needs in their prospect system. Wishart and DeLory both addressed San Jose’s need for big, mobile defensemen in their system. Wishart figures to be a future top four defenseman who will has the mobility and aggressiveness to be a force defensively and the skill to contribute offensively. DeLory figures to add the same thing, someday, only likely as a future fifth or sixth defenseman.

The selection of McGinn gave San Jose a future third line winger who provides much needed energy on the forecheck and around the net. The Sharks forwards stopped crashing the net when Edmonton’s defense collapsed around Dwayne Roloson in the Western Conference Finals. McGinn never quits attacking the net. Right winger Ashton Rome, the Sharks fifth round pick, gives San Jose another third-line, checking player who will add the sort of grit the Sharks could have used in the playoffs. The Sharks fifth overall pick in the 2006 Draft, John McCarthy, is another winger to the Sharks system who brings size and willingness to do the dirty work along the boards and in the corners.

San Jose’s final pick of the draft didn’t address the team’s need for size and grit, but he does give San Jose a player with considerable upside. Diminutive Jay Barriball was one of the top players in Minnesota high school hockey the past two seasons and made an incredibly smooth transition to the USHL in his split season between the Academy of Holy Angels and Sioux Falls. Barriball’s combination of skill, hockey sense, work ethic, and coachability made him the 5’9, 155-pound left winger they couldn’t ignore.

Not only was the 2006 Draft the fourth draft in a row that San Jose traded up in the first round, it was the second consecutive draft in which the Sharks did not draft a player out of Europe. That fact should not lead one to believe that San Jose is avoiding Europe, though. When asked if the Sharks were avoiding Europeans because of the new Player Transfer Agreement with the IIHF, Sharks Director of Amateur Scouting Tim Burke denied that was the case and asked rhetorically, “Do you think we would have drafted Nicklas Backstrom if we had a chance? Do you think we would have drafted Michal Frolik if we had a chance?

“I would think so,” Burke said, answering his own question. “I think we’ve shown we’ll go to any market.”

Indeed. In recent drafts San Jose has selected players from such leagues as the North American Hockey League, the Eastern Junior Hockey League, the Atlantic Junior Hockey League, New England prep hockey, and Massachusetts high school hockey, in addition to the more traditional OHL, QMJHL, WHL, NCAA, and USHL. The Sharks have also culled considerable talent from Germany since selecting Marco Sturm in the first round of the 1996 NHL Entry Draft. Of some note, though, the Sharks have not selected a Russian player since selecting Andrei Zyuzin with the second overall pick in 1996. San Jose has also selected only two Finns since their Finnish draft of 1995, in which Miikka Kiprusoff and Vesa Toskala turned out great, but Teemu Riihijarvi, Marko Makinen, Timo Hakanen, and Mikko Markkonen failed to pan out. Team Teal has also selected only two players out of Sweden since 1995 as well, overager Mikael Samuelsson in the fifth round of the 1998 NHL Entry Draft and Alexander Hult in the eighth round of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft.

However, there’s no magic formula of Russians, Finns, and Swedes to create Stanley Cup contending hockey teams, and the Sharks 2006 draft did much in addressing some needs in system.

Ty Wishart, D
1st Rd, 16th Overall
Prince George Cougars (WHL)

The second defenseman taken in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, Ty Wishart gives San Jose the big, rangy, mobile defenseman that it needs.

Wishart started his draft season by playing for Team Canada at the U18 World Junior Cup in the Czech Republic and Slovakia in August, where he went without a point but got a good jump on the season. Back in Prince George, ankle injuries to Tampa Bay 2004 first round draft pick Andy Rogers helped ensure that Wishart played more than he had anticipated in 2005-06. Pairing often with Curtis Cooper, Wishart went on a 17-game streak where he was an even or plus player at the end of each game and was a +20 after 18 games with a goal and six assists.

Prince George began to struggle in early November and lost 11 of 13 game from Nov. 8 through Dec. 9. During that stretch, Wishart had only 1 goal and 1 assist and his plus/minus dipped to +15. While Wishart and the team struggled offensively, Prince George acquired Kalvin Sagert and Jesse Dudas from the Lethbridge Hurricanes on Nov. 29 for veterans Randy King and Ryan Kerr in an effort to add more puck moving to the blue line.

By mid-December, Dudas was out for the season with a calcium deposit on his thigh and Rogers had had to pack it in with season-ending ankle surgery, meaning Prince George would have to rely heavily on its top four defensemen, including Wishart. Beginning Dec. 11, the last game Dudas would play in 2005-06, Wishart began to pair regularly with veteran defenseman Devin Featherstone, and personal success followed. Wishart started 32 of the next 33 games he played, missing two games against Kelowna Feb. 3 and Feb. 4, and scored 3 goals and 20 assists in that time frame. However, in each of the final two games of that 33-game stretch, Wishart was a -2, and Wishart did not start a game the rest of the season. Although the Cougars lost four of five games to end the season after Wishart no longer started with Featherstone, Wishart finished the season with five assists in Prince George’s final five games. The burst of offense to end the season gave Wishart five goals and 32 assists for 37 points, tops among all Prince George defensemen and second among all WHL defensemen born in 1988, behind only Logan Pyett of the Regina Pats. Most of Wishart’s points came on the power play, with three of his goals and 22 of his assists coming with the man-advantage. Despite putting up good numbers, all the ice time may not have been good for Wishart’s stock.

“He would get a little tired within games, worn down a little bit, and he’d have to pace himself a little bit, maybe not play on the edge as much as he would have liked to, because he had to stay out of the penalty box because we really used four defensemen religiously for the last 45 games of the year or so,” Prince George head coach Mike Vandekamp said in an interview with Hockey’s Future.

Despite missing Rogers and Dudas, Wishart and the other top four defensemen helped Prince George make the playoffs after missing the postseason for three straight seasons. The celebration was short though, as Prince George was eliminated in five games by the Vancouver Giants, the eventual WHL champions. Wishart did not tally in the series, but the Cougars elimination was not the end to his season. The Comox, British Columbia, native was called upon by Team Canada to serve as their team captain at the U18 World Championships in Sweden. Wishart went without a point in seven games at the tournament, but he did skate on Canada’s top defense pairing (with Pyett) the entire tournament.

Wishart’s international experience in Sweden proved helpful in selling the Sharks on the young defenseman.

“He was one of the guys that all of our scouts actually saw, because even our European guy was able to see him at tournaments over there,” San Jose Sharks Director of Amateur Scouting Tim Burke told Hockey’s Future in a telephone interview the week after the draft.

“We haven’t had a lot of situations where a guy has been seen in every venue.”

Despite going pointless in international competition, Wishart impressed the Sharks in each of the venues they saw him at, as well as his season with Prince George.

“We had seen him at a number of tournaments aside from the league and we liked how he handled a lot of pressure situations, playing against top lines, and he was a very good leader in all of those situations,” Burke said of Wishart.

The Sharks have a number of good young defensemen in Christian Ehrhoff, Matt Carle, Marc-Eduoard Vlasic, Josh Gorges, Dan Spang, and Derek Joslin, but none of them bring the size that the 6’4, 205-pound Wishart brings. That size should prove valuable for San Jose in the future.

“You can’t teach reach, and he’s definitely a big, tall, long-arm, long-reach, kind of a player,” Vandekamp said of Wishart. “That obviously has always been a real good asset for a defenseman, but it is going to be even more so as the rules of the game adjust and change a little bit.

“All of the sudden, the stick becomes such an important part, breaking up passes, being in lanes, and now his stick, defensively, is going to become such a weapon for him.”

Size and reach aren’t Wishart’s only weapons. Mid-season, Wishart played at the CHL Top Prospects Game and was named the Team Cherry Player of the Game for assisting on both of his team’s two goals in their 7-2 defeat to Team Orr. In the Skills Competition, Wishart’s 92-mile-per-hour slap shot was among the hardest, and his 60-foot dash time of 2.849 seconds and 150-foot dash time of 6.008 seconds were both very competitive, and exceptional given his size. His time of 15.345 seconds around the rink was only average, but only puck-rushing defensemen like Bobby Orr and Paul Coffey need such top-end speed. Wishart’s acceleration and agility, as well as his range and skill, should make him one of San Jose’s top defensemen one day.

“He’s a harder guy to play against for skilled guys, because he’s big enough and rangy enough and can move well enough that he can contain guys,” Burke said of Wishart. “We thought he was the type of defenseman that can play against top lines.

“You can never underrate the ability to reach and deflect pucks and to make them make that play a little bit earlier and hurry something.”

Boosting his numbers so much in 2005-06 due to injuries to others, Wishart’s ice time may actually decrease in 2006-07. That, however, may be a good thing.

“He’s still going to play a lot of minutes for us, but I think cutting them back just a little bit allows him to play with more energy, allows him to be more aggressive, and just sort of empty the tank a little bit more and not feel he has to conserve anything,” Vandekamp said. “I think that will allow him to bring out that toughness aspect of the game a little bit more.”

Being able to play a tougher game will probably make Wishart happy, too, as he lists Chris Pronger as his favorite defenseman. Even better for San Jose is that, unlike many big defensemen, Wishart does not have the habit of clutching and grabbing. He uses his skating, reach, and defensive awareness to shut opponents down. In a few years, Wishart should give San Jose the highly mobile shut-down defenseman they do not currently have, as neither Hannan nor McLaren move like Wishart. The Sharks came away from the first round with exactly what they needed, and they were happy to get it.

“We realistically thought he would probably drop between 11 and 15, and we tried to get in there and couldn’t get in there,” Burke said. “We were very fortunate to get him at 16.”

Wishart must continue to fill out and improve his lower body strength if he’s to become the physical force in the NHL he could become. What role he plays in the NHL, will depend on how much he can improve offensively.

“What actually holds guys back from going from that middle-of-the-pack defenseman on a team to becoming a real No. 1 guy is the offensive side of the game,” Vandekamp said. “All of those No. 1, top defensemen in the NHL put up pretty good numbers.

“I think that the tell-tale sign of whether Ty can really excel and become a real superstar is going to come down to whether his offensive game comes together, because I think the rest of his game will be great.”

The Sharks have confidence that they’ll be able to successfully develop Wishart due to his coachability and hockey sense.

“He’s a kid that we’re going to be able to coach up, which is very important with bigger guys like this,” Burke said. “He processes information well and he’ll be able to take that and keep improving.”

Even if Wishart does not become a top defenseman for San Jose, he’ll probably still be valuable to the organization.

“He’s the kind of person you want to have in your organization for the long haul, and I think that’s what makes him a special guy,” Vandekamp said. “He may not ever be a No. 1 NHL defenseman, I don’t know, but one thing I do know is he’ll always be able to play the game and he’ll always be a great team guy and he’s a great citizen and a good kid.”

Jamie McGinn, LW
2nd Rd, 36th Overall
Ottawa 67’s (OHL)

Every team needs a spark plug who forechecks hard and crashes the net. The Sharks hope they got their’s by selecting Jamie McGinn of the Ottawa 67’s.

McGinn started 2005-06 by playing for team Canada at the U18 Junior World Cup in August as one of four alternate captains. He went without a point in the late-summer tournament and also started the OHL season somewhat slowly in the first month and a half. For most of Ottawa’s first 17 games, McGinn played on the first line with veterans Julian Talbot and Chris Hulit. He only picked up one goal and six assists in that stretch and was moved. On Nov. 6, McGinn was moved to the second line with talented youngsters Logan Couture and Matt Lahey, and the offense picked up immediately. From Nov. 6 through Dec. 18, McGinn scored 8 goals and 13 assists in 18 games.

After the Christmas Break, McGinn was without Couture as his center, who was playing for Team Ontario at the U17 World Hockey Challenge in Regina, Saskatchewan, but he still put up a goal and three assists in four games with Thomas Kiriakou as his center. After Couture returned, McGinn played two games and scored a goal and an assist, but the 17-year-old was put on the first line again when the 67’s traded first-line left winger Bryan Bickell to the Windsor Spitfires for Brett Liscomb and a second round pick in the 2006 OHL Priority Selection. McGinn played the next seven games on the first line with Talbot and Liscomb and scored seven goals and four assists. However, Talbot missed the last game of January and the first game of February, and the 67’s began losing most of their games thereafter.

Couture and McGinn were reunited on Valentine’s Day, a 10-4 loss to Kingston, but McGinn did score a hat trick Feb. 17 in a 8-3 victory over the Mississauga Ice Dog and was named First Star of the Game. McGinn scored 4 goals and 3 assists down the stretch, although he missed three games in March, and finished 26 goals and 31 assists in 65 games. The scrappy McGinn also finished the season with 113 penalty minutes, 25 of which came from five fighting majors during the season. Although McGinn finished fourth in 67’s scoring with 57 points, his -11 rating was tied with Pat Ouellette for the worst mark on the team in the regular season.

In the playoffs, McGinn scored two goals and two assists in Ottawa’s six-game loss to the eventual OHL champion Peterborough Petes. McGinn’s four points tied him for sixth with Lahey in 67’s playoff scoring.

With Ottawa eliminated from the playoffs, McGinn was able to play for Team Canada at the U18 World Championships in Sweden. McGinn scored two goals and one assist in seven games for Canada, including two power play goals (the first being the game-winner) in the team’s 4-1 victory over Russia April 19.

The Sharks could have used a winger to crash the net in the Western Conference Semifinals against Edmonton, and McGinn will ensure they have one within the next few years.

“He’s one of those guys that keeps a lot of pucks alive down low and makes little plays and he’s very good around the front of the net with screens, tips and rebounds,” Burke said of McGinn. “He won’t move. He’s relentless in his ability to stay there and screen goalies.”

An aggressive forechecker, McGinn saw success on a line with youngster Couture and Lahey. Couture is expected to be one of the top picks in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, which makes him a target for opponents. A young player himself, the 5’11, 179-pound McGinn made sure the opposition did not take liberties with the highly talented Couture, which impressed the Sharks greatly.

“Not only does Jamie play with the kid (Couture), he does a lot of work for the line,” Burke said. “He looks after the kid, too. He’s jumped in and fought people that have run the kid.

“He’s not the biggest guy, and he’s not the toughest guy, but he answers the bell when a younger kid is being run at, and that’s great character.”

McGinn will likely skate with Couture and Lahey on Ottawa’s top line in 2006-07, but his NHL future is as a third-line left winger who gives the Sharks an aggressive forechecker that battles around the net and has the skill to play with talented offensive players, as demonstrated by his performance in the CHL Top Prospects Skills Competition. He showed good speed with a time of 2.933 seconds in the 60-foot dash and a time of 6.092 in the 150-foot dash, but his time of 17.108 seconds in the Puck Control was second only to Drummondville’s Derick Brassard (CLB). Skating and handling pucks well around pylons doesn’t ensure success, but it does demonstrate that McGinn has soft enough hands and the presence of mind to skate quickly with the puck. The Sharks have brought in Mark Bell and Mike Grier to add necessary grit and skill on the top three lines in 2006-07 and beyond, but McGinn should provide reinforcements in the future.

James DeLory, D
4th Rd, 98th Overall
Oshawa Generals (OHL)

In case Wishart wasn’t enough, the Sharks added another big, rangy defenseman in James DeLory.

Playing for the rebuilding Oshawa Generals, DeLory had to step up his game in 2005-06 and he did. DeLory led Oshawa in defenseman scoring with 6 goals and 26 assists and also led the Generals in games played at 67 in a tumultuous season for a team that made a number of trades. Playing on a team with the second-worst record in the OHL, not surprisingly, DeLory finished with a -22 rating for the season. Despite being the eighth overall pick in the 2004 OHL Priority Selection and establishing himself as Oshawa’s top young defenseman, DeLory was not selected to play at the Top Prospects Game in January, nor was he selected to play for Team Canada at the U18s. In fact, DeLory only skated at the Team Canada’s selection camp for the 2005 U18 Junior World Cup because Maxime Frechette aggravated an injury in camp. However, DeLory deserves credit, he’s not originally a defenseman.

“The interesting part about him is until three years ago, and two of them have been with us, is he was a forward,” Oshawa head coach Brad Selwood said in an interview with Hockey’s Future. “He was always a right winger.”

But, players who are 6’5 are hard to keep off of the blue line, and DeLory began that transition from forward to defense in 2003-04 playing Midget AAA hockey with the York Simcoe Express. Now just under 6’6 and 220 pounds, DeLory is an intriguing package.

“He gives you a little bit of everything,” Selwood said. “He’s got real good speed for a kid his size and his hands are real good and he’s tough and he’s got a real mean streak to him.”

Selwood and the Sharks seem to be on the same page.

“He’s a big, physical guy but he has the ability to play on the power play, too, because he’s a right-handed shot and he can shoot the puck. He’s got a pretty good touch for a big guy.”

Not only does DeLory have decent hands, honed during his days as a forward, he’s also an exceptional skater, especially for his size. As is the case with Wishart, DeLory has good range thanks to his size, reach, and skating. Relied upon to play major minutes in only his second season of major juniors, like Wishart, DeLory will face an adjustment when he makes it to the pros.

“The tendency is when you play that many minutes, is you tend to pace yourself or you’re not full-throttle enough,” Burke said. “That’s going to be an issue when he’s in his development stages, as it has been with all young defensemen.

“They play too much in juniors and then their role as a pro is going to be different.”

Unlike Wishart, who the Sharks see as a potential top three defenseman, the Sharks see DeLory as a valuable fifth or sixth defenseman.

“We think that the guy has the upside to be a 15-18 minutes guy, where a guy like a Wishart, we think can be a 22-minute guy,” Burke said. “Both very important to your club, and both are roles very important to your team.”

If DeLory does play as a fifth or sixth defenseman, he’ll be able to play an aggressive and physical game and also keep opponents honest. DeLory picked up eight fighting majors in 2005-06, and would figure to provide a fighting element to the Sharks roster if he makes his way to San Jose, which is valuable in an NHL that makes it difficult for teams to employ pure fighters. DeLory understands that with his size comes certain expectations.

“He’s not a guy you’re going to mess with,” Selwood said of DeLory. “I think he understands that. I think he relishes it a little bit.

“He understands that to be an effective team guy, he’s got to play that tough role simply because of his size.”

DeLory also has an understanding of forwards, but he must continue to learn how to defend against them. DeLory’s decision-making as a defenseman still has room for improvement, having only played the position for three years and having to adjust against high-end forwards in the OHL.

“He has to quicken up his thinking process,” Selwood said. “Some of the decisions he makes right now are a little bit robotic in that he has to go back and take a little bit more time and think about them, and he doesn’t do it with fluid motions.”

Having only played as a defenseman for three seasons, DeLory has a lot of developing to do, but he also has significant upside.

“I just think he’s one of those guy you almost have to give an opportunity, because of his size, his speed, his stature, and all kinds of things,” Selwood said. “He has a little bit of everything, so he’s intriguing in that regard alone.”

Ashton Rome, RW
5th Rd, 143rd Overall
Kamloops Blazers (WHL)

After following Ashton Rome for a few years, the Sharks finally got him, and he’ll contribute to the organization sooner rather than later.

One of two re-entries selected in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft (Eric Hunter being the other), Rome was originally selected by the Boston Bruins in the fourth round of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft with the 108th overall pick. The brother of Anaheim prospect defenseman Aaron Rome, Ashton improved his numbers each of his four seasons of major junior hockey. He scored 15 points in 2002-03 and 37 points in 2003-04, both with Moose Jaw, then scored 46 points splitting 2004-05 between Moose Jaw and Red Deer. The Nesbitt, Manitoba, native started 2005-06 with Red Deer and scored 11 goals and 6 assists in 14 games before being traded to Kamloops on Oct. 27 with a fifth round pick the WHL Bantam Draft for right winger Kris Versteeg and defenseman Brennan Chapman. Rome played 51 games for Kamloops and scored 19 goals and 28 assists, making him the Blazers leading scorer even without his 17 points in Red Deer.

The fact that Rome had steadily improved each of his four seasons made him attractive to San Jose after Boston was unable to come to terms with him prior to the June 1 deadline.

“He’s improved every year,” Burke said of Rome. “If he had leveled off, we probably would have stayed away from him, but we have watched him pretty closely.”

Perhaps Rome was always supposed to be a Shark.

“He was a guy that, in his draft year, that we were very serious about drafting and Boston took him in front of us,” Burke said. “So, we missed out on him.”

“He was a guy that, even if we didn’t draft him and Boston signed him, he would have been a guy that we would have tried to trade for, probably,” Burke added.

A consistent scorer for both Red Deer and Kamloops, Rome had seven-game-plus point scoring streaks on three occasions in 2005-06, with the first being the start of Red Deer’s season. In his first eight games of the season, he had eight goals and four assists, including a hat trick and an assist in a 6-5 shootout victory over Prince Albert Oct. 1. He didn’t score in the Oct. 1 shootout, but he did score in four other shootouts, making him 4-for-7 on the season. The most games Rome went without a point in 2005-06 was three, on only one occasion (the first three games of 2006)

While he has the requisite offensive skill to play for Worcester in 2006-07, his grit is a welcome addition.

“He’s a third-line, hard-nosed winger type guy who’s a pretty good skater,” Burke said. “He’s a kid that plays with an edge and there’s some feistiness to him.”

It’s no surprise that Rome plays a physical game, he comes from a family of centurions. Brother Aaron piled up penalty minutes while with Swift Current and Moose Jaw in the WHL and has 217 penalty minutes in 139 AHL regular season games. The 6’1, 225-pound blueliner also has 66 penalty minutes in 30 games of AHL playoff hockey. His oldest brother, Ryan, was a tough 6’1, 205-pound defenseman who racked up 416 penalty minutes in 164 minor pro games in the CHL and UHL. Second-oldest brother Reagan has compiled 463 penalty minutes in 264 games patrolling blue lines in the ECHL and a bit in the AHL. Ashton is the youngest, and the only non-defenseman, but he carries on the family tradition of toughness, as he had four fighting majors and 130 penalty minutes in 2005-06, second to the 139 he put up in 72 games in 2003-04.

Like most players, Rome will require a transition period. Burke felt Rome would face an adjustment “getting used to the NHL and AHL speed” and needed to work on “making plays a little bit quicker and shooting the puck a lot more.”

In some regards, Rome is similar to second-round pick Jamie McGinn.

“We see him as a physical type winger who’ll go to the net and stay at the net,” Burke said of Rome.

The Sharks have already addressed the need for more grit in 2006-07 by acquiring Bell and Grier, but Rome, like McGinn, gives the team another warrior in a future phalanx.

John McCarthy, LW
7th Rd, 202nd Overall
Boston University Terriers (NCAA)

Boston University left winger John McCarthy didn’t put up big numbers in his freshman season of college hockey, but his work ethic and style of game convinced the Sharks that he’s an NHL prospect.

McCarthy’s path to Boston University started at St. John’s Prep in Massachusetts high school hockey. During his senior year, McCarthy committed to BU and also scored 20 goals and 20 assists, giving him 50 goals and 58 assists in his high school career. Named All-Conference in hockey three straight seasons, McCarthy was also named to the Boston Globe Super Team and the Boston Herald Super Team in 2003-04, during which he was also SJP’s team captain. He was also twice All-Conference in football as the quarterback and captained St. John’s football team in the fall of 2003.

Establishing himself as one of Massachusetts best high school athletes, McCarthy moved to Iowa to play for the Des Moines Buccaneers in 2004-05. Despite being a major scorer in Massachusetts high school hockey, McCarthy only put up 8 goals and 10 assists in 60 games for the Buccaneers. In retrospect, McCarthy probably was not ready for a 60-game USHL season after playing fewer than 30 games each year in high school.

“What hurt him offensively was just that he was coming out of Massachusetts high school, where he played a limited number of games, and he came right into the grind of the USHL and played a lot of minutes for us,” Des Moines Buccaneers head coach Regg Simon said in retrospect after the Sharks selected McCarthy in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft.

“A lot of players don’t realize what a jump it is to this league and this level,” Simon added. “I firmly believe had John been back here for another year, he could have been, or should have been, a 15- to 20-goal scorer and a 40-plus point guy for us.”

However, after one season of USHL hockey, McCarthy moved back to Massachusetts and played for Jack Parker at BU. McCarthy did not immediately crack the line-up, as he was scratched for five of the first eight games of the season, but by mid-November he had established himself as BU’s fourth line center. The freshman forward assisted on Dan Spang’s lone goal in a 1-0 victory over Denver University Nov. 25 and was named the Third Star of the Game Dec. 2 for scoring the Terriers lone goal in a 2-1 loss to Boston College, but a -3 rating in a 4-1 loss to Providence College Dec. 8 put McCarthy out of the line-up for the next four games as a scratch.

Starting Jan. 13, McCarthy was back in the line-up for good and played in each of BU’s final 22 games of the season. Centering the Terriers fourth line again, generally between Brian McGuirk and Ryan Weston, McCarthy put up an assist Jan. 25 in a 5-0 shutout victory over Merrimack and he scored the game-tying goal in BU’s 2-1 overtime victory over Boston College to win the Hockey East championship. However, Boston College got the last laugh in the NCAA Northeast Regional Final, where the Eagles shut out the Terriers 5-0. Boston College went on to play the University of Wisconsin in the NCAA Championship game, which they lost 2-1, but McCarthy and BU’s season had come to a close.

Despite modest offensive totals, the Sharks were convinced he was the type of player they wanted and took him in the seventh round of the 2006 Draft.

“He’s a kid that plays really hard and he’s the kind of player that does what coaches ask him to,” Burke said of McCarthy. “He really does a lot of dirty jobs.”

The Sharks had followed McCarthy since his high school days, where he impressed the Sharks with his overall athleticism. In fact, the Sharks are banking on McCarthy’s athleticism to propel him to pro hockey.

“We thought that by the progress that he made in college, that if the guy keeps going, and the type of athlete he is, we may have something.”

San Jose had also considered drafting McCarthy after his year in the USHL, but decided to draft other players and wait and see how the Buccaneer did in college. McCarthy passed the test at BU, but he also passed other tests during a trying season with Des Moines, who went 17-37-6 in 2004-05 and missed the USHL playoffs.

“He went there and the team was in disarray, but he was the one player that never quit and kept playing through the adversity,” Burke said of McCarthy. “That was something we liked.”

McCarthy’s coach in Des Moines echoed Burke’s assessment.

“He was always one of the guys that was working as hard as he could every day no matter if we had just lost three in a row or if we were fortunate to win one of our 17 games,” Simon said. “His attitude never wavered, and he stayed good and he stayed consistent and he went about his business the way he should.”

McCarthy’s collegiate career could end up mirroring a prospect already within the Sharks system. Free agent acquisition Mike Iggulden put up three goals and one assist in 30 games with Cornell University in his freshman season, and he never put up big numbers for the Big Red and generally played a defensive role in college. However, in his rookie season of professional hockey, Iggulden put up 22 goals and 26 assists in 77 games for the Cleveland Barons in the AHL in 2005-06. The 6’3, 215-pound Iggulden did what was asked of him in college to help his team win, and the 6’0, 200-pound McCarthy did the same in 2005-06.

Even if McCarthy never puts up big numbers in college hockey, if he follows the path of Iggulden, the Sharks will have reason to believe McCarthy can become an AHL caliber player and perhaps challenge for an NHL job in the future as a depth power forward.

Jay Barriball, LW/C
7th Rd, 203rd Overall
Sioux Falls Stampede (USHL)

Few players adjust from high school hockey to the USHL as quickly as Jay Barriball.

Barriball played a split season in 2005-06 between his high school team, Academy of Holy Angels, and the Sioux Falls Stampede of the USHL. The 18-year-old left winger started the season playing in the Upper Midwest High School Elite League with Acceleration Minnesota Team Southwest, coached by former NHLer Reed Larson. The Stampede added Barriball to the roster Oct. 11 and he played his first game Oct. 14. In his second game, Barriball scored two goals and one assist in a 3-1 victory over the Chicago Steel and was named the First Star of the Game. His performance Oct. 15 won him USHL Offensive Player of the Week honors. Still attending Holy Angels, Barriball skated for Sioux Falls the first two weekends of November and finished with two goals and four assists in his first six USHL games before joining the Holy Angels Stars for the Minnesota boys high school season.

What a season Barriball had. He scored 28 goals and 38 assists in 25 games and was named to the All-Conference Team for the third straight season. The Minnesota media also showered Barriball with awards. The Holy Angels senior was named to the Associated Press All-State First Team for the second straight season, to the Star Tribune All-State Team for the first time, and to the Star Tribune All-Metro Team for the first time. The Star Tribune also named Barriball the Metro Player of the Year for 2005-06. Barriball was also a finalist for the Minnesota Mr. Hockey Award, which was won by Apple Valley’s David Fischer, first-round pick of the Montreal Canadiens.

When Holy Angels, the top-ranked Class AA team in the state heading into sections, lost to Apple Valley in the 5AA Sections, Barriball decided to forego his invitation to play in the Minnesota Great 8 Festival to re-join Sioux Falls and continue his development in the USHL. He left Holy Angels as the top scorer in school history, with 221 points over four seasons, including 32 goals and 49 assists in 30 games in 2004-05 to lead the Stars to the Class AA State Championship.

Still having to balance his schedule with classes at Holy Angels, Barriball played in six of Sioux Falls’ final eight games and scored three goals and three assists, including one goal and two assists in a 5-2 victory over the Cedar Rapids Roughriders March 21, in which Barriball was named the First Star of the Game. Finding the time to play a game Jan. 28 for Sioux Falls in the midst of his high school season, Barriball finished the USHL regular season with five goals and seven assists in 13 games.

A knee injury limited Barriball to five games in the Clark Cup Playoffs, and he was unable to play for Sioux Falls in the Clark Cup Finals against Des Moines, which the Stampede lost to the Buccaneers in Game 5 of the five-game series. Barriball did, however, score a goal and an assist to be named the First Star of the Game in Game 3 of the West Division Finals against the Lincoln Stars.

Despite being only 5’9, 155 pounds, the Sharks had to take Barriball.

“He made the adjustment to the USHL so quick I said, ‘There must be something to him,'” Burke said of the diminutive Barriball. “He’s one of those players that, they’re an easy guy to say you would never take them, but they’re such good hockey players, and they keep doing it, it’s hard to write them off after seeing them so many times.”

With the NHL cracking down on obstruction, a dynamic player like Barriball can succeed, regardless of his height. Barriball is an excellent skater with quick feet and who can use his agility and hockey sense to evade opponents.

“He’s very elusive,” Burke said of Barriball. “He’s got quick little moves, and he makes a lot of plays in tight areas where, he’s not a guy that’s just skating from end to end.”

The Sharks were also impressed with the fact that Barriball’s a rink rat, has a strong work ethic, and is a leader.

“You’ll see a lot of high school players that are way above everybody else and they don’t get as many people involved,” Burke said. “Although [Barriball’s] the best player on his team, he makes everybody else better, too.”

Having played over 10 games for the Stampede during the regular season in 2005-06, Sioux Falls retains his USHL rights for the 2006-07 season. However, Barriball has committed to the University of Minnesota and the Gophers may need him if some of their drafted players decide to forego college hockey and turn pro. If Barriball does return for a second season in the USHL, which would allow him to bulk up in preparation for college hockey, he would likely be among the USHL scoring leaders.

Long term, the Sharks have a player with the skills and hockey sense to play on most any forward line. The key for Barriball will be to reach the 175- to 185-pound range in order to be able to withstand the rigors of the NHL. If all of that is muscle, the additional leg strength Barriball adds could give him exceptional speed and quickness if he develops it properly. The fact he’ll be going to Minnesota should ensure that he does.

Copyright 2006 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.