Sharks top 20 prospects

By Kevin Wey

After a busy summer of trades, the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, and a number of players no longer fitting Hockey’s Future’s prospect criteria, the face of San Jose’s prospect corps has changed significantly in recent months.

Since Hockey’s Future last Top 20 in early March, Milan Michalek, Marcel Goc, Doug Murray, Grant Stevenson, and Nolan Schaefer have all graduated to the NHL club. San Jose also dealt three promising prospects this summer. The roster movement started June 1 when the Sharks traded defenseman Michael Vernace to the Avalanche for the rights to Colorado’s sixth round pick in either the 2006 or 2007 NHL Entry Draft. The Sharks chose not to take the option in 2006 and will thus receive Colorado’s sixth round pick in the 2007 Draft.

After the draft, the Sharks proceeded to acquire forwards to add more grit, and skill, to their line-up. On July 10, the Sharks were part of a three-way trade with the Chicago Blackhawks and Ottawa Senators that sent Sharks defenseman Tom Preissing and prospect center Josh Hennessy to Ottawa in exchange for Chicago’s Mark Bell. Bell is anticipated to play on San Jose’s first line with Joe Thornton and Jonathan Cheechoo in 2006-07.

The Sharks logjam among its goaltending prospects was lessened some when the Sharks traded left winger Nils Ekman and goaltender Patrick Ehelechner July 20 to the Pittsburgh Penguins for a second round pick in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft.

Although Hennessy, Ehelechner, and Vernace have all been traded, 2006 draft picks Ty Wishart, Jamie McGinn, and James DeLory are all now among San Jose’s top 20 prospects. Other Sharks prospects who are now in the top 20 are center Joe Pavelski , goaltender Alex Stalock, and right winger Mike Iggulden.

Top 20 at a Glance

1. (2) Matt Carle, D
2. (3) Devin Setoguchi, RW
3. (4) Steve Bernier, RW
4. (NR) Ty Wishart, D
5. (8) Marc-Eduoard Vlasic, D
6. (10) Thomas Greiss, G
7. (9) Lukas Kaspar, RW
8. (6) Josh Gorges, D
9. (12) Dimitri Patzold, G
10. (14) Taylor Dakers, G
11. (NR) Jamie McGinn, LW
12. (18) Torrey Mitchell, C
13. (NR) Joe Pavelski, C
14. (20) Mike Morris, RW
15. (16) Ryane Clowe, LW
16. (17) Dan Spang, D
17. (19) Derek Joslin, D
18. (NR) Alex Stalock, G
19. (NR) James DeLory, D
20. (NR) Mike Iggulden, RW

1. Matt Carle, D
Grade: 8.0 B
Acquired: 2nd Rd, 47th Overall, 2003 NHL Entry Draft

If there was any doubt that Matt Carle was a bluechip NHL prospect, 2005-06 should have erased all doubt, with an exclamation point.

One of the top defensemen in college hockey since his freshman season, the 21-year-old blueliner led the nation in defensive scoring, tallying 11 goals and 42 assists in 39 games in his junior year at Denver University. Carle was selected as a member of the All-WCHA First Team, the WCHA Defensive Player of the Year, the WCHA Player of the Year, a West All-American First Team member, and the winner of the Hobey Baker Award.

The Sharks signed Carle to a three-year contract March 20, after Denver’s season had ended, and he immediately stepped into the San Jose line-up. Carle scored 3 goals and 3 assists in 12 regular season games for San Jose and then added 3 assists in San Jose’s 11 playoff games, playing over more experienced Shark defensemen. Carle did appear outmatched at times during the playoffs, but the fact that he made the jump straight from college to the NHL, at his position at 21 years of age on an NHL playoff team, is a testament to Carle’s exceptional talent.

The Anchorage, Alaska native enters 2006-07 as a defenseman who could challenge for a spot on the NHL All-Rookie Team, and figures to be a fixture at even strength and on the power play for San Jose. Carle has excellent poise for a young blueliner, strong skating skills, advanced two-way awareness for his age, and moves the puck exceptionally well with pinpoint passes. His combination of hockey sense, skating, and stick skills should make Carle a future top two defenseman in the NHL.

2. Devin Setoguchi, RW
Grade: 8.0 B
Acquired: 1st Rd, 8th Overall, 2005 NHL Entry Draft

Many gasped when San Jose traded up to select Devin Setoguchi with the eighth overall pick in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. Now, he’s a legitimate candidate to crack San Jose’s roster as a 19-year-old.

Setoguchi impressed in training camp in 2005 as an 18-year-old and was with the team deep into September. Returned to the Saskatoon Blades for 2005-06, Setoguchi turned his training camp experience into an exceptional season. He was the WHL Player of the Week Nov. 14, played for Team WHL in the Canada/Russia Challenge Series, and finished the season seventh in WHL scoring after tallying 36 goals and 37 assists in 65 games. His offensive numbers and defensive effort earned him Saskatoon team MVP honors as well as a spot on the WHL Eastern Conference Second All-Star Team.

San Jose signed Setoguchi to a three-year entry-level contract April 8, four days before the Blades were eliminated from the playoffs. Setoguchi’s eight goals and four assists in 10 games were tied for the league lead in playoff scoring upon elimination.

Setoguchi was passed up by Team Canada for the 2006 World Junior Championships, and he missed the Summer Developmental Camp in Calgary July 22-28 due to a leg injury. The Taber, Alberta, native is still likely to play for Team Canada at the WJC this year.

Setoguchi could challenge for a roster spot on San Jose this season. His speed and hard shot make him dangerous offensively, and his defensive game has matured under Saskatoon head coach Lorne Molleken. Whether Setoguchi’s game is mature enough to play on San Jose’s fourth line for the Sharks in 2006-07 is to be to determined, but long term he figures to be a top-six forward.

3. Steve Bernier, RW
Grade: 8.0 B
Acquired: 1st Rd, 16th Overall, 2003 NHL Entry Draft

The Sharks have stockpiled power forwards this summer, but Steve Bernier still figures to be a prominent piece in the Sharks future.

Bernier started 2005-06 with Cleveland, but he was a regular in the Sharks line-up by late January, after starting the season with the Cleveland Barons and receiving a recall to San Jose in November. The rookie pro scored 20 goals and 23 assists in 49 games for Cleveland and was among the Barons top scorers in points per game. With San Jose, Bernier nearly led the Sharks in rookie scoring with 14 goals and 13 assists in only 39 games. Playing on the Sharks second line down the stretch, 13 of Bernier’s goals and 9 of his assists with San Jose came in 26 games after the Olympic break. He was unable to make the same offensive impact in the playoffs, but Bernier maintained his spot on the second line and scored 1 goal and 5 assists in 11 games.

Bernier figures to be a strong second tier power forward for San Jose for years to come. As Bernier gains more confidence at the NHL level, he’ll also likely become more physical. At 6’2, and around 220 pounds, Bernier has the size to be effective along the boards and in front of the net. Possessing excellent hands for putting home chances around the net, Bernier must continue to improve his speed and skating in order to match up against the top defensemen in the NHL.

4. Ty Wishart, D
Grade: 8.0 C
Acquired: 1st Rd, 16th Overall, 2006 NHL Entry Draft

One of the few holes in the Sharks prospect depth chart heading into the 2006 NHL Entry Draft was a big, rangy, mobile defenseman with some offensive upside. First round pick Ty Wishart filled that hole.

Wishart established himself as one of the top young defensemen in the WHL in 2005-06. Injuries in Prince George meant the then 17-year-old defenseman received far more power play time than was anticipated entering the season. The expanded role helped Wishart score 5 goals and add 32 assists in 70 games, tops among all Prince George defensemen and second in WHL defensive scoring among all 88-borns, behind only Regina Pats defenseman Logan Pyett.

The CHL tabbed Wishart to played in the Top Prospects Game, and the sophomore WHLer was named the Team Cherry Player of the Game. In the Skills Competition, Wishart fired a 92-mile-per-hour slapshot, among the hardest shots in the competition. His 60-foot dash time of 2.849 seconds and his 150-foot dash time of 6.008 were very good for any player, let alone a 6’4, 205-pound defenseman.

Team Canada twice called upon the Comox, British Columbia, in 2005-06, first at the U18 Junior World Cup in the Czech Republic and Slovakia in August and then as the captain of Canada’s entry at the U18 World Championships in Sweden. Wishart is also in contention for a spot on Canada’s 2007 World Junior Championship team after skating at the Summer Development Camp.

Wishart’s combination of size, mobility, reach, defensive stick skills, and physicality make him strong defensively. The 6’4, 205-pound blueliner must add lower body strength and continue to improve his offensive game, but he could become a top two defenseman for San Jose if he does.

5. Marc-Eduoard Vlasic, D
Grade: 7.5 B
Acquired: 2nd Rd, 35th Overall, 2005 NHL Entry Draft

Like Matt Carle above him, Marc-Eduoard Vlasic flew under the radar in his draft year. Now he’s one of Canada’s top young defensemen.

After finishing the 2005 QMJHL Playoffs with 2 goals and 7 assists in 13 games, Vlasic’s offensive production exploded playing with QMJHL leading scorer Alexander Radulov, tallying 16 goals and 57 assists in 66 games, fourth in QMJHL defensive scoring. Vlasic led all defensemen in QMJHL playoff scoring with 5 goals and 24 assists in 23 games, helping the Remparts win the QMJHL Championship. An alternate captain for Quebec, Vlasic also helped lead the Remparts to the Memorial Cup, tallying 3 assists in 4 games along the way.

Although the 18-year-old Vlasic was not selected to play for Team Canada at the 2006 World Junior Championships (he was one of the final cuts), he has a good chance of cracking the team for the 2007 version. Vlasic was invited to the Summer Developmental Camp in Calgary and could be the top defenseman in the QMJHL in 2006-07, that is if he plays for the Remparts again.

Vlasic signed a three-year entry-level contract June 2 and could contend for a spot in San Jose in 2006-07, but he will likely return to the QMJHL. Even if he does not play for San Jose this season, Vlasic’s combination of skating, hockey sense, offensive upside, leadership and ability to play a physical game makes him a potential second or third defenseman.

6. Thomas Greiss, G
Grade: 8.0 C
Acquired: 3rd Rd, 94th Overall, 2004 NHL Entry Draft

Greiss started 2005-06 as Oliver Jonas’ backup for the Cologne Sharks of the German Elite League (DEL). He ended the season not only as Cologne’s starting goaltender, but as one of his nation’s top goaltenders.

Greiss established himself as Cologne’s No. 1 netminder and finished the season with a 15-7-1 record, a DEL third-best save percentage of .926, and a fourth-best 2.46 goals-against average. He started every game for Cologne in the playoffs and finished with a 6-3-0 record and a .899 save percentage.

An impressive 9-2 stretch earned him a spot on Germany’s senior national team for the Deutschland Cup in November. In December, he won all four of his starts and compiled a .978 save percentage and a 0.50 goals-against average en route to leading Germany to the Division I Group A World Junior Championship.

The German senior national team took notice and selected Greiss to play in the Deutschland Cup in November. In December, Greiss led Germany to the Division I Group A World Junior Championships with a .978 save percentage, a 0.50 goals-against average, and a 4-0-0 record. The 20-year-old netminder was the youngest player in the Olympics, getting the nod for Germany’s game against Canada, and finished the season at the Division I Group A World Championships, where he won decisions over Israel and Hungary.

Having established himself as Germany’s top young netminder in 2005-06, San Jose signed Greiss to a three-year entry-level contract that was announced June 2. Greiss looks to be the most likely Shark goaltending prospect to follow in the footsteps of Nabokov, Kiprusoff and Toskala. Exceptional leg strength gives Greiss good crease mobility, and his patience and awareness are also strong assets that could help him become San Jose’s next great goaltender.

7. Lukas Kaspar, LW/RW
Grade: 7.5 C
Acquired: 1st Rd, 22nd Overall, 2004 NHL Entry Draft

Lukas Kaspar is among San Jose’s most naturally skilled prospect forwards, but he will need to improve his hockey sense if he is to become the NHLer he is capable of.

The 20-year-old Czech played on the top two lines for Cleveland at times in 2005-06, and on the third and fourth lines at others. A dismal 15-game stretch with 1 goal and 1 assist from Jan. 17 through Feb. 25 limited Kaspar to 14 goals and 22 assists in 76 games. While his offensive numbers were not spectacular, his defensive play earned him a regular spot in defensive situations and on the penalty kill with fellow Czech Tomas Plihal.

While Kaspar’s can play a decent defensive game when asked, his talent lies in his offensive skills. The 6’2, 200-pound winger has good size and a cannon of a shot, the only problem is he doesn’t take it often enough. Kaspar also has good speed, a fairly powerful stride, and the stickhandling to make him dangerous with the puck. However, he often makes his move too high in the offensive zone and is thus unable to utilize his considerable shot and his playmaking skills.

Kaspar will get another shot in 2006-07 and should be a top six forward for the Worcester Sharks throughout the season and could form a dangerous duo with Plihal, who broke out at the end of 2005-06. One positive for Kaspar heading into the 2006-07 season is that it will be the first time since his junior hockey in the Czech Republic that he’ll have played on the same team for two consecutive seasons. If Kaspar improves his offensive awareness in the North American game, he has the talent to be a top-six forward for the Sharks.

8. Josh Gorges, D
Grade: 7.0 B
Acquired: Signed as Free Agent Sept. 20, 2002

Josh Gorges quickly adapted to the AHL in 2004-05, and he adapted fairly well to the NHL in 2005-06.

Gorges was the Cleveland Barons Rookie of the Year in 2004-05 and translated that into a spot with San Jose to start 2005-06. He was reassigned to Cleveland Oct. 11 and a knee injury kept him out of action from Oct. 21 to Nov. 17, but when Kyle McLaren went down to a knee injury, Gorges was recalled Dec. 15.

Not a big scorer at the AHL level, he only had 2 goals and 3 assists in 18 games last season, Gorges was not a big point-getter for San Jose either. The 22-year-old defenseman finished the season with 6 assists in 49 games for the Sharks, but he did regularly skate with Scott Hannan as San Jose’s shut-down defense pairing.

Like Carle, Gorges earned ice time over Davison, Fahey, and Murray in the playoffs, but errors against Edmonton in the Western Conference Semifinals reduced his ice time after a fairly strong series against Nashville. Gorges played in all 11 of San Jose’s playoff games, but he finished with a -1 rating and only one assist.

Despite some rookie mistakes in the playoffs, Gorges is still highly regarded for his ability to process information and his defensive awareness. The 6’0, 190-pound Gorges does not have great size, nor does he have great speed, but he still projects to be a consistent defensive defenseman that’ll be in San Jose’s top six this season and eventually a fourth defenseman if he can add more offense to his game.

9. Dimitri Patzold, G
Grade: 7.0 C
Acquired: 4th Rd, 107th Overall, 2001 NHL Entry Draft

Dimitri Patzold will get another stab at things in 2006-07, but time is already running out for the 23-year-old in San Jose’s crowded crease.

A knee injury suffered in early December kept Patzold out of action for nearly a month and halted some progress he was making after a horrendous start, but he still only finished the season with a .869 save percentage and a 3.97 goals-against average. Patzold generally had one standout performance each month, except for March, but he also had a number of games where he let in four to six goals, often on fewer than 30 shots.

Even though the final year of his three-year entry-level contract was not overly impressive, Patzold earned a one-year contract from the Sharks on July 14 and will play a fourth season in the AHL. How that fourth season will play out is tough to say, because Nabokov, Toskala, Schaefer, Greiss, and potentially Dakers, further crowd the organizational crease.

On the plus side, Patzold received an emergency recall in late October last season when both Nabokov and Toskala were injured and saw how Schaefer excelled given the opportunity. The German is chomping at the bit for a similar chance and would be one of the youngest goalies in Sharks history to start a game if he does so in 2006-07. He has the potential to become a starting netminder in the NHL, he just has to bring his A-game consistently and not try to do too much.

10. Taylor Dakers, G
Grade: 7.0 C
Acquired: 5th Rd, 140th Overall, 2005 NHL Entry Draft

It did not come as early as he would have liked, but Taylor Dakers proved a worthy successor to Jeff Glass in Kootenay.

After two seasons as Glass’ back-up, Dakers looked poise to be Kootenay’s No. 1 from start to finish in 2005-06, but a hip injury forced him to miss the first 18 games of the season. The 19-year-old Dakers went on to start 45 of Kootenay’s 54 games upon his return and compiled a 30-15-1 record and a .926 save percentage that tied him with Calgary Hitmen netminder Justin Pogge for tops in the WHL. Dakers also finished the season with a WHL third-best eight shutouts and a fifth-best 2.11 goals-against average.

The playoffs did not go as well, as Kootenay was defeated by Kelowa 4-2 and Dakers finished the series with a .899 save percentage and a 3.65 goals-against average.

San Jose inked Dakers to a contract July 15. Dakers could start the 2006-07 season in the ECHL if he goes pro, but the 20-year-old could also play an overage season for Kootenay.

Long term, Dakers has some potential. The 6’2, 170-pound netminder has a tall frame, but he must continue to fill it out and improve the flexibility of his hips. If Dakers can make the physical adjustments and continue to gain experience, the rest of his game is largely there. He’s an athletic netminder who minimizes unnecessary movements, has good positioning, a quick glove, and is an excellent puckhandling goalie. He’s no blue chip prospect, but it is not out of the realm of possibility for Dakers to work his way up and become a starting NHL netminder.

11. Jamie McGinn, LW
Grade: 6.5 C
Acquired: 2nd Rd, 36th Overall, 2006 NHL Entry Draft

The Sharks needed a good spark plug prospect, and 2006 second round pick Jamie McGinn looks like the answer.

McGinn started 2005-06 somewhat slowly, with 1 goal and 6 assists in his first 17 games, but his offensive game took off when paired with top prospect Logan Couture. The scrappy left winger finished the season fourth in scoring with 26 goals, 31 assists, and 113 penalty minutes in 65 games. In the playoffs, McGinn contributed 2 goals and 2 assists, as the 67’s lost to the eventual OHL champion Peterborough Petes in the first round.

An aggressive forechecker with decent speed, McGinn put up a 60-foot dash time of 2.933 seconds and a 150-foot dash time of 6.092 seconds at the CHL Top Prospects Skills Competition. These numbers were decent, but his 17.108 seconds in the puck control competition was second only to Drummondville’s Derick Brassard.

McGinn was one of Team Canada’s alternate captains at the 2005 U18 Junior World Cup and ended the season with Team Canada at the U18 World Championships, where the Fergus, Ontario, native scored 2 goals and 1 assist in 7 games.

McGinn is likely to skate with
Couture and Matt Lahey on the 67’s top line in 2006-07, but his future in the NHL appears to be as a third liner. McGinn’s tenacious forechecking and his relentless determination around the net help him create offensive chances from turnovers he creates or screens, tips and rebounds. His soft hands allow him to finish his chances and play with skilled players. Although McGinn is only 5’11, 179 pounds, his mixture of grit, leadership, and hands could make him similar to former Shark Mike Ricci.

12. Torrey Mitchell, C
Grade: 6.5 C
Acquired: 4th Rd, 129th Overall, 2004 NHL Entry Draft

After two seasons with the University of Vermont, Torrey Mitchell is establishing himself as one of the top talents in college hockey.

Mitchell was an ECAC All-Rookie Team member in 2004-05 and he followed that up with 12 goals and 28 assists in 38 games for UVM in 2005-06, the Catamounts first season in the Hockey East Association. Leading Vermont in scoring and finishing eighth in Hockey East overall scoring with 40 points, as a sophomore, Mitchell was named a Hockey East Honorable Mention and was named to the Hockey East Honor Roll eight times during the season.

The former Hotchkiss Prep star is a talented offensive player with good speed, strong stickhandling skills and a powerful shot, but he’s also a conscientious defensive player. The 5’11, 193-pound Mitchell has an excellent work ethic on the ice and in the weight room and is willing to use his conditioning to play a physical game. The next step for Mitchell is to become a leader for the Catamounts, and he’ll get that chance as a co-captain in 2006-07.

The 21-year-old center figures to be one of the top forwards in Hockey East in 2006-07. Long term, Mitchell’s two-way game, skill, and work ethic make him a potential superior third line center for the Sharks.

13. Joe Pavelski, C
Grade: 6.5 C
Acquired: 7th Rd, 205th Overall, 2003 NHL Entry Draft

Wherever Joe Pavelski goes, winning follows. The Plover, Wis., native captained Stevens Point Area Senior High to the 2002 Wisconsin state championship, captained Team USA to a silver medal at the 2004 Viking Cup, captained the Waterloo Blackhawks to the USHL championships later in 2003-04 (and named the USA Hockey Junior Hockey Player of the Year), and then helped the University of Wisconsin win the NCAA National Championship this past April. Pavelski led the Badgers in scoring in 2004-05 with 16 goals and 29 assists, and led the Badgers in scoring again last season with 23 goals and 33 assists in 43 games.

A member of the WCHA All-Rookie Team his freshman season, Pavelski was named to the All-WCHA Second team and the RBK Second Team West All-American after finishing fourth in the country in scoring with 56 points. Slated to be an assistant captain for Wisconsin in 2006-07, Pavelski announced in a press conference July 14 that he had signed a contract with the Sharks and would be foregoing his junior and senior seasons.

Pavelski is expected to play for the Worcester Sharks in 2005-06, where he’ll contribute with his two-way awareness, strong shot, playmaking skills, and leadership. The 22-year-old pivot must continue to improve his skating and speed, but this summer is the first in a while that Pavelski has not had to rehab injuries, even though he very rarely misses a game due to injury.

Long term, if Pavelski improves his skating, he could become a superior third line center for the Sharks one day, even filling in on the second line due to his hockey sense and hands.

14. Mike Morris, RW
Grade: 6.5 C
Acquired: 1st Rd, 27th Overall, 2002 NHL Entry Draft

Mike Morris was supposed to be embarking on his first professional season heading into 2006-07, instead he’ll be playing one more year of college hockey for Northeastern.

Morris was due to be Northeastern’s team captain, leading scorer, and one of Hockey East’s top forwards in 2005-06, but a automobile accident last summer left him with a seven-inch gash in his head and a severe concussion. The 2005 Hockey East Second Team All-Star missed the entirety of the 2005-06 season and will be returning for his senior season in 2006-07, where he will again be expected to lead the Huskies in scoring and be one of the top players in the Hockey East Association, if he stays healthy.

Having sat out an entire year, the Sharks are confident that Morris will have no further problems. The 23-year-old right winger is known for his speed, skating, stick skills, and two-way play. Like Pavelski, there’s a fair chance that Morris can one day become a top third line forward for the Sharks who can fill in on higher lines as needed.

15. Ryane Clowe, LW
Grade: 6.0 B
Acquired: 6th Rd, 175th Overall, 2001 NHL Entry Draft

Ryane Clowe just needs one more chance, but the time is now in 2006-07.

Clowe led Cleveland in scoring in 2004-05 with 27 goals and 35 assists and looked poised to crack San Jose full time in 2005-06. That didn’t happen. The 23-year-old winger started the season in San Jose, but after only 2 assists in 15 games, Clowe was assigned to Cleveland Nov. 20. Clowe had a couple of recalls in December, but an ankle injury suffered Dec. 30 saw him reassigned to the Barons Jan 16.

During his time in the AHL, Clowe was more dominant than ever. He scored 13 goals and 21 assists in 35 games and had Cleveland’s best points-per-game average at .97. San Jose recalled Clowe at the end of the season, and he finished with 2 assists in 18 games for the Sharks in 2005-06. He remained with the Sharks during the playoffs, but was only called upon for Game 4 against Edmonton with Milan Michalek out of the line-up.

With the acquisitions of Mark Bell and Mike Grier during the summer, it is no longer as imperative for San Jose to have the 6’2, 215-pound Clowe adding his size to the line-up. However, he still figures to contend with Grant Stevenson and Patrick Rissmiller for a spot on San Jose’s fourth line. In order to succeed in the short term, Clowe must adjust to playing only 8 to 10 minutes a game at the NHL level. Long term, Clowe’s combination of size, strength, physicality, and hands could make him a good third or fourth line winger for San Jose, but the clock is ticking in an organization deep in talent.

16. Dan Spang, D
Grade: 6.0 B
Acquired: 2nd Rd, 52nd Overall, 2002 NHL Entry Draft

Dan Spang finally received some recognition for his four seasons of development at Boston University.

The 22-year-old defenseman scored nine goals and 22 assists in 40 games in 2005-06 and edged out Boston College’s Peter Harrold as the top defenseman in overall scoring in the Hockey East Association. While Spang nearly double his point production from his junior season, his strong defensive game earned him a selection as the runner up for the Hockey East Best Defensive Defenseman award. Spang’s two-way made him a Hockey East First Team All-Star, a member of the Division I All-New England Team, and an RBK First Team East All-American. He was also a finalist for the Walter Brown Award, given by the Boston Gridiron Club to the top American-born player playing college hockey in New England.

Spang helped BU win the Hockey East championship over Boston College, but the Eagles beat the Terriers in the NCAA Regional Finals on March 25 to end Spang’s collegiate career. However, his season continued with the Cleveland Barons and he was signed by the Sharks April 8. Pointless in eight games with the Barons, Spang still got a head start on the 2006-07 season.

The 23-year-old defenseman will move back to Massachusetts and play for the Worcester Sharks in the AHL this coming season. The 6’0, 209-pound defenseman is exceptionally strong and is expected to impress in training camp fitness testing. Spang’s powerful legs make him strong on his skates and his balance allows him to win a lot of physical battles. Excellent mobility and sound defensive awareness should also help Spang become a fifth defenseman at the NHL level.

17. Derek Joslin, D
Grade: 6.5 C
Acquired: 5th Rd, 149th Overall, 2005 NHL Entry Draft

Derek Joslin consistently exceeds expectations. He was a tenth round pick in the 2003 OHL Priority Selection, but he became one of Ottawa’s top defenseman in his rookie major junior season in 2004-05 and was the team’s most reliable defenseman in 2005-06. Joslin finished 14th in OHL defenseman scoring with 11 goals and 37 assists in 68 games for the Ottawa 67’s, but that was not a true indication of his standing in the OHL. The 18-year-old Joslin was selected to play for Team OHL in the Canada/Russia Challenge series and also played for Team East in the OHL All-Star Game. Joslin also played one game for the Cleveland Barons after his major junior season ended.

Despite establishing himself as a top two-way defenseman in the OHL, Joslin was passed by for the Canada Summer Development Camp. Regardless, Joslin is still an excellent skater with good defensive awareness, an exceptional work ethic, and a developing offensive game. Joslin figures to be the 67’s No. 1 defenseman in 2006-07 and should continue to improve his offensive play on Ottawa’s power play.

At 6’1, 191 pounds, Joslin needs to get stronger, and his physical game will likely further develop as he gains more confidence from additional strength and experience. Long term, Joslin has the potential to become a fourth or fifth defenseman at the NHL level.

18. Alex Stalock, G
Grade: 6.5 C
Acquired: 4th Rd, 112th Overall, 2005 NHL Entry Draft

As if Evgeni Nabokov, Vesa Toskala, Nolan Schaefer, Dimitri Patzold, Thomas Greiss, and Taylor Dakers weren’t enough, Alex Stalock gives San Jose yet another talented netminder in its stable.

After platooning with Dan Tormey in 2004-05 and earning Clark Cup MVP honors after leading Cedar Rapids to the 2005 USHL championship, Stalock was the undisputed No. 1 for the Roughriders in 2005-06. In fact, he was the No. 1 in the USHL. The second-year Roughrider led the USHL with a .931 save percentage, 28 wins, and 1511 saves. The Roughriders were unable to repeat in the 2006 Clark Cup Playoffs, but Stalock still finished with a respectable .918 save percentage in eight games. In recognition of his stellar season, Stalock played in the USHL Prospects/All-Star Game, and was named to the RBK All-USHL First Team.

The St. Paul, Minn., native also played for Team USA at the 2006 Viking Cup in Camrose, Alberta, in late December and early January. Team USA called upon Stalock again in July to skate at the 2006 National Junior Evaluation Camp in Lake Placid Aug. 5-14. One of five goaltenders at the camp, the 19-year-old Stalock has a chance of playing for Team USA at the 2007 World Junior Championships in Sweden.

In the meantime, Stalock will begin tending net for the University of Minnesota-Duluth this fall. The Bulldogs get a freshman goaltender who is athletic in net, does whatever it takes to stop the puck, and is an excellent puckhandler. Long term, Stalock has the potential to become a good backup NHL netminder. If so, he could become the best goaltender to come out of the USHL in the process.

19. James DeLory, D
Grade: 6.0 C
Acquired: 4th Rd, 98th Overall, 2006 NHL Entry Draft

In case Wishart wasn’t enough, the Sharks also selected another big, rangy defenseman at the 2006 NHL Entry Draft in James DeLory.

The 6’5, 220-pound former right winger had only skated two seasons on defense prior to the 2005-06 season, but he was able to step up and play a big role for an Oshawa Generals team that saw tremendous roster turnover last season. DeLory led Oshawa defensemen in scoring with 6 goals and 26 assists, and he also led the Generals in games played at 67. Despite being the eighth overall pick in the 2004 OHL Priority Selection and stepping up for the Generals, DeLory was not selected to play at the CHL Top Prospects Game in January. He was also passed up for the U18 World Championships, but he did skate at the selection camp for the 2005 U18 Junior World Cup after Maxime Frechette aggravated an injury in camp.

While Wishart is pegged as a future top four defenseman, DeLory will likely be a future fifth or sixth defenseman. However, with his limited experience at defense, DeLory does have some upside. DeLory developed good hands during his days as a forward, and he also has good speed and exceptional skating skills for a man his size. With his imposing size, DeLory is also a physical force who isn’t afraid to drop the gloves when necessary.

With additional experience, DeLory should improve the quickness of his decision-making on defense and play the position more naturally, but he does have a lot of upside and should develop into one of the top young defensemen in the OHL and will be an important part of any Oshawa turnaround.

20. Mike Iggulden, RW
Grade: 6.0 C
Acquired: Signed as Free Agent Jan. 13, 2006.

Mike Iggulden established himself as a legitimate NHL prospect in 2005-06 after coming to Shark camp as a free agent last September with only 18 points in 35 games as a senior at Cornell University.

Playing primarily in a defensive role in college, Iggulden impressed enough in Sharks camp to earn an amateur tryout contract with the Cleveland Barons, and Iggulden turned that into a two-way contract with the Sharks Jan. 13 after scoring 12 goals and 19 assists in his first 40 games. Skating on Cleveland’s first or second line, Iggulden finished the season third in Barons scoring with 22 goals and 26 assists in 77 games, behind only Josh Hennessy and Patrick Rissmiller.

With good speed, soft hands, a decent shot, and strong two-way awareness, as well as an opportunity to play in offensive situations, Iggulden was one of Cleveland’s most consistent performers in 2005-06. The 24-year-old will be counted on to step up his game even more for the Worcester Sharks in 2006-07. Not as physical as Clowe, the 6’3, 215-pound Iggulden could still eventually become a third or fourth line forward for San Jose given his two-way awareness and skill. The Sharks have signed a number of good free agent prospects over the years, and Iggulden appears to be the next.

Honorable Mention

Right winger Ashton Rome just misses the Sharks Top 20, but the Kamloops Blazer should contribute to the organization sooner rather than later. The 20-year-old winger was drafted in the fifth round of the 2006 Draft as an overager after being unable to agree to terms with the Boston Bruins. Traded to Kamloops from Red Deer in October last season, Rome still led the Blazers in scoring with 19 goals and 28 assists in 51 games, which does not include the 11 goals and 6 assists he scored in 14 games for Kamloops. The 6’1, 202-pounder plays a feisty game and figures to play on Worcester’s third or fourth line in 2006-07. Long term, Rome could become a third or fourth liner for San Jose, providing a physical forward who’s pesky around the net and also has some offensive ability. To help his transition to the AHL, Rome will need to make plays quicker than he did at the major junior level and also shoot the puck more.

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