Sharks 2000 Draft Review

By Mike Delfino

While the Sharks didn’t have a 1st round pick in this year’s draft for the first time, that didn’t stop them from staying aggressive as has been the trademark of Tim Burke and Dean Lombardi drafts. This was Lombardi’s 5th draft that he was in charge of, and this is the 4th year he has made a deal on draft day for a player he wants.

In 1996 the Sharks traded up to acquire Marco Sturm, in 1997 they traded up to pick Scott Hannan, in 1998 they traded down to pick Brad Stuart and got Jonathan Cheechoo in the process, and this year they traded their 2nd and 3rd round picks to acquire Tero Maatta. So far, all of the draft day deals the Sharks have made have paid off very well. If this is a sign of things to come, Maatta may some day turn into a very solid NHL player like the others have (or are prospected to become).

In the 2nd round, with the 41st pick, the Sharks chose defenseman, Tero Maatta from Finland. Playing last year for Jokerit of the junior league in Finland, he played 31 games, scoring 4 goals and 4 assists, with 53 penalty minutes. He also played major parts in the Under-18, Viking, and Five-Nation’s tournaments.

Maatta fits the mold of many Sharks draftees, as he is a player who has improved his stock a great deal in the last year. At the midseason report, he was ranked 30th by the CSB, and soared 17 spots to finish 13th in the final rankings. At 6’1″ and 205lbs, he has grown into his frame, and as the year progressed, began to use his body more.

If I were to compare Maatta at this point to a player on the Sharks, he would be a cross between Mike Rathje and Scott Hannan. While he’s not a great skater, he’s good enough to get by, and knows where and when to get himself. In addition, he doesn’t let himself get knocked off course, as he gets himself to the puck, or goes through his own crease (in the process of clearing it) with a very strong stride.

Reports say he has a good shot from the point, however, this is something I have not seen in games of his. What is very true from reports is that he will opt to go with the safe play. He is not a risk taker by any means, and has no problem simply lifting the puck over the glass as opposed to risking moving the puck up ice. He is definitely a defensive specialist, and that is where he’ll make his money in the NHL.

To make the NHL, he will need to learn to move the puck better, and be willing to take some chances. He is good with the puck, but simply needs to get more comfortable with it. What also makes him attractive is that he’s effective in all three situations. He is good even strength, is very good at holding the zone on the PP, and is excellent at disrupting his opponent’s PP.

He won’t make his NHL debut for at least another year, more likely at least two. He still has his military fulfillment to complete and needs to refine his skills a bit more. Next year he will play for the Espoo Blues of the Finish Elite League.

In the 4th round, the Sharks traded their 4th and 5th round selections to pick the 6’1″ 205lbs, Jon Disalvatore from Providence College with the 104th pick. Disalvatore, a Right Wing, finished his freshman year playing 38 games, scoring 15 goals and 12 assists, 12 PIMS and led his team with a +9.

In addition, he was named the team’s Most Valuable Freshman, won Hockey East’s Rookie of the Month for December, was the MVP for the HSBC/RPI tournament, and participated in the US World Junior Camp. A bit of a side note that Bay Area fans may be interested in, is that the 3rd Bay Area draftee, Jason Platt (Edmonton prospect) will join him next year in Providence.

Disalvatore plays a very good college game and shows NHL skills in the process. He is excellent at digging the puck out of corners or from heavy traffic, and maintains control of the puck, making things happen from there. He is able to get control of the puck, and skate quickly out of the scrum of players before losing the puck again. He uses his strong skating to his advantage very well.

He knows his teammates very well, and seems to place the puck right where his teammates like it. While his passing back from his opponents net to the front can use some work, his ability to move the puck up from his own zone is very impressive.

Perhaps the best aspect of his game is his shooting, but he doesn’t do it enough. There are several times when he has a shot lined up, but opts to pass the puck instead of shooting it. If he can get used to shooting the puck more, he will definitely see his goal total rise, and become a better all around player as well.

He will spend next year playing his sophomore year at Providence where he’ll have an increased role with 4 seniors leaving, including the team’s top two leading scorers. He will be relied upon to become more of a threat on offense, and solidify his defense as well. The time frame to see him in San Jose will probably be around 2004, after he finishes college and at least some time in the AHL as well.

In the 5th round with the 142nd pick, the Sharks made their first trip into Canada, selecting Center/Left Wing, Michael Pinc. Pinc split time between Hull and Rouyn-Noranda of the QMJHL this year, totaling 58 games played, with 19 goals and 43 assists, with 131 PIMS.

At 5’11,” and 180lbs, he won’t dominate with speed or skill, but simply by just not quitting under any circumstances. Just when you think you have Pinc beat, he comes around and suddenly he’s there again. He has a knack for getting in on a lot of key plays, as while he isn’t the one to put the puck in the net, it’s often his work that leads up to it.

While he’s not a good skater, he gets by for his style. He does have very good balance on his skates, which will be a necessity for him. In a lot of ways he reminds me of a Todd Harvey type of player in that he does not give up. He always seems to act as a spark plug for his team and somehow is always in the mix of things.

This type of hard work, in-your-face style of hockey will no doubt serve him well in the NHL. He knows his role very well, and plays that role to the best of his ability. If he can continue to excel in this role, and further improve on some key areas, he should find himself in Kentucky for the 2001/02 season.

The main things that are holding him back from the NHL at this point are his skating and his puck handling abilities. While speed isn’t a huge necessity for his game, he is often caught back in his zone, something he will need to improve upon. He has no problem playing defense, but is a little slow to do so at times. More importantly, he’ll need to improve his ability to control the puck while moving through the neutral zone. He still tends to lose the puck to bigger opposition, creating turnovers. However, these are two things that can be improved upon as his career continues.

Next year, he will spend another year in the QMJHL. It very well may be his last, or he would have the option to return for his overage year as well. That will largely be determined by how well he plays next year.

With the 166th pick in the 5th round, the Sharks chose their first goalie since 1996, and went back to Providence College by picking 6’1,” Nolan Schaefer. In 14 games this year, Schaefer had a record of 6-5-1, with a 3.24 GAA, and a .904 save %age.

Schaefer completed an impressive freshman year, and challenged for more playing time as the year progressed. Providence’s current starting goaltender (Boyd Ballard) will be in his senior year next year. It is logical to assume that Ballard will start the year as the starter, but don’t be surprised to see Schaefer earn more time as the year progresses. Come the 2001/02 season, Schaefer should find himself the starting goalie.

Schaefer is a butterfly goaltender who has a lot of upper body size, thus is able to cover the high parts of the net well. He is very quick to drop down on a puck that he sees at the last minute through a screen, and is very quick at getting back on his skates to deal with a potential rebound opportunity. He is a fair with his stick, but could stand some improvement, as often it’s just an attempt to clear the puck past the offense, as opposed to directing it toward anyone in particular.

Areas where Schaefer will need to improve upon are his lateral movement, as do most young goaltenders. He still tends to get beat in the corners a lot, as he has trouble moving to his sides. He also tends to get beat by faster opponents who are able to beat him laterally. Obviously, this is common among even 3rd line players in the NHL, so that is something he will need to improve upon. He’ll also need to learn how to control his rebounds better, as he gets beat on the rebound shots from in front often.

With the 183rd pick in the 6th round, the Sharks chose Michal Macho, a Center from Slovakia. In only 8 games for Martin of the Slovakian junior league, he recorded 1 goal and 5 assists, with 4 PIMS. At 6’1″ and only 169lbs, he’ll need to bulk up some before making his way to North America.

I must admit that all I know about Macho is what I’ve read from Sharks press releases and local papers. I have not seen him play, nor have I received reports on him from people who have. All this is simply what I’ve listed from various media sources.

Macho played most of the year in the juniors of Slovakian hockey, which some questioned the smartness of. Playing next year in the senior league should help his development, and give us a better indication of what kind of player he is. He was selected to play for Slovakia in the World Junior Championships (which would have given me a chance to see him), but unfortunately was injured during the tournament.

According to Sharks scout Ray Payne, Macho is a “good playmaker with excellent hockey sense.”

Macho will almost assuredly spend another year in Slovakia honing his skills, and getting acclimated to senior hockey. Then he may be brought to North America to play in the AHL. I hope to know more about Macho as time progresses. I will of course keep you updated.

With the 246th pick in the 8th round, the Sharks chose the man who plays next to Jason Spezza, Chad Wiseman. Playing for Mississauga of the OHL, Wiseman played in 68 games, scoring 23 goals and 45 points, with 53PIMs and a +/- of -52. While that +/- looks horrid, it’s actually not bad comparing it to the rest of the team. His 23 goals was 2nd on the team, one behind Spezza, and led in both assists and points.

An interesting note is that of the great Jason Spezza’s 61 points, Wiseman recorded a point on 32 of those, more so than any player. I’m not trying to say that Wiseman is responsible for Spezza’s success, but you can’t discount Wiseman’s production throughout the course of the season.

All year, Wiseman was a consistent producer for Mississauga, with or without Spezza next to him. He’s a very good skater, with good agility, and is a very good passer. When given any room at all, he’s a dangerous player on the ice, as his footwork enables him to take advantage of holes and find the opening in the net.

At 5’11.5″ and 190lbs, he’s a strong player, but needs to learn how to play in traffic. He still tends to get knocked off the puck, and doesn’t pay the price to get control of the puck. In addition, he’ll need to learn to play defensive hockey better, as he tends to think offense first and defense 3rd or 4th even.

There is a good chance that his progression into professional hockey will follow Jason Spezza’s. If Spezza makes the jump to the NHL after the draft, Wiseman will likely make his move to Kentucky. If Spezza stays another year in junior hockey, the Sharks may opt to leave the two together another year.

With the Sharks final pick, the 256th pick in the 8th round, the Sharks chose another defenseman from Finland, Pasi Saarinen. In 50 games, he scored 9 goals and 19 assists, and had 79PIMS. One of the older draftees this year at 23 years old, if Saarinen makes it to the NHL, he’ll need to make his North American debut somewhat quickly.

At 5’11” and 194lbs, Saarinen does not know the meaning of the word quit, or backing down. He plays every shift as though it’s his last, and often reminds me of a wrecking crew on ice. He is physical, and if he sees someone parked in front of his net, he makes a mad scramble to get him away from it. Unfortunately, this style tends to keep his trainers in work, as he spends a lot of time injured.

He’s a primarily a defensive specialist, as he focuses on cutting angles. He is very good at knowing his goalie’s position and reacting accordingly to cut off anything open. While he’s a physical player, more importantly he knows when to use his body. If the hit is there, and won’t hurt his team, he’ll take it, but if there’s a possibility of it hurting his team, he knows when to back off.

The biggest problem with Saarinen is his ability to handle the puck, which is often an adventure. In addition, he is not a very good skater, something which is often a liability for him. With quicker NHL competition, he will find it much harder to cut the angles without decent speed.

It is unknown when he’ll make his North American debut, but if he intends to further his hockey career, I’m not sure what another year in Finland will do for him.

Being without a 1st round pick, it’s hard to grade the Sharks higher than a C. However, given what the Sharks had to work with, the Sharks have reason to be pleased.

None of the players chosen will play next year or even the year after that, but when you take a look at the Sharks’ depth chart, they don’t need players to step in immediately. In the next 2 years, the Sharks have players such as Jeff Jillson, Jonathan Cheechoo, Miikka Kiprusoff, Matt Bradley, Robert Jindrich and Mark Smith all ready to step in. By the time these players either make it or break it, players from the 1999 and 2000 drafts will be ready for their turn to be making their debuts.

It’s hard to say whether or not the Sharks planned their timing this way so they have a consistent wave of players, but it has worked out well for the Sharks timetable.

The 1995 draft is a perfect example of how you can’t fully judge a draft for at least 5 years. While clearly the Sharks had their share of busts in that draft, what may end up being the savior is Miikka Kiprusoff, one of the top young goalies in the league. There’s no doubt that like all team’s drafts, we will have to look back at this draft 5-10 years from now to see the true success of this year’s draft.