It was a respite from the summer for just one evening, but Sharks fans really enjoyed their hockey fix at Sharks Ice on Thursday night.
At the first annual Sharks Prospects Scrimmage presented by RAM, the future was unveiled in all its diamond-in-the-rough glory to the team’s loyal fan base, and judging by the reaction, everyone is very excited about the prospects and the upcoming season.
The game had its exciting moments, and a lot of attention was placed on the last two top draft picks, Tomas Hertl and Mirco Mueller, who have been among the more publicized young players in the San Jose paddock. However, what jumped out for anyone watching was the level of talent throughout the organization.
For instance, the Bay Area got its first look at defenseman Konrad Abeltshauser, who left his small farming community in Germany to chase his NHL dream four years ago. Abeltshauser, who has participated in three other summer development camps since getting selected 163rd overall in 2010, experienced the thrill of a lifetime when he and his Halifax Mooseheads teammates won the Memorial Cup, the championship of Canadian Major Junior hockey, this past playoff spring. He’s been practicing against the likes of Nathan McKinnon and Jonathan Drouin every day.
McKinnon and Drouin, in case you’ve forgotten, were the first and third overall picks in the draft this year by Colorado and Tampa Bay, respectively, and they are expected to turn into NHL stars. Abeltshauser, meanwhile, was named to the 2013 Memorial Cup All-Star squad, and he’s expecting to make a few heads turn in the upcoming training camp this fall.
Matthew Nieto, Sean Kuraly and Dylan Demelo are two players from the 2011 Draft who played in the scrimmage. Nieto, a Long Beach native selected 47th overall, played in 11 games and scored 2-4-6 with the Worcester Sharks last season after finishing his third year at Boston University. Demelo, a defenseman taken 179th that year, has played in 14 AHL games in the past two years after his junior season ended, garnering 5 assists. These are competitive and intelligent players who are looking for a good opportunity in professional hockey.
Kuraly will return to Miami University in Oxford, OH this year to continue the Redhawks legacy that has been established in San Jose through the likes of Dan Boyle and Tommy Wingels.
Hertl, the 17th overall pick in 2012, has been playing against men for Slavia Praha in the Czech Republic, and all indications are pointing to a bid for an NHL spot this fall. He had the most unfortunate moment in the scrimmage when his pace was accidentally slowed by an official in the latter stages. Overall, he showed strong skating and stickhandling ability, and also a perseverance that will serve him well in his professional career.
Chris Tierney, taken 55th overall in that same draft, is not the same Chris Tierney who has played for the New England Revolution of Major League Soccer, but he’ll be interesting to watch in training camp. Another player who has had winning experience in junior hockey, Tierney finished his third season with the London Knights of the OHL and his team won the Robertson Cup championship. They played in the Memorial Cup tournament, losing to Portland in the semi-final game.
Daniil Tarasov also looks like he’s picking up where he left off last season. A free agent tryout out of he USHL, Tarasov single-mindedly earned himself a spot in Worcester last year, and he’s continuing his determined effort to make the next step in his career.
We can’t forget the goaltenders, either. Among the signed players, Troy Grosenick and JP Anderson were two netminders who played in the scrimmage. Grosenick, out of Union College, has size and can move. Anderson, who played junior hockey in the OHL, just finished his final season with the Sarnia Sting, and he’s noticeable because he’s a right-handed catching goaltender who has more wins than any other in OHL history.
There are many good stories that I haven’t mentioned, but it all points to a strong organization, and a portent of good things to come.
All in all, it was a most interesting night, one that supported the Sharks Foundation, and one that looks that it is going to be a fun annual summer event. Thank you to RAM for their presenting sponsorship, and to those many fans who packed Sharks Ice at San Jose to make it a success.