The third annual "Pacific Division Shootout" - featuring top prospects from the Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Mighty Ducks, Phoenix Coyotes and your San Jose Sharks - begins tournament play tomorrow.
Each team has selected their top prospects to participate in this tournament, which will give fans a first look at the future Sharks, including this year's first round draft pick, Devin Setoguchi, Lukas Kaspar, Josh Hennessy, Steve Bernier and Thomas Greiss.
After an impressive season with Saskatoon of the Western Hockey League, where he posted 64 points (33 goals, 31 assists) in 69 games, Setoguchi is hoping to make a strong first impression in a Sharks jersey.
"It's a big thrill to come here and see what the competition is going to be like," said Setoguchi. "It'll be fun to compare myself with some of the guys who have been here before and see where I'm at in my development. I'm going to try to do my best and whatever happens at the end of the week, I'll take and learn from it and come back next year."
Making his return to the ice in the rookie tournament is forward Milan Michalek, who's troublesome knee kept him out of competition for much of the last two seasons. But don't count him short, as he assures that he's 100 percent healthy again.
"I'm just very happy I'm healthy and I can skate again," said Michalek. "It'll be exciting to get back on the ice in a game situation."
Joining former Sharks first round draft picks Setoguchi and Michalek (2003) are fellow first-rounders Bernier (2003) and Kaspar (2004). Kaspar will be making his second rookie tournament appearance, after posting 51 points (21 goals, 30 assists) in 59 games for Ottawa of the OHL, while Bernier comes back for his third.
"I'm just going to go out there and try to do well and do my job on the ice," said Bernier. "I'm glad the NHL is back and happy to participate in this tournament again."
There will be no shortage of strong goaltending between the pipes this week for the Sharks. Jason Churchill, Taylor Dakers and Jamie Holden will look to shut down opposing offenses as well as get used to the new goaltending rules that will go into effect this season. Holden, who was signed to a tryout contract is excited to get an opportunity to play in the tournament and thinks the new rule changes will be great for fans.
"Coming out of college (Quinnipiac), I was hoping for the opportunity to play some hockey, so I'm very fortunate to be attending this tournament," said Holden. "To get a chance to walk into a facility like this and bump into players you've been watching your whole life, it's an eye opening experience. As far as the rules go, I believe it will make the game faster and open it up a bit, which will create a more fan-friendly game."
The young Sharks will be under the guidance of a coaching squad led by Sharks Assistant Coaches Tim Hunter and Rob Zettler, as well as Cleveland Barons Head Coach Roy Sommer and Barons Assistant Coach David Cunniff. For these coaches and Sharks Head Coach Ron Wilson who is overseeing everything, the tournament gives them a chance to assess the talent that may fill their rosters sooner than later.
"It's a great opportunity to showcase their skills against peers of their own caliber," said Sommer. "A lot of these guys are the best players these organizations have and they're all young. It gives you a good idea on where they're at and where their talent level is. I hope they all play within their strengths and play with what got them here. It'll be good to get all the young guys together in the organization, bond as a group and bond as a Shark."
The Sharks open the tournament Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. against Phoenix. Among the Coyotes top prospects that are scheduled to compete include defensemen Keith Ballard and Matt Jones and forwards Randall Gelech and Jakub Koreis.
A limited number of general admission and standing room only tickets will be available to the general at Logitech Ice's main counter for $10 per game. Due to an extremely limited number of available spaces, there is a two ticket limit per game for Sharks games. For visiting team games, there is no limit on tickets purchased.
On Friday there will be no games played. Instead, each team will practice. All practice sessions are open to the public. A full list of times and rinks is available below.
Although the Municipal Lot will be available for parking for the Pacific Division Shootout from Sept. 7-11, it will be extremely limited. This is especially true on Saturday and Sunday as the San Jose Giants are playing hosts to the first round of their playoff series at 5 p.m. on each day. There are several parking alternatives around Logitech Ice and fans may be asked to utilize those outlets.
SCHEDULE FOR THE 2005 PACIFIC DIVISION SHOOTOUT:
Wed., Sept. 7
4:00 p.m. Los Angeles vs. Anaheim
7:30 p.m. Phoenix vs. San Jose
Thurs., Sept. 8
4:00 p.m. Phoenix vs. Los Angeles
7:30 p.m. San Jose vs. Anaheim
Fri., Sept. 9
9:30 a.m. Los Angeles (East Rink)
9:30 a.m. Phoenix (North Rink)
11:00 a.m. Anaheim (East Rink)
11:00 a.m. San Jose (South Rink)
Sat., Sept. 10
1:00 p.m. Los Angeles vs. San Jose
4:30 p.m. Anaheim vs. Phoenix
Sun., Sept. 11
1:00 p.m. Consolation Game
4:30 p.m. Championship Game
ALL GAMES WILL TAKE PLACE ON LOGITECH ICE'S NORTH RINK.