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Sharks Prospects Look To Add To Homegrown Nucleus

by Bill Meltzer / San Jose Sharks
The San Jose Sharks NHL roster features plenty of home grown talent including the likes of Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski

One look at the San Jose Sharks’ NHL roster will tell you that it is an organization that knows how to draft and develop their own talent.

Six of San Jose’s top eight scorers last season -- forwards Patrick Marleau, Jonathan Cheechoo, Milan Michalek, Ryane Clowe, rookie defensemen Matt Carle and Christian Ehrhoff -- were originally drafted by the Sharks. They were ably supported by a crew of players that also included the likes of veteran Scott Hannan (a Colorado Avalanche free-agent addition after spending six-plus years as a Sharks’ defensive mainstay).

Additionally, young right winger Steve Bernier (the Sharks’ 2003 first-round pick) is an established regular, and both center Joe Pavelski and defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic grabbed regular jobs with the big club over the course of last season. Vlasic, like Carle, was named to the NHL All-Rookie Team last season. The last time two rookie defenders from the same team were chosen was in 1991-92 when Detroit Red Wings first-year defensemen Nicklas Lidstrom and Vladimir Konstantinov were honored.

The Sharks’ current prospect crop may not have a lot of high-profile names, but it’s a solid group, with several players who are capable of becoming effective NHL players. In particular, 2004 first-round pick Lukas Kaspar, 2005 first rounder Devin Setoguchi , 2006 first-round selection Ty Wishart, 2007 first-round choices Logan Couture and Nick Petrecki, 22-year-old center Torrey Mitchell and 2006 second-round pick Jamie McGinn have the makings of good future pros.

Historically, the Sharks’ scouts have been one of the NHL’s best at identifying goaltending prospects. For instance, at one time, Evgeni Nabokov, Miikka Kiprusoff, Johan Hedberg (via Philadelphia), Vesa Toskala and Michel Larocque were all in the San Jose farm system simultaneously.

Within the current group of netminding hopefuls, there’s a talented group of contenders. It typically takes goalies the longest of any position to develop as pros. Given the club’s strong prospect development history, it’s fair to predict that at least one or two young goaltenders will someday emerge as NHL starters among Thomas Greiss, Taylor Dakers, Dimtri Patzold, Alex Stalock and 2007 draftee Timo Palmeier.

 

Goaltending

Thomas Greiss -- In his first AHL season, Greiss, the Sharks’ third-round pick in 2004 (94th overall), won 26 of his 43 games for the Worcester Sharks, posted a solid 2.61 goals against average and .912 save percentage. The German goaltender even contributed three assists. He struggled a bit in three postseason appearances. Greiss impressed the Sharks by how he adapted to playing the angles on the smaller North American rinks. The organization looks for that process to continue in 2007-08.

“We’re happy with the progress he’s made so far. He had a good first year in the AHL coming over from Europe,” says Tim Burke, the Sharks’ director of scouting.

The season prior to coming to North America, Greiss became a regular starter for the DEL’s Kölner Haie (Cologne Sharks); the DEL is Germany’s highest league and is an imported veteran-heavy circuit filled with former NHL and AHL players. The player, who turned 21 in Jan. 2007, was the youngest member of Team Germany at the 2006 Olympics in Turin and started against Team Canada, making 35 saves on 40 shots.

Dimtri Pätzold -- Originally drafted in the fourth round (107th overall) of the 2001 draft, the 23-year-old Pätzold backed up Nabokov on the big club for several games last season. The previous year, Pätzhold was hampered by a knee injury and had a up-and-down AHL season with the Cleveland Barons.

In 24 games as a fourth-season pro last year, the Kazakhstan-born Pätzold struggled early in the season. Pätzold was demoted for a time to the ECHL’s Fresno Falcons, playing very strong hockey in eight starts before returning to Worcester. He closed strong and outperformed Greiss in the playoffs.

The keeper’s greatest asset is his unflappability. He brings the same calm mental approach to every practice and game. It is not unusual for goaltenders to have a significantly longer development curve than position players, and Pätzold has demonstrated the ability at times to get on a roll and provide strong goaltending for multi-game stretches.

Pätzold will enter the Sharks’ training camp with an opportunity to compete for the backup job with the big club.

“We’re happy with where he was at by the end of the season. He had a good end to the season. He’ll be right in the mix for our club in camp,” says Burke.

Taylor Dakers -- The Sharks’ fifth-round (140th overall) choice in 2005 has been one of the Western Hockey League’s top goaltenders for the last few years, recording a combined 13 shutouts for the Kooteny Ice over the last two campaigns.

Last season, the 6-foot-2 netminder had a 2.16 goals-against average and solid .919 save percentage for an Ice club that posted the third-best regular season record in the league. Dakers plays a hybrid butterfly/standup style of goal and is noted for his above-average mobility, which makes him tough to beat one-on-one.

The keeper, who will turn 21 in September, is eligible to play in the American Hockey League this season, and has a chance to compete for Worcester’s starting job. Long-term, he has the potential to be an NHL starter.

“This season with Worcester will be a good test for him, and we’re looking forward to seeing how it goes,” Burke said. “In junior hockey, he was a goalie who bounced back fast and kept his team in games.”

Defensemen

Ty Wishart, the 16th-overall pick of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, could earn a roster spot with the Sharks out of training camp.
Ty Wishart -- The 16th-overall pick in the 2006 Entry Draft bounced back from an early season injury to have an excellent WHL season for the Prince George Cougars in 2006-07. He signed an entry-level contract with the Sharks on March 30.

In 62 regular season games last season, Wishart scored 11 goals (eight on the power play) and 49 points to go along with a solid plus-15 defensive rating. He averaged a point-per-game over the final 18 regular-season matches. In the playoffs, Wishart added 11 points in 15 games.

Wishart, 19, is still growing into his huge frame. He can still add considerable strength to his 6-foot-5 frame, which currently carries 205 pounds. Despite his size, he is not an especially physical defenseman, but is highly skilled.

Wishart is still too young to be AHL eligible and, as such, must either join the Sharks’ NHL roster or return to the WHL. While it’s not impossible for the youngster to earn an NHL roster spot out of training camp, he’s more likely return to Prince George for additional seasoning.

“He had a good second half last year,” says Burke. “Defensemen take longer than forwards and another year of junior hockey at his age is probably what’s best for his development. He’s a coachable kid.”

Wishart is slated to represent Canada at the eight-game junior Super Series against Russia, taking place in Canada and Russia from Aug. 27 to Sept. 9. Wishart also stands an excellent chance of playing for defending gold-medalist Team Canada at the 2008 World Junior Championships. In the long-term, Wishart has the potential to be a top-three or even top-two defenseman in the NHL.

Derek Joslin -- Drafted in the fifth round of the 2005 Entry Draft (149th overall), Joslin emerged as a good two-way junior defenseman with a heavy shot from the point. The 20-year-old, who got his first taste of the AHL in brief end-of-season stints the last two seasons, signed with the Sharks on Dec. 28, 2006. He will play for Worcester this season.

During his career with the OHL’s Ottawa 67’s, the 6-foot-1 defensemen displayed above-average mobility and a heavy shot from the point (he hit double-digit goals in consecutive seasons). He has added 15 pounds to his frame since he was drafted, which should help better withstand the pounding pro defensemen receive from opposing forecheckers.

“It should help him that he’s played a little bit with Worcester. He has a better idea of what to expect playing a full pro year this season,” says Burke.

Wingers

Devin Setoguchi -- A Prince George teammate of Ty Wishart, Setoguchi is an outstanding skater with the scoring touch of a top-six forward at the NHL level. Staying healthy has been the biggest problem for the eighth overall pick in the 2005 Entry Draft.

Slowed by a knee early last season as well as big expectations after a trade from Saskatoon, Setoguchi got off to a tough start with Prince George. As a player who relies on his shiftiness and elusiveness to compensate for average size, it took time for Setoguchi to return to full strength. The winger scored a “disappointing” 20 goals and 36 points in his first 37 games last season. But he caught fire down the stretch, scoring 16 goals and 29 points in the final 18 regular-season games. In the playoffs, he continued his dominance with 11 goals and 21 points in 15 games.

Setoguchi, 20, had the reputation of being something of a one-dimensional, inconsistent talent prior to the 2005 draft, but has worked hard to become a more complete player. He’s also added strength to his frame in order to better compete at the pro level, and now carries about 200 pounds (15 pounds more than his draft-day weight). If he doesn’t make the Sharks’ opening night roster, he’ll join Worcester.

“We liked the progress and we like the track he's on right now. He’s a very skilled player, and he’s going to get a look in camp with our NHL club,” says Burke.

Winger Jamie McGinn finished last season as the Ottawa 67's leading scorers with 89 points.
Jamie McGinn -- A second-round pick (36th overall) in 2006, McGinn has impressed the Sharks with his two-way ability and energy. He’s coming off an excellent OHL season for Ottawa, finishing as the 67’s leading scorer with 89 points (including 46 goals, 21 on the power play), good for seventh overall in the league. The 18 year-old also scored five goals in playoff contests.

The Sharks rewarded McGinn for his outstanding season by signing him to an entry-level contract in April. He joined Worcester for the final four AHL regular season games. He scored his first professional goal on April 14 against Manchester; one of two points McGinn registered during his four-game stint. He also dressed in six Calder Cup playoff games. He is likely to return to Ottawa this season, as he is not yet old enough to be eligible for AHL play until the conclusion of his junior season.

At 5-foot-11 and 180 pounds, McGinn needs every bit of the hustle he routinely displays in order to compete effectively. While he’s not known as an especially mean player, he has shown the ability to get under opponents’ skin, in part because he never lets up until he hears a whistle. McGinn is not afraid to get his nose dirty and he is willing to pay the price to make plays.

“He’s a competitor. He did well -- really well -- in the American League. Our coaches liked his board work and his overall approach. He’s also got skill,” says Burke.

Centers

Logan Couture -- A bout with mononucleosis slowed down Ottawa 67’s center Couture last season, but the youngster impressed the Sharks’ with his two-way ability and leadership potential to the point that the organization was willing to trade up in the 2007 draft to select him ninth overall.

The player, who turned 18 in March, displayed exceptional maturity and ice vision in racking up 52 assists and 78 points for Ottawa last year. Playing on a line with third overall pick Kyle Turris at the 2007 IIHF Under-18 World Championships, Couture got off to a strong start in the preliminary round, but looked fatigued as the tournament progressed. He’d played a lot of hockey by that point.

The biggest question mark for Couture as he continues his development is whether he can improve his skating ability, which is average for a player his age. No one questions his other skills, which are first rate across the board.

Torrey Mitchell -- A standout center at the University of Vermont, the Sharks’ fourth-round pick (126th overall) in the 2004 Entry Draft signed with San Jose in March. He made the most of a late-season trial with Worcester, scoring seven points in 11 regular season games and adding a goal and an assist in six playoff games.

The 22-year-old Mitchell is not a big player (5-foot-11, 190 pounds) but is a plus skater, demonstrates a commitment to playing two-way hockey and has good hockey sense. The former co-captain of the Catamounts has shown leadership potential.

The Sharks say that Mitchell is a versatile player who has often traded gaudy stats in order to help his club in a variety of ways.

“He’s player who we think can be a good pro. He’s got good awareness on the ice and he’s a player that can be effective in whatever he’s asked to do,” says Burke.

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