NHL Draft preview: Sharks' focus is defense

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NHL Draft preview: Sharks' focus is defense

June 23, 2011SHARKS PAGE SHARKSVIDEO
NHL PAGE

Ryan OHalloranCSNWashington.com

MINNEAPOLIS Even though Sharks general manager Doug Wilson told reporters earlier this week he had talked to each of his 29 colleagues about trading draft picks or players, he undoubtedly wasnt as busy as Philadelphia counterpart Paul Holmgren.

The NHL Draft weekend got off to a rousing start Thursday in the Twin Cities when Holmgren changed the look of the Flyers and the complexion of the Pacific Division.

In three separate transactions, Holmgren dealt captain Mike Richards to Los Angeles for Braydon Schenn and Wayne Simmonds; traded Richards best friend, Jeff Carter, to Columbus; and signed goalie Ilya Bryzgalov to a nine-year, 51 million contract.

The Sharks certainly took notice of the Kings acquiring a heart-and-soul player like Richards, who theyll have to deal with six times per season, starting with the teams Nov. 7 meeting.

Unless Wilson or another GM drops another bombshell, the focus is likely to return to the first round, which starts Friday night in St. Paul.

The Sharks have the 28th pick for the second straight year.

RATTO: Expecting a hyperactive NHL Draft

According to various scouting outlets, the Sharks should be targeting defense for the short- and long-term.

A survey of five mock drafts had the Sharks taking five different players: Oshawa forward Nicklas Jensen, Victoriaville left winger Phillip Danault, Northeastern University defenseman Jamie Oleksiak, Ottawa center Shane Prince or Saint John right winger Tomas Jurco.

Jensen and Jurco represent one of the storylines of this draft in general and the first round in particular: European-born skaters coming to major junior hockey in North America.

Joining Jensen (scouts love that the native of Denmark can play all three forward positions) and Jurco (57 goals in two years for the Slovakian) in that group are Gabriel Landeskog (Sweden), Sven Baerstchi (Switzerland) Alexander Khokhlachev (Russia), Rickard Rakell (Sweden), Tomas Jurco (Slovakia) and Christopher Gibson (Finland).

I hope so, Landeskog said of more European players coming over. It can be a good thing for players all over Europe to move over here and try the life. Having said that, its not the best thing for everybody. Prospect Adam Larsson is a great example of staying home and succeeding.

Back in the day, it was rare for a European player to try the rigors of major junior hockey, a game that is more physical and played on a smaller rink ice surface and a season that could stretch to nearly 85 games.

But those challenges havent scared many top prospects.

Only five Europeans went in last years first round and two played major junior. That number figures to grow during Fridays opening round in St. Paul, Minn.

Larsson, a 6-foot-3 defenseman who opted to stay at home to play, will likely be the first European off the board, perhaps as early as No. 2 to Colorado.

Landeskog could be gone in the top five after putting up seasons of 46 and 66 points for Kitchener and becoming the teams first European-born captain.

I didnt really plan anything like this, he said. I thought it was the best thing for my development and looking back, it was the right decision. I didnt only develop as a player but as a person, I matured a lot.

But things didnt start out great. Even though he speaks fluent English, there were growing pains early.

My first half of my first season wasnt great, Landeskog said. I had a lot of tough times, a couple of slumps and I didnt know how to handle them. But thats what my goals were to learn how to handle all that and other situations.

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Baerstchi followed countryman Nino Niederreiters route leaving Switzerland to play for Portland of the Western Hockey League. Niederreiter went fifth overall to the Islanders last year. Baerstchi arrived last fall and totaled 85 points in 66 games.

The coaches helped me a lot and the whole team did its not easy to come from the big rink to the small rink, he said. I hit the boards a couple times.

Baerstchi said he felt comfortable right away. The first time on the ice with those guys, I felt great an after a couple weeks. I really got used to it and was right into the North American style.

Although the Europeans have gathered momentum, its a Canadian who is expected to go first. Edmonton is likely to choose center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins first, the first player from British Columbia to be the No. 1 overall pick.

Nugent-Hopkins would join last years first pick, Taylor Hall, on a young Oilers team in rebuild mode.

I just want to go to a team that wants me there, he said. Going to Edmonton would be great because theyre such a good, talented team and has promise for the future.

Sharks need to 'figure it out pretty soon' after another thrashing

Sharks need to 'figure it out pretty soon' after another thrashing

NASHVILLE – Apparently, one wake up call wasn’t good enough for the plummeting San Jose Sharks.
 
Just one day after suffering what was arguably their worst game under coach Pete DeBoer, Nashville put up a touchdown on the Sharks in a 7-2 win, giving San Jose its sixth straight defeat – all in regulation.
 
After getting outscored 13-3 the last two nights, including Friday’s 6-1 loss in Dallas, where do they go from here?
 
“In two years, last year and this year so far, we haven’t had one night like this almost. Now we have back-to-back nights,” Joe Pavelski said. “I think it’s just a reality check. A gut-check time.
 
“It’s on us as players. Bottom line is we haven’t put the effort in that we need to have right now, and it snowballed on us a little bit at times. I think we’ve got to take a deep breath and really take a look in the mirror, refocus a little bit and understand there’s hockey out there, but it’s not going to fix itself.”
 
What has to be fixed immediately is the defensive structure that has been so vital to the Sharks’ success in the Pete DeBoer era. Even when the club was going through stretches of struggling to score, as it was earlier in the season, it was still collecting points in the standings with its ability to limit the opposition’s scoring chances.
 
While the game against the Predators was actually a little better in that regard, believe it or not, it was still nowhere near the level it needs to be for the postseason. Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s absence was partly to blame for that, but the Brent Burns-Paul Martin pair has been a disaster lately. Both have a minus-nine rating during the six-game losing streak, and that number is indicative of how they’ve looked, too.
 
“We’re giving up some goals. It’s a combination of things,” DeBoer said. “Obviously it’s not good enough to win games, so we’ve got to figure it out. I don’t have an answer standing here for you, but I know our group. Every team I’ve ever coached has a tough part of the season. This is obviously ours. We’ll regroup, and figure it out.”
 
Burns, who admitted to a “bad read” on Nashville’s second goal when Roman Josi sped around him, said: “It’s a tough league when you’re not executing little things.”
 
The Sharks actually looked strong early, poised to put the Dallas disaster behind them. The first few shifts, they had the puck in the Nashville end.
 
But Tomas Hertl was outmuscled behind the net by Colin Wilson on Colton Sissons’ goal at 4:14, Burns got beat on the second, and the Sharks never recovered. Patrick Marleau’s second period power play goal offered life, but that was extinguished 24 seconds later when James Neal answered with a power play goal of his own. The Sharks never got closer than two goals after that.
 
“When things are going bad, those are the things that are happening,” Burns said of Neal’s response to Marleau’s marker. “So, you’ve just got work through it."
 
Will they be able to work through it with just seven games left in the regular season, though? That this cold spell is happening in late March doesn’t speak well to the Sharks’ chances in the postseason, which begins in just two-and-a-half weeks.
 
Burns said: “Right now we should be just tightening up everything. … We've got figure it out pretty soon.”

Sharks forward Haley could face supplemental discipline from NHL

Sharks forward Haley could face supplemental discipline from NHL

NASHVILLE – Sharks forward Micheal Haley could be in line for supplemental discipline from the league, after earning a match penalty in the third period of Saturday’s 7-2 loss in Nashville.
 
After absorbing a borderline hit from behind by Calle Jarnkrok, Haley tracked down the Predators forward and promptly delivered a left jab to Jarnkrok’s face at 12:56 of the final frame, with the Sharks trailing 5-2 at the time.
 
Naturally, there were differing opinions from the two head coaches on the play.
 
Pete DeBoer said: “When you run someone from behind in a game like that, you probably deserve to get a punch in the mouth.”
 
Predators coach Peter Laviolette told reporters: "It's an ugly play. This isn't the wild, wild west. I mean, Calle hit him. We took a penalty. If we start doing that, we're in trouble, so hopefully it gets looked at."
 
Any player who earns a match penalty "shall be automatically suspended from further competition until the commissioner has ruled on the issue,” according to league rules.
 
In 54 games this season, Haley has two goals and nine assists for 11 points. His 110 penalty minutes is fifth in the league.
 
Jarnkrok did not return after the punch, but told reporters after the game he felt “OK.”
 
"I feel pretty good," Jarnkrok said. "Obviously, I saw him coming. There were a couple other guys coming, too. I didn't really know what to do. He got in a good punch on me.”