I see the image of a crown and a hungry prairie dog. Is it the future of the Pacific Division or Boy George's weekend plans?
The Hockey News Future Watch 2010 issue arrived in the mail this week and to no surprise, Logan Couture’s name appears on their list of the Top 100 Prospects already drafted by NHL Teams. Couture comes in at #36. As an organization, the Sharks didn’t fare as well as their best prospect, ranking 27th out of 30 NHL clubs with a C grade. This is actually a drop off from last years low rank of 25th.
Honestly, I’m surprised at the low overall grade given the Worcester Sharks overall success this season and the immediate development of some of their younger players in the AHL. Worcester has three young players in the Top 40 in scoring, with Zalewski pulling 57 points in 61 games, followed by Couture’s 54 points in 41 games and Ferriero’s 47 points in 44 games. The only other team with such dynamic AHL scoring is the Washington Capitals trio of Aucion, Giroux and Gordon. If Couture and Ferriero had been in Worcester the whole season and avoided injury, Couture would be projected at 86 points, which would put him 1st in the AHL in scoring. Ferreiro would be at 69 points, 4th in the AHL in scoring. Somehow, Ferreiro doesn’t even make David Pollak’s list of Top 10 Sharks prospects, which I would be curious to get an explanation of.
Pollak lists the Sharks top prospects in this order: Couture, Petrecki, Joslin (really?), Zalewski, Zackrisson, Sexsmith, Wrenn, Doherty, Demers and Groulx. No Ferreiro….and no Alex Stalock.
Stalock has been the rock the Worcester Sharks success has been centered around this season. He is 1st in the AHL in wins and total minutes played and 3rd in total saves, while Sexsmith has struggled all season with a 4-6-1, .860 save percentage and a 3.94 GAA and even earned a trip to the ECHL. I’m not giving up on Sexsmith at all, he had an outstanding junior hockey career with the Vancouver Giants – but does he really deserve to be ranked ahead of Stalock when he’s been totally overwhelmed his first year in the pros, while Stalock has played like a veteran leading a team to a possible Calder Cup?
I was glad to see William Wrenn on this list, he’s definitely a player of interest for the future – the way far away future since he’s in his 1st year at Denver University. I was pleasantly surprised to see Dudes on Hockey posterchild Nick Petrecki holding down the 2nd spot even though reports are he has struggled big time his first season at Worcester.
As for the rest of the Pacific Division, LA’s future continues to look bright – they are the overall #1 Future Watch leader with four players in the Top 100 including Brayden Schenn (#10), Jonathan Bernier (#15), Colten Teubert (#48), and Thomas Hickey (#72). Phoenix is ranked #6 with four players in the 100: Oliver Ekman Larsson (#3), Kyle Turris (#12), Mikkel Boedker (#14) and Max Goncharov (#44). That’s a pretty impressive take and they proved to be much deeper than I remembered or realized. Anaheim ranks #20 with two top 100 guys: Luca Sbisa (#9) and Kyle Palmieri (#70). Dallas is just slightly ahead of the Sharks at 24th and I think their ranking should be lower considering they traded Ivan Vishnevskiy (#51) to Atlanta in the Kari Lehtonen deal. Their prize prospect is Kyle Glennie (#27), a WHL forward who was cut from Canada’s Junior Team but has 88 points in junior hockey this year.
The Sharks coming in lower on this list is a product of their regular season success. LA has four 1st round draft pick prospects on the horizon, Phoenix has three 1st rounders up and coming. The Sharks haven’t had a 1st round pick in two years, dealing them to get Brian Campbell and Dan Boyle. The players drafted with the Sharks picks, Tyler Ennis and Kyle Palmieri, are both in the Top 100 prospects list at #29 and #70 respectively. Would Doug Wilson undo the Brian Campbell trade and his passion to win the Cup in 2008 if he knew he could have Buffalo’s top prospect in Ennis along side Couture in the minors? Would you rather have college forward Palmieri and Matt Carle or Dan Boyle?
Looking at this list makes me recognize more than ever that the Sharks window of dominance in the Pacific Division is closing and the era of the Los Angeles Kings could be on the horizon. The Sharks are young enough on the NHL level to still be an elite team in the NHL, but will they be a lock to win the Pacific Division in the future? With the Kings and Coyote rising and the Stars and Ducks fading, my crystal ball thinks this might be our last run at a #1 seed for awhile – making a deep playoff run this season more important than ever.