For Sharks, “draft and develop” is the way to go

by Jeremy Lemoine || AHL On The Beat Archive

When it comes to the Worcester Sharks, top American Hockey League affiliate of the San Jose Sharks, one thing comes to mind.  Draft and Develop.

“Draft and Develop” is the concept San Jose lives by with players in their system — and for good reason. During the 2005-06 NHL season, the San Jose Sharks organization led all teams in the National Hockey League with 71 percent of their players being drafted and developed from within. Talk about loyalty. Given those numbers, the importance to keep players in the organization and lead them to success is more than evident.

The Sharks moved their AHL team to Worcester and never changed their strategy. Currently, five rookies are on the roster. Of the five, defenseman Dan Spang didn’t waste any time playing a prominent role.

Spang, who was an All-American at Boston University last season, is one of three alternate captains on the team. Although Spang is young, being an alternate captain with two veterans, Scott Ferguson and Craig Valette, gives him leadership experience as well as professional playing experience.

“Sometimes it’s the little things that count the most,” said Worcester head coach Roy Sommer.  “He always makes sure his teammates are alright with rides to the rink and things of that nature.  Those kinds of things go a long way.  The guys on the team really like him and that’s important.”

Spang isn’t the only rookie making his mark on the Worcester Sharks this season, as forward Joe Pavelski is another college hockey graduate who was drafted by the San Jose Sharks organization in the seventh round of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft.  Although not a captain, Pavelski is leading by another example. The two-way pivot leads all Worcester Sharks players in points with 11 (three goals, eight assists) in seven games.  His point totals lead all rookies in the AHL scoring race too.

If these two Worcester players are any indication of the San Jose Sharks future, it is extremely bright.  The Sharks current roster is already made up trophy winners, who both developed their professional careers in the AHL. 

Jonathan Cheechoo scored 56 goals last season in the NHL, which captured the goal scoring title.  For his feat, he was awarded the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy. The 56 goals is the exact number he scored in his three seasons for the Sharks top affiliate in the AHL.  Cheechoo spent just over two seasons in the league and developed into one of the NHL’s dominant goal scorers.

Goaltender Evgeni Nabokov spent three seasons in the AHL with the Sharks top affiliate before breaking into the NHL.  After Nabokov broke into the league, he stole it. In 2001, the native posted a greedy 2.19 goals-against average and won 32 games to take home the Calder Memorial Trophy as the NHL’s rookie of the year.

Others whom have matriculated through the Sharks developmental system include forwards Marcel Goc, Steve Bernier, Mark Smith, Patrick Rissmiller, Ryan Clowe, defensemen Christian Erhoff, Josh Gorges, Doug Murray, Scott Hannan, Rob Davison, and goaltender Vesa Toskala.

By the way, the San Jose started their season with just six players on the roster who never spent any time in the American Hockey League.

It seems as though if San Jose wants to win a Stanley Cup, they’re going to do it with their own players.  With that being said, it looks as though they want to win a Calder Cup with their own players too.