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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.

RELATED: Sharks sign Setoguchi to three-year deal

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.

Joerger shakes things up, Cauley-Stein responds with big game

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USATSI

Joerger shakes things up, Cauley-Stein responds with big game

SACRAMENTO -- Faced with demotion, you have two options, sulk or come out swinging. Willie Cauley-Stein chose option two Friday evening at Golden 1 Center.

After starting all 14 games to begin the season, Cauley-Stein found himself relegated to the second unit against the Portland Trail Blazers. The 7-footer looked energized by the move and made one play after another as the Kings came away with the 86-82 victory.

“I felt free - period,” Cauley-Stein said following the win. “Both offensively, defensively. I’m quarterbacking on defense. I’m getting to make plays on offense. I just feel liberated. I feel like it’s unlocking.”

The third-year big began the 2017-18 campaign with back-to-back double-doubles, but hadn’t notched double-figures in rebounds since. Over his previous eight games, the Kings’ starting center was averaging just 4.3 boards per game.

Against Portland, Cauley-Stein played sparkling defense, hit 9-of-17 from the floor for a team-high 22 points and hit the glass for 10 boards. He skied above the Blazers bigs for a rebound with 3.4 seconds remaining and his second free throw attempt sealed the win for a Kings team in desperate need of a win.

“Willie’s a hell of a player, obviously,” veteran big Kosta Koufos said. “He’s really athletic, he’s a special talent.”

Koufos and Cauley-Stein made a devastating defensive duo for Sacramento. Both bigs showed on the high pick-and-roll and avoided fouling the Blazers high-powered guards.

“That’s a crazy defensive lineup right there, me and Kosta play really well together,” Cauley-Stein said. “I’ve been waiting for that lineup since we started.”

Damian Lillard scored 29 points, but he shot just 9-of-25 from the field and 5-for-14 from long range. C.J. McCollum knocked down 8-of-15 from the floor, but he missed all four of his 3-point attempts as Sacramento closed out and pressured the shooter all night long.

Cauley-Stein wasn’t the only starter to find himself on the bench to start the game. Dave Joerger turned to a dual point guard backcourt, using De’Aaron Fox and George Hill side-by-side, while bringing rookie Bogdan Bogdanovic in with the second unit.

Playing off the ball for long stretches, Hill responded to the move with 14 points and five assists in 27 minutes. Fox had a quiet offensive night, but his defense on both Lillard and McCollum was inspired.

“We can both attack and he’s a great shooter so that really helps me,” Fox said of Hill. “He’s a mentor on the court. It’s a lot easier to play with him then to watch him play.”

Sacramento held Portland to just 37 percent shooting overall and 28 percent from behind the arc. They pressured the Blazers in the backcourt and slowed the game to screeching halt.

With the win, the Kings snapped their three-game losing streak and improved to 4-11 on the season. They jumped a plane for Portland following the game where they’ll face the same Trail Blazer team Saturday in a rare back-to-back against the same team.

The Kings likely be without the services of shooting guard Buddy Hield, who left the game in the fourth quarter with a sprained right ankle. Hield limped into the locker room on crutches following the victory and the initial indications point to him missing the rematch.

A's hire Matt Williams as third base coach

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AP

A's hire Matt Williams as third base coach

OAKLANDThe Oakland A’s named Matt Williams as third base coach on Bob Melvin’s coaching staff for the 2018 season, the club announced today.

Williams spent five seasons on the Arizona Diamondbacks coaching staff as first base coach (2010) and third base coach (2011-13, 16) and also managed the Washington Nationals for two seasons.  He was named National League Manager of the Year by the BBWAA in his first season as manager in 2014, guiding the Nationals to a 96-66 record and an NL East title.  He went 83-79 in 2015 for a 179-145 (.552) record in two seasons as manager.

Williams played 17 seasons in the majors with San Francisco (1987-96), Cleveland (1997) and Arizona (1998-2003).  He was a .268 career hitter with 378 home runs and 1218 RBI in 1866 games.  Williams was a five-time All-Star and won four Gold Gloves as a third baseman.

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