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Who’s the Highest Draft Pick the Sharks Never Signed?

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Credit: Elliot

On Saturday, San Jose Hockey Now learned that the San Jose Sharks had declined to offer 2015 fifth-round draft pick Karlis Cukste an entry-level contract.

It got the wheels in my head turning — how often does a drafted prospect who has been passed up by his original NHL team eventually make the NHL?

I dug through 29 San Jose drafts and 232 Sharks picks to answer that question and others — like who was the highest draft pick that the San Jose Sharks never signed? Which was San Jose’s best and worst drafts, in terms of prospects signed?

If a team drafts you, then spends years evaluating you in college or juniors or in Europe, they should have a good sense what your hockey-playing capabilities are. When it comes time to sign you, if they let you go to unrestricted free agency, they likely don’t have high hopes that you’ll ever make the NHL.

And they’re probably right.

By my estimation, the Sharks — or the team that San Jose traded their prospect to — have signed 60 percent of their draft picks. That’s 138 out of 232 draft picks.

That leaves 94 draft picks unsigned.

Just four have made the NHL: Colin Blackwell (2011 Draft Pick #194), Philip Varone (2009 #147), Frazer McLaren (2007 #203), and Kris Newbury (2002 #139). Blackwell and McLaren, instead of signing with the Sharks, agreed to contracts with San Jose’s AHL team. Meanwhile, the Sharks let Varone walk and couldn’t come to terms with Newbury.

Four of 94: Yeah, it’s going to be tough for Cukste to make the NHL.

Angel Nikolov

There’s been just one “Angel” ever drafted by an NHL team.

Angel Nikolov was a Czech defenseman selected 37th by San Jose in the 1994 Draft.

“He impressed us the first time we saw him,” San Jose director of player personnel Chuck Grillo said. (Condon, Mike. “Sharks draft scoring whiz.” Santa Cruz Sentinel, June 29, 1994.)

How about after the first time?

Nikolov is the highest San Jose draft pick never signed by the Sharks, enjoying a long career in Europe before retiring in 2013.

Gabryel Boudreau (2013 #49), William Wrenn (2009 #43), Tero Maatta (2000 #41), and Alexander Cherbayev (1992 #51) were other high picks not signed by San Jose.

Best & Worst Drafts

For a prospect, getting drafted is one stepping stone. Getting signed is another stepping stone.

From an organization’s perspective, that stepping stone is critical. Offering an ELC is a sign that from the time of being drafted, the prospect has significantly advanced his game.

So looking at it that way, the 2001 Draft was a complete win for the San Jose Sharks — every draft pick was signed. That’s Marcel Goc (#20), Christian Ehrhoff (#106), Dmitri Patzold (#107), Tomas Plihal (#140), Ryane Clowe (#175), and Tom Cavanagh (#182). Goc, Ehrhoff, and Clowe also became impactful NHL players.

The 2013 Draft is on the opposite end of the spectrum: The Sharks signed just two of their seven draft picks. Mirco Mueller (#18) and Michael Brodzinski (#141) inked ELCs, while Gabryel Boudreau (#49), Fredrik Bergvik (#117), Gage Ausmus (#151), Jake Jackson (#201), and Emil Galimov (#207) were left in the cold.

The History

Anyway, those are just some of the interesting things I learned — there’s more coming from my research soon.

Here’s the complete list of San Jose Sharks draft picks and whether or not they were signed — obviously, some of the more recent selections are still in the wait-in-see category. Information before 1994 was spottier, so please feel free to correct me if I’ve made any mistakes:

San Jose Sharks Draft Picks, 1991-2019

YearPlayerPickSIGNEDNOT SIGNED
2019 EntryArtemi Kniazev48x
2019 EntryDillon Hamaliuk55x
2019 EntryYegor Spiridonov108x
2019 EntryTimur Ibragimov164x
2019 EntrySanteri Hatakka184x
2018 EntryRyan Merkley21x
2018 EntryLinus Karlsson87x
2018 EntryJasper Weatherby102x
2018 EntryZachary Emond176x
2018 EntryJohn Leonard182x
2017 EntryJosh Norris19x
2017 EntryMario Ferraro49x
2017 EntryScott Reedy102x
2017 EntryJake McGrew159x
2017 EntrySasha Chmelevski185x
2017 EntryIvan Chekhovich212x
2016 EntryDylan Gambrell60x
2016 EntryNoah Gregor111x
2016 EntryManuel Wiederer150x
2016 EntryMark Shoemaker180x
2016 EntryJoachim Blichfeld210x
2015 EntryTimo Meier9x
2015 EntryJeremy Roy31x
2015 EntryMike Robinson86x
2015 EntryAdam Helewka106x
2015 EntryKarlis Cukste130x
2015 EntryRudolfs Balcers142x
2015 EntryAdam Parsells160x
2015 EntryMarcus Vela190x
2015 EntryJake Kupsky193x
2014 EntryNikolay Goldobin27x
2014 EntryJulius Bergman46x
2014 EntryNoah Rod53x
2014 EntryAlex Schoenborn72x
2014 EntryDylan Sadowy81x
2014 EntryAlexis Vanier102x
2014 EntryRourke Chartier149x
2014 EntryKevin Labanc171x
2013 EntryMirco Mueller18x
2013 EntryGabryel Boudreau49x
2013 EntryFredrik Bergvik117x
2013 EntryMichael Brodzinski141x
2013 EntryGage Ausmus151x
2013 EntryJake Jackson201x
2013 EntryEmil Galimov207x
2012 EntryTomas Hertl17x
2012 EntryChris Tierney55x
2012 EntryChristophe Lalancette109x
2012 EntryDanny O'Regan138x
2012 EntryCliff Watson168x
2012 EntryJoakim Ryan198x
2011 EntryMatthew Nieto47x
2011 EntryJustin Sefton89x
2011 EntrySean Kuraly133x
2011 EntryDaniil Sobchenko166x
2011 EntryDylan DeMelo179x
2011 EntryColin Blackwell194x
2010 EntryCharlie Coyle28x
2010 EntryMax Gaede88x
2010 EntryCody Ferriero127x
2010 EntryFreddie Hamilton129x
2010 EntryIsaac Macleod136x
2010 EntryKonrad Abeltshauser163x
2010 EntryLee Moffie188x
2010 EntryChris Crane200x
2009 EntryWilliam Wrenn43x
2009 EntryTaylor Doherty57x
2009 EntryPhilip Varone147x
2009 EntryMarek Viedensky189x
2009 EntryDominik Bielke207x
2008 EntryJustin Daniels62x
2008 EntrySamuel Groulx92x
2008 EntryHarri Sateri106x
2008 EntryJulien Demers146x
2008 EntryTommy Wingels177x
2008 EntryJason Demers186x
2008 EntryDrew Daniels194x
2007 EntryLogan Couture9x
2007 EntryNick Petrecki28x
2007 EntryTimo Pielmeier83x
2007 EntryTyson Sexsmith91x
2007 EntryPatrik Zackrisson165x
2007 EntryNick Bonino173x
2007 EntryJustin Braun201x
2007 EntryFrazer McLaren203x
2006 EntryTy Wishart16x
2006 EntryJamie McGinn36x
2006 EntryJames DeLory98x
2006 EntryAshton Rome143x
2006 EntryJohn McCarthy202x
2006 EntryJay Barriball203x
2005 EntryDevin Setoguchi8x
2005 EntryMarc-Edouard Vlasic35x
2005 EntryAlex Stalock112x
2005 EntryTaylor Dakers140x
2005 EntryDerek Joslin149x
2005 EntryP.J. Fenton162x
2005 EntryWill Colbert183x
2005 EntryTony Lucia193x
2004 EntryLukas Kaspar22x
2004 EntryThomas Greiss94x
2004 EntryTorrey Mitchell126x
2004 EntryJason Churchill129x
2004 EntrySteven Zalewski153x
2004 EntryMike Vernace201x
2004 EntryDave MacDonald225x
2004 EntryDerek MacIntyre234x
2004 EntryBrian Mahoney-Wilson288x
2004 EntryChristian Jensen289x
2003 EntryMilan Michalek6x
2003 EntrySteve Bernier16x
2003 EntryJosh Hennessy43x
2003 EntryMatt Carle47x
2003 EntryPatrick Ehelechner139x
2003 EntryJonathan Tremblay201x
2003 EntryJoe Pavelski205x
2003 EntryKai Hospelt216x
2003 EntryAlexander Hult236x
2003 EntryBrian O'Hanley267x
2003 EntryCarter Lee276x
2002 EntryMike Morris27x
2002 EntryDan Spang52x
2002 EntryJonas Fiedler86x
2002 EntryKris Newbury139x
2002 EntryTom Walsh163x
2002 EntryTim Conboy217x
2002 EntryMichael Hutchins288x
2001 EntryMarcel Goc20x
2001 EntryChristian Ehrhoff106x
2001 EntryDmitri Patzold107x
2001 EntryTomas Plihal140x
2001 EntryRyane Clowe175x
2001 EntryTom Cavanagh182x
2000 EntryTero Maatta41x
2000 EntryJon DiSalvatore104x
2000 EntryMichal Pinc142x
2000 EntryNolan Schaefer166x
2000 EntryMichal Macho183x
2000 EntryChad Wiseman246x
2000 EntryPasi Saarinen256x
1999 EntryJeff Jillson14x
1999 EntryMark Concannon82x
1999 EntryWillie Levesque111x
1999 EntryNiko Dimitrakos155x
1999 EntryEric Betournay229x
1999 EntryDouglas Murray241x
1999 EntryHannes Hyvonen257x
1998 EntryBrad Stuart3x
1998 EntryJonathan Cheechoo29x
1998 EntryEric Laplante65x
1998 EntryRob Davison98x
1998 EntryMiroslav Zalesak104x
1998 EntryBrandon Coalter127x
1998 EntryMikael Samuelsson145x
1998 EntryRobert Mulick185x
1998 EntryJim Fahey212x
1997 EntryPatrick Marleau2x
1997 EntryScott Hannan23x
1997 EntryAdam Colagiacomo82x
1997 EntryAdam Spylo107x
1997 EntryJoe Dusbabek163x
1997 EntryCam Severson192x
1997 EntryMark Smith219x
1996 EntryAndrei Zyuzin2x
1996 EntryMarco Sturm21x
1996 EntryTerry Friesen55x
1996 EntryMatt Bradley102x
1996 EntryMichel Larocque137x
1996 EntryJake Deadmarsh164x
1996 EntryCory Cyrenne191x
1996 EntryDavid Thibeault217x
1995 EntryTeemu Riihijarvi12x
1995 EntryPeter Roed38x
1995 EntryMarko Makinen64x
1995 EntryVesa Toskala90x
1995 EntryMiikka Kiprusoff116x
1995 EntryMichal Bros130x
1995 EntryTimo Hakanen140x
1995 EntryJaroslav Kudrna142x
1995 EntryBrad Mehalko167x
1995 EntryRobert Jindrich168x
1995 EntryRyan Kraft194x
1995 EntryMikko Markkanen220x
1994 EntryJeff Friesen11x
1994 EntryAngel Nikolov37x
1994 EntryAlexei Yegorov66x
1994 EntryVaclav Varada89x
1994 EntryBrian Swanson115x
1994 EntryAlexander Korolyuk141x
1994 EntrySergei Gorbachev167x
1994 EntryEric Landry193x
1994 EntryEvgeni Nabokov219x
1994 EntryTomas Pisa240x
1994 EntryAniket Dhadphale245x
1994 EntryDavid Beauregard271x
1993 EntryViktor Kozlov6x
1993 EntryShean Donovan28x
1993 EntryVlastimil Kroupa45x
1993 EntryVille Peltonen58x
1993 EntryAlexander Osadchy80x
1993 EntryAndrei Buschan106x
1993 EntryPetri Varis132x
1993 EntryFredrik Oduya154x
1993 EntryAnatoly Filatov158x
1993 EntryTodd Holt184x
1993 EntryJonas Forsberg210x
1993 EntryJeff Salajko236x
1993 EntryJamie Matthews262x
1992 EntryMike Rathje3x
1992 EntryAndrei Nazarov10x
1992 EntryAlexander Cherbayev51x
1992 EntryJan Caloun75x
1992 EntryMarcus Ragnarsson99x
1992 EntryMichal Sykora123x
1992 EntryEric Bellerose147x
1992 EntryRyan Smith171x
1992 EntryChris Burns195x
1992 EntryAlex Kholomeyev219x
1992 EntryVictor Ignatjev243x
1991 EntryPat Falloon2x
1991 EntryRay Whitney23x
1991 EntrySandis Ozolinsh30x
1991 EntryDody Wood45x
1991 EntryKerry Toporowski67x
1991 EntryDan Ryder89x
1991 EntryFredrik Nilsson111x
1991 EntryJaroslav Otevrel133x
1991 EntryDean Grillo155x
1991 EntryCorwin Saurdiff177x
1991 EntryDale Craigwell199x
1991 EntryAaron Kriss221x
1991 EntryMikhail Kravets243x
San Jose has signed 138, or 60%, of their 232 draft picks. Who haven't they signed?
Welcome to your new home for San Jose Sharks breaking news, analysis and opinion. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and don't forget to subscribe to SJHN+ for all of our members-only content from Sheng Peng and the National Hockey Now network.
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david barnard

SP how does that 60% compare to the rest of the league?

david barnard

we were kicking around this subject on FtF a day ago.

Skyler Greenberg

Is it possible that the other members of Hockey Now review their team stats on draft pick signings? Cap Friendly is probably the best source to be able to look this stuff up so perhaps they could help.

Skyler Greenberg

Thanks sheng. I doubled checked and they have infomation for drafts all the way to 1965. I would need to double check through to see if everything is accurate but the resources are there.

Hockey History

Joe Thornton as a Shark: A Hockey Card History

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There’s been top-10 lists. Top-five lists. Video highlights.

But here’s a way to remember Joe Thornton’s time with the San Jose Sharks that you can hold with your hand: This is Jumbo’s definitive hockey card history in teal.

The Rookie

Card shown: 1996-97 Upper Deck Black Diamond #160

Purchase price: About $200

The San Jose Sharks didn’t draft Thornton, but a rookie card is the centerpiece of any player’s hockey card history.

Thornton has just three official rookie cards (1996-97 Upper Deck and 1996-97 Upper Deck Ice), but this is the definitive RC because of its scarcity.

The Trade

Card shown: 2005-06 Parkhurst Season Highlights Facsimile Auto Parallel #591 Joe Thornton (print run: 100)

Purchase price: About $10

On November 30, 2005, San Jose Sharks history changed when they acquired Thornton from Boston for, according to the back of this card, “three players.”

And no disrespect to Marco Sturm, Brad Stuart, and Wayne Primeau — and their distinguished careers — but they were just guys compared to San Jose’s first true superstar.

To underscore Thornton’s offensive impact — and points aren’t everything — but Sturm, Stuart, and Primeau combined to score 454 points in their remaining 23 NHL seasons after the trade. Thornton eclipsed that figure by himself within five seasons in San Jose.

There’s a base version of the card shown without the Facsimile Auto that goes for about $1.

The Hart

Card shown: 2019-20 Upper Deck Ultimate Collection Ultimate Icons Autograph Jersey #UIA-JT (print run: 65)

Purchase price: About $25

Thornton went on a tear after the trade, putting up 72 assists in 58 games, good for a total of 96 assists.

Per Hockey Reference’s adjusted-by-era stats — those 92 adjusted assists put Thornton in rarified company.

Just five players have registered 90-plus adjusted assists in a season. Three of them are named Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, and Bobby Orr. Jaromir Jagr also achieved this feat with 94 adjusted assists in 1998-99. Along with Gretzky and Orr, Thornton is the only player to surpass this lofty figure twice (92 again in 2006-07).

Per adjusted (and unadjusted) assists, Thornton’s 2005-06 still stands as the more prolific playmaking season of this millennium.

For his efforts, Thornton became the first San Jose Sharks player to win the Hart Trophy.

The card shown depicts Jumbo with both the Hart and Art Ross trophies. There are numerous versions of this card, some unautographed, some autographed with a patch jersey swatch.

The Decade

Card shown: 2010-11 Panini Dominion All Decade Autograph Jersey #JT (print run: 50)

Purchase price: About $20

Thornton has a good argument for the best center of the 2000’s.

His 823 points and 580 assists topped the entire league during the decade. His 580 helpers were 133 more than runner-ups Daniel Alfredsson and Brad Richards.

The card shown also has different versions, some with just a jersey swatch and some with just an autograph.

The Celebration

Card shown: 2011-12 Panini Pinnacle #119

Purchase price: About $1

For all his regular season exploits, however, the early part of Thornton’s career in San Jose was marred by playoff disappointment after playoff disappointment.

This began to change in 2010, when Thornton and Patrick Marleau finished off back-to-back Western Conference champs Detroit Red Wings in the second round, propelling the San Jose Sharks to their first Conference Finals appearance since 2004.

The next year, Thornton scored the only playoff overtime goal of his career (so far). This Game Six strike carried the Sharks past the Los Angeles Kings in the first round and prompted the iconic celebration depicted on this card. San Jose would advance to the Western Conference Finals once again.

Jumbo & Patty

Card shown: 2010-11 Playoff Contenders Draft Tandems Autograph #12 Patrick Marleau/Joe Thornton (print run: 25)

Purchase price: About $50

Speaking of Marleau, he and Thornton were intertwined in so many ways: Back-to-back opening selections of the 1997 NHL Draft, San Jose Sharks teammates for 13 seasons and 1,111 regular season and playoff games….

In perhaps fitting bookends, Marleau played 58 games with Thornton in 2005-06 after the trade…then Thornton played 58 games with Marleau in 2019-20 before Patty was dealt at the Trade Deadline.

There’s a base unautographed version of the card shown that can be had for about $1.

The Cock

Card shown: 2013-14 Panini National Treasures Knights in the City Materials Prime #KN-TH Joe Thornton/Tomas Hertl (print run: 25)

Purchase price: About $20

“I’d have my cock out if I scored four goals. I’d have my cock out, stroking it.”

That’s what Thornton interjected in the locker room after he heard the media questioning whether or not 18-year-old Tomas Hertl’s fourth goal on October 8, 2013 — a between-the-legs spectacular — should be considered showboating.

Since there isn’t a trio card depicting Jumbo, Tommy, and a chicken, this card — from Hertl’s rookie year — will do. There’s also a more inexpensive version of the card shown, serial numbered to 99.

The Final

Card shown: 2016-17 SP Authentic Authentic Moments Spectrum Autograph #104

Purchase price: About $60

After the 2014-15 San Jose Sharks missed the playoffs, most observers figured their window for contention had closed — and without a Finals appearance for Thornton and Marleau.

Wrong!

And while the Sharks weren’t able to hoist the Cup, reaching the 2016 Stanley Cup Final is still the crowning achievement of the franchise’s history.

There’s also an unautographed version of this card that goes for about $2.

The Beard

Card shown: 2019-20 SP Authentic Sign of the Times 2 Autograph ST2-BT Brent Burns/Joe Thornton (print run: 25)

Purchase price: About $75

Thornton built so many lasting relationships on the San Jose Sharks, it’s hard to pick out just a few. Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture, Dan Boyle, Evgeni Nabokov, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and Jonathan Cheechoo are among the luminaries that will only get a mention here.

But from walking shirtless in Pittsburgh, barber shop commercials, and posing naked together in ESPN’s The Body Issue, Thornton and his beard buddy Brent Burns became inseparable in the public consciousness.

The Milestones

The last few seasons of Thornton’s tenure in San Jose was the march of passing one milestone after another. Here’s a cardboard celebration of a few of these moments.

On March 6, 2017, Thornton became the 13th player in league history to reach 1,000 assists.

Card shown: 2017-18 O-Pee-Chee #556

Purchase price: About $1

On April 4, 2019, Thornton collected his 1,064th career assist, passing Steve Yzerman. Thornton wore No. 19 as a tribute to his childhood idol.

Card shown: 2018-19 Upper Deck Game Dated Moments #82

Purchase price: About $5

Thornton clocked 1,600 games played on December 12, 2019. In the process, he and Marleau became the first teammates, each with 1,600 games played, to suit up together in a game.

Card shown: 2019-20 Topps Now NHL Stickers #94 Joe Thornton/Patrick Marleau

Purchase price: About $3

On February 4, 2020, Thornton became the 14th player in NHL history to record 1,500 points.

Card shown: 2019-20 Upper Deck Game Dated Moments #49

Purchase price: About $5

Thornton leaves San Jose with a career 1,636 games, 420 goals, 1,089 assists, and 1,509 points.

Next up for the future Hall of Famer? Dave Andreychuk’s 1,639 games for eighth place in all-time games, Paul Coffey’s 1,135 assists for sixth place in all-time assists, and Coffey’s 1,531 points for 13th in all-time points. And hopefully, a Stanley Cup.

Here’s to more Jumbo-sized historic achievements in Toronto!

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Hockey History

Mark Letestu & Mark Morris on John Madden the Coach

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Everybody knows about John Madden the player.

And why shouldn’t they?

Three-time Stanley Cup champion. 2001 Selke Trophy winner. Three-time Selke runner-up.

But not everybody knows about Madden the coach. Madden was an assistant coach on Kevin Dineen and Gerard Gallant’s staffs with the Florida Panthers from 2013-16. Madden took over as a head coach for the Cleveland Monsters from 2016-19.

Last week, Madden was announced as an assistant coach for the San Jose Sharks. As he did in Florida, he’ll be running the forwards and the penalty kill.

San Jose Hockey Now got some perspective about Madden’s time in Florida and Cleveland from fellow assistant coach Mark Morris and player Mark Letestu.

Florida

In 2014-15, Mark Morris worked with Madden in Florida. The Panthers weren’t remarkable on the PK during Madden’s tenure — they finished 30th, 24th, and 24th from 2013-16 — but perhaps Florida’s roster was made up of perhaps too many offensive-leaning players, a mix of too young and too old.

“You do the best with the people you have on the roster. It’s hard to say if there were any stalwart defensively-minded players,” Morris recalled. “Even if they’re veteran players, there’s no guarantee their forte is the defensive side of the puck.”

Morris, a preps/NCAA/AHL/NHL coaching veteran of 27 years by the time he settled in Florida, was impressed by Madden’s PK coaching acumen:

“In the college game, most of the penalty killing is in straight lines. In the pro game, they do what they call a trap-down. That’s where once you get the puck moving in a specific direction, if you’re the forward that’s forcing the play up top, you continue on down and press down on the guy on the half-boards.

“I remember one of the things he talked about was when you press down as the strong-side forward on the guy at the half-wall, keep your stick in a neutral position. That way, you’re eating up ice, as opposed to just keeping your stick in the passing lane

“Guys at the NHL are so skilled, it’s nothing to flip it over a stick.

“When you lead with your stick in the middle, it’s almost like you have to thread a needle to get it back up to guy at top.

“If you’re the guy on the half-wall with the puck, you have that stick in front of you, eating that ice up.

“It opened my eyes up to how intricate and detailed things are in his own mind.”

Cleveland

Mark Letestu was 34 when he played for Madden in Cleveland during 2018-19.

The first thing that Letestu noticed about Madden?

“The Stanley Cups. For a while, he was probably the gold standard in the NHL for a defensive, shutdown penalty kill guy,” he said. “It’s instant respect in the room.”

This might matter for a veteran-laden San Jose Sharks group. Something else that might matter to vets like Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Logan Couture, Evander Kane, Erik Karlsson, Brent Burns, and Marc-Edouard Vlasic is Madden’s ability to connect with them.

“For me, just where I was in my career, he was an easy guy to have a conversation with. Share stories. Faceoff stuff. Penalty killing,” Letestu remembered. “He knew how to handle a veteran presence in the room.”

So what’s in store for the league-leading San Jose Sharks PK?

“I don’t think, when you get a new penalty kill coach, that there will be a ground-breaking system or a new scheme that’s going to change your team significantly,” Letestu pointed out. “But what I found with John, in the penalty-killing meetings we had, it was really clear. There wasn’t a lot of gray area. It took a lot of the guesswork out for players.”

The result?

“The hesitation suddenly leaves your game. Your PK and your players are suddenly faster because there’s no gray area,” Letestu observed. “He helped the players get the noise out and just react instead of thinking out there.”

For what it’s worth, Cleveland was 3rd, 26th, and 7th in the AHL in the PK during Madden’s tenure. Letestu gave Madden a lionshare of the credit for the success of the 2018-19 Monsters, who made the playoffs during the last game of the season, then knocked off top-seeded Syracuse Crunch in the first round.

Letestu acknowledged: “He got the most out of our team. We probably overachieved.”

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