The San Jose Sharks have Konrad Abeltshauser penciled in with the Halifax Mooseheads next season.
Abeltshauser, who signed a three-year entry-level contract with San Jose in April, initially appeared earmarked for one of the Sharks’ minor-league affiliates, but returning to junior as a 20-year-old over-ager is now a more likely scenario.
“It’s a lot better for him to come in and be ‘the guy’ there than to be sitting around at the pro level and not playing and not developing,” said Sharks director of hockey operations Joe Will.
Asked to put a percentage on the chances of Abeltshauser returning to Halifax for a fourth season, Will declined, but said it’s “a very good percentage he’ll go back.”
Although the six-foot-five 217-pounder’s return would create an over-age surplus for the Mooseheads, he’d significantly bolster their defence corps. He was named the club’s top blueliner in 2011-12, finishing ninth in QMJHL defence scoring with eight goals and 36 assists for 44 points in 57 games.
The Sharks also returned forward Ryane Clowe to the QMJHL as an over-ager in 2002-03 and Will cited that as an example of how playing one more year of junior would benefit Abeltshauser.
“It was absolutely the right move,” Will said of Clowe, who went on to become a fixture in San Jose’s lineup.
Will emphasized that Abeltshauser will be given every opportunity to earn a job at a higher level and the Sharks won’t hold him back if he makes a big enough impression.
Defenceman Marc-Edouard Vlasic, for example, cracked San Jose’s roster as a 19-year-old.
“He came in, he knocked our socks off, and we had to keep him with the Sharks and he never really looked back,” Will said. “But that’s really the exception.”
Will said Abeltshauser exceeded the Sharks’ expectations last season and that he’s been on an upward trend since being drafted in the sixth round (163rd overall) in 2010.
“They played him unconditionally in the regular season and playoffs and it really just kept getting better for him,” Will said.
It doesn’t hurt that the Mooseheads are expected to contend for a QMJHL championship and a Memorial Cup.
“If we were worried about the club, if we didn’t expect the club to do well, if we didn’t know the people running it, if we thought it was an iffy franchise, we might be looking at it totally different,” Will said. “But we’re very comfortable.”
Follow the coverage of beat reporter Matthew Wuest at the QMJHL draft in Quebec City on Friday and Saturday. His updates will be available on metronews.ca/sports or on Twitter by following @metroqfiles.