Name: Mike Rathje
Born: 5/11/74 in Manville, Alberta
Drafted: 1st Round (3rd overall) by the Sharks in 1992
Nickname: "Rat", "Gentle Giant"
The Finesse Game
A stay-at-home defenseman, Rathje is a cornerstone for San Jose's new and improved defense. He has become more effective as he has learned to make good use of his reach to eliminate more of the ice. He was probably the Sharks' most consistent defenseman. Rathje has the ability to get involved in the attack but is prized primarily for his defense. He helps get the puck out of the zone quickly. He can either carry the puck out and make a smart headman pass, then follow the play, or make the safe move and chip the puck out along the wall. Rathje has great poise for a young player. He will probably have to be paired with a more offensive defenseman, as he was last season with Andrei Zyuzin, though he does a nice job on the right point on the power play. He combines his lateral mobility with a good low shot to get the puck on the net without being blocked. He has to improve his defensive reads, but that should come with experience. He kills penalties and he has great feet, which allows him to cover the skill players.
The Physical Game
Rathje has good size and he's adding more muscle. He's only 24, and has built himself up to about six five and 220 pounds. What Rathje has to learn is controlled aggression. He has a tendency to try to do too much (a happier problem than the reverse). He has a little bit of mean in him, and he likes to hit, but he doesn't eliminate as well as he should; he has to concentrate on the takeout instead of the knockout. He has unbelievable strength and good mobility for his size. His penalty minutes look low but he plays hard.
Rathje tends to be underrated because he took a backwards step after a big rookie season. He is one of the first players rival GMs ask for in a trade. They won't get him. He is the cornerstone of a rapidly improving San Jose defense.
Rathje is back on the fast track and will remain one of the Sharks' top two defensemen. He can get 20 points and play against other teams' top forward lines.
SOURCE: HOCKEY SCOUTING REPORT