SAN JOSE – The Sharks say they feel good about the defensemen they’ve produced in recent years, a crop that includes Ryan Merkle, Artemi Niyazev and Sentry Hatakka.
The same goes for the late-picked forwards, with Thomas Bordeleau and Ozzy Wiesblatt one of their top prospects.
Neither of those players will be up to the mark with the Sharks being the seventh overall pick in the first round of this year’s NHL Draft starting Friday.
“One player isn’t going to change your team’s fortunes in one fell swoop,” said TSN hockey analyst Craig Button, “but they are instrumental in moving forward to make sure you’re not in this spot on an ongoing basis.”
After their worst season in points-percentage in nearly a quarter-century, the Sharks have the opportunity to draft a cornerstone-type player with their first-round selection. The only question is whether they go with the forward, the defenseman or the goalkeeper.
The Sharks, for now, own a third-round pick, two fourth- and fifth-round picks, and a sixth- and seventh-rounder.
“Doug Wilson has been doing this for a long time and he’s got a lot of likes,” said Brian Lawton, NHL Network analyst and original Sharks. “But it may be more important than ever.”
The Sharks have not drafted seventh overall since 2003, when they had the No. 6 pick and carried Milan Michalek from the Czech Republic. But this is only the fourth time in the past 20 years that San Jose has been voted into the top 10, the others being in 2005 (Devin Setoguchi, eighth overall), 2007 (Logan Couture, ninth) and Timo Meier (2015, ninth).
All those players needed at least two years after being drafted before they were ready to play in the NHL full-time. It may be the case that any shark chooses number 7 overall.
Doug Wilson Jr. said, “Usually when we’re lifting so low, you’re expecting someone to fall on you, as opposed to being in a position where we actually pick the player who fits.” Is.” Shark Director of Scouting. “So I wouldn’t say we’re specifically looking for a player who can help us as quickly as possible, we’re just looking for the best player available.”
7 for a defenseman Sharks, as they drafted nine forwards last season, including Wiesblatt in the first round and Bordeleau in the second.
— Canadian Hockey League (@CHLHockey) 22 July 2021
Merkle, who turned 21 on August 14, spent a year in his first full season of professional hockey with 11 points from 31 games. Hataka, a defensive defender, finished a solid year with SM-Liga’s Ilwes in Finland, and Niyazev played well for Russia at the World Junior Championships this past winter. Both players, now 20, were drawn in 2019.
But it is difficult to project whether any of these defense personnel will be ready for the NHL, if ever. Getting a blueliner at number 7, such as Simon Edwinson, Luke Hughes or Brandt Clark, would give the Sharks a player that is definitely higher.
Button said that the potential that Merkle, Hatakka and Niyazev have, “I don’t think it’s anywhere near what Brandt Clark, Luke Hughes or Simon Edwinson have. So I think it’s a good way to build that area of your potential pool.” There’s a real opportunity.”
The top defender available in the draft is Michigan’s Owen Power, who is expected to go first to the Buffalo Sabers. After that, the next best crop of defense personnel can go anywhere between 2nd and 10th.
Among the potential prospects for sharks are Hughes and Clark.
Hughes is a Michigan commit and is the younger brother of Quinn and Jack Hughes, who were first-round selections by Vancouver and New Jersey in 2018 and 2019, respectively. At 6-foot-2, Luke Hughes is older than his brothers, but skates just as well.
Clarke played most of the previous season in Slovakia after the OHL did not resume due to COVID-19 restrictions in Ontario, Canada. Also at 6-2, Clark’s strength is his hockey sense and ability to play, although he is not as comfortable a skater as Hughes.
Lawton sees Hughes, who turns 18 on September 9. As fit for shark at number 7.
“He is one of the youngest players in the draft and has a lot of potential ahead of him,” said Lawton.
“I don’t think we bow down in any way,” Wilson Jr. was asked about taking a rescue team after last year’s draft. “I think we have a strict filter that we go for, and we just stick to that.”
The Sharks have not drafted a goalkeeper since taking on Zachary Amond in the sixth round in 2018. Sweden’s Jesper Valstad is considered to have goalkeeper-type ability and is projected to go somewhere in the top half of the first round, possibly as high as the first five.
Can sharks go in that direction? Right now, it doesn’t seem so, as Sharks assistant GM Tim Burke said this week that addressing the situation through a draft is “not a priority.”
This further leaves the collection available, and there are few dandies.
Michigan center Matty Beniers will likely move from No. 7, but his teammate, Kent Johnson – perhaps the most attractive forward in the draft – should be there.
Other forwards moving into the top 10 include wingers Dylan Gunther and William Eklund and centers Mason McTavish and Chaz Lucius.
Whoever the Sharks choose will automatically become the team’s top prospect.
“There are going to be important players available for the San Jose Sharks on the No. 7 pick,” Button said. “They will have a choice in goaltender, they will have a defenseman option, and they will have a forward option.”
“I don’t think it’s a crapshoot,” said Wilson Jr. “I think we have some really good players in our range, and we’re just trying to figure out what order they’re going in, so we have our options.”