San Jose Sharks maintain large group of NCAA prospects

By Craig Fischer

Sean Kuraly - Miami (Ohio) University RedHawks

Photo: Sean Kuraly had a breakout sophomore season for Miami in 2013-14, finishing third on the team with 29 points in 38 games (courtesy of Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images)

In recent years, the San Jose Sharks have become big-time players in the NCAA. Not only have they been victors in the free agent signing frenzy for the past few seasons, adding significant pieces to their prospect pool, but they seem to be drafting an increased number of young players choosing to take the college route for their developmental needs, especially in the later rounds of the draft.

While Europe is not as heavily scouted for the Sharks, the Sharks do have players in those leagues as well. And while not marquee players, prospects none-the-less. Both Europe and the NCAA have been huge for the Sharks in recent years, as two of the most recent graduates, and big time contributors to the Sharks playoff run this spring, Tomas Hertl and Matt Nieto, are graduates from these groupings. Given the talent on this current list, there is no reason why this trend will not continue.

Europe

Fredrik Bergvik, G, Frolunda (SHL)
Drafted 4th round, 117th overall, 2013

Bergvik is one of the best young technical goaltenders not playing in North America. He plays the butterfly position very strongly, and is hardly ever out of position. It typically took an awkward bounce or an odd-man rush to beat him in the Swedish junior league. And while his statistics took a noticeable dive this season in comparison to his very strong numbers last year, he had a very solid season by all accounts. In fact, it was good enough to be called up to the SHL, where his inexperience showed, but he still impressed given his age. Bergvik will likely play all of next season in the SHL, and could potentially battle for a starting job by mid-season, especially if he improves upon his rebound control, which got a bit sloppy near the end of the season.

Emil Galimov, LW, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl (KHL)
Drafted 7th round, 207th overall, 2013

Emil Galimov played decent, if not underwhelming, in his KHL season. He was used primarily as a secondary scoring option for Lokomotiv Yaorslavl, and showed considerable poise with the puck on occasion. However, he never really found any chemistry with his linemates, and it showed. Twelve points in 43 games might sound pretty unimpressive, but Galimov showed considerable skill that could easily translate to the North American game—he does not play a prototypical Russian styled game as one might expect and tries to grind out goals. He did fall into a bit of a young Russian player trap though, where he was not always playing to the best of his ability and there were an increasing amount of shifts where he just gave up on the play. Galimov has tremendous offensive skill, and when he wants to he can be, an average defender, but he still needs a lot of work and should be considered a long-term project.

Petter Emanuelsson, LW, Skelleftea (SHL)
Free agent signing, 2013

Emanuelsson began the year by deciding he would rather stay in Europe and play in the SHL after the Sharks chose to sign him as a free agent. The move did not pan out for the hard working forechecker. Instead of finding his groove on Worcester, he chose to play for Skelleftea where he was relegated to third and fourth line duty. His stock vastly reduced. He effectively wallowed away in Sweden picking up 15 garbage points, when he could have been competing for a meaningful role in the AHL. It is possible to see Emanuelsson make the move to the AHL next year but chances are even with a huge turnover in roster players there as expected, he might not actually crack the team.

NCAA

Dan O’Regan, C, Boston University (Hockey East)
Drafted 5th round, 138th overall, 2012

Sometimes a player’s success can be dramatically influenced by a coaching staff. This was evident after David Quinn took over the Boston University head coach job from hockey legend Jack Parker. Dan O’Regan struggled mightily under the new regime. As a freshman, O’Regan scored 38 points, this season he notched a mere 22. More discouraging was how bad the young forward looked on the back-check, he completely regressed, dropping to a minus-19 compared to plus-2 as a freshman. The issues O’Regan built up carried with him to the 2014 World Junior Championships, and although suffering from an injury, O’Regan looked noticeably different than when he shined during training camp in the summer. In fact, he fell from the top line role for Team USA by mid-tournament and never found his way back. Given his success from last season, and the fact that O’Regan’s game does not seem to be work in Quinn’s system, O’Regan could leave Boston University before next season.

Colin Blackwell, C, Harvard University (ECAC)
Drafted 7th round, 194th overall, 2011

Unfortunately, Blackwell did not play a single game this season, as he continues to battle post-concussion syndrome from a hit during the 2012-13 season. The Crimson junior hopes to play with Harvard next year.

Cody Ferriero, C, Northeastern University (Hockey East)
Drafted 5th round, 127th overall, 2010

Like Blackwell, Ferriero’s season was plagued by concussion issues. The Northeastern University senior, managed to play only half of the year. In that time he registered eight points in 19 games, a decline from his pace the previous two seasons. Ferriero’s game changed a bit this year, and he found himself playing more of a hard-hitting role than in previous seasons. Given his skill set, if he is to be signed by the Sharks it will likely be in an intended checking role.

Sean Kuraly, C, Miami (Ohio) University (NCHC)
Drafted 5th round, 133rd overall, 2011

After a disappointing freshman season with the Miami of Ohio University RedHawks, Kuraly bounced back onto the scene in a big way this season. Amassing 29 points in 38 games, Kuraly more than doubled his first year numbers. The increase in numbers came because of two key elements, the first was that Kuraly became one of the major pieces on the team after a number of seniors graduated, and the second was that Kuraly worked tirelessly on his shot throughout the year and capitalized on scoring plays he was missing the year prior. The big, strong two-way forward, has a chance at improving again next season, but he will have to ensure he does not get pigeon-holed into a checking role like he did in year one for the RedHawks.

Michael Brodzinski, D, University of Minnesota (Big Ten)
Drafted 5th round, 141st overall, 2013

Brodzinski’s season had its ups and downs; he faced injuries, benchings, scored multi-point games, dazzled crowds, and was even a healthy scratch on numerous occasions. But one thing is for certain, the changes Mike Guentzel of the University of Minnesota is trying to instill in his young defenseman were game-changing. Brodzinski entered the year as a flashy, offense-first mobile defenseman, and he finished his first season in the Frozen Four final as one of the most dependable and well-rounded defensemen on the ice. He still has game-breaking ability, but he is not giving up the same kind of chances anymore due to poor decision making. Even with a defense-first mentality, Brodzinski’s 13 points in 26 games came at a pace higher than Brady Skjei (NYR) a first round talent and two-way defenseman in his own right. Brodzinski could be a really specially player. He is a few years away from making it to the NHL, and he needs a lot of work, but he has the skill set to be a Shark.

Cliff Watson, D, Michigan Tech University (WCHA)
Drafted 6th round, 168th overall, 2012

Cliff Watson, a late 1993 born player, began his college career this season with Michigan Tech, a school that was certainly looking to make some changes. Watson benefited from this greatly as he found himself inserted into the lineup 40 times—a solid number for a freshman. Watson only put up four assists in those contests. Much of this problem relates to how this player has yet to translate his game to the next level, something he has yet to do since high-school hockey where he was cast more as an offensive defenseman. Watson is mobile, and he is going to get a big opportunity and role next year with Michigan, and given his skill set, and decent left hand shot, he is poised for a breakout season.

Joakim Ryan, D, Cornell University (ECAC)
Drafted 7th round, 198th overall, 2012

The two-way defenseman from Rumson, New Jersey playing big minutes for Cornell is a showstopper. He is typically one of the smaller players on the ice, let alone on defense, and yet because of his strong hockey sense and fantastic skating ability (especially backwards), he is able to compete with much bigger players and defend well beyond his size. The third year collegiate star bettered last year’s statistics by one point with eight goals and 16 assists for 24 points in 32 games. As strong as he is away from the puck (he is one of the smartest shot blockers in the NCAA), he is a force to be reckoned with on the power play. He is a strong passer with a great wrister and slap shot. Next year will be a big year for Ryan. If he can show he has more to his game than being a power-play specialist, especially against big strong offensive players who crash the net, he will continue to progress forward in his search to become an NHL player.

Isaac MacLeod, D, Boston College (Hockey East)
Drafted 5th round, 136th overall, 2010

The big 6’5’’ MacLeod finished off a solid collegiate career this season with Boston College, playing an integral part of the team’s Frozen Four success. The defender has never been known for his offensive power, and this year was no differently, but considerable work on his shot over the summer contributed to a career year in points with 11, all assists. Many of those came from deflected shots from the point or rebounds from his low-to-the-ice howitzer. The senior and assistant captain, was relied upon heavily and played big minutes down the stretch for the Eagles. He will look to garner a contract from the Sharks this offseason and if he does, he will most certainly compete for a roster spot with the Sharks AHL affiliate.

Gage Ausmus, D, University of North Dakota (NCHC)
Drafted 5th round, 151st overall, 2013

Ausmus, or Oz as his teammates call him, is as steady as they come. He is a quintessential stay-at-home blueliner. The defenceman logged adequate minutes for a freshman at the University of North Dakota, but was used primarily as a platoon player. The 6’2’’ Minnesota native struggled a bit out of the gate, especially on harder assignments, but by the new year he looked much more confident in his own end. Ausmus’ game as it stands is very one dimensional, and his offense has not yet broken through. He amassed three points in 21 games, but his priority, especially as a freshman was to earn his coaches’ and teammates’ trust—and he did that. Going forward, it is going to be difficult for Ausmus to really breakthrough given the makeup of this young UND lineup. With three other freshman defensemen in the mix, all of whom currently sit higher on the depth chart, it could be a challenge for him to really make a name for himself in 2014-15.