Coming into the 2014 NHL Draft in Philadelphia, General Manager Doug Wilson and the San Jose Sharks were making substantial noise and looked to be on the precipice of a big change, a monumental rebuild of sorts that would alter the culture and look of the Sharks for years to come. Instead of a loud boom, in typical Sharks fashion, the 2014 draft quietly ushered in a new age for the San Jose organization.
By all accounts, the Sharks had a very strong draft. The team selected eight players total, including three European born players in the first two rounds. Bringing in strong character prospects, with great hockey sense was a mandated priority as it had been for a number of seasons now. But it became apparent right from the first pick, that the Sharks were looking to do things just a little bit differently than they had in the past by selecting players from nationalities they haven’t been notorious for scouting, and going after high-risk offensively gifted players early in the draft.
One of four players the Sharks were targeting in the first round, Nikolay Goldobin is young dynamic hockey player that loves to score, and he loves to have the puck on his stick in big game situations. Offensively brilliant, Goldobin has a tremendous toolkit. He is strong for his size, he has very good vision, an ample puck possession game, great passing ability, and his shot is quick enough to fool NHL-caliber goalies. These skills translated well in the OHL where he finished second in points among 2014 eligible prospects with 94 points (38 goals and 56 assists, just one point fewer than the Islanders’ fifth overall pick Michael Dal Colle). Even with the solid numbers in Sarnia, it is easy to imagine the future being even brighter. Goldobin’s production was probably a bit stunted due to a lack of a supporting cast on the league’s worst team.
Defensively, Goldobin needs a lot of work. Some of it has to do with his skating, an area that many Sharks prospects struggle with, but most of it has to do with effort. He was a black hole of sorts in his own end with a plus/minus rating of minus-30. Like a lot of young Russian players, his primary focus is offense. When the opposition has the puck he seems very disinterested, and often gives up really easy assignments. He is not known for putting his body on the line either. That being said, recent prospect graduate Matt Nieto, was not that strong in his own end on draft day, but he developed into a very decent two-player.
Goldobin is still probably a few seasons away from legitimately making the team and will likely remain in Sarnia, but with a severe lack of offensive-minded forwards in the prospect pool, he could easily rocket up the depth charts.
Not afraid to make a move to get the player they want, the Sharks moved up five slots in the second round to select Julius Bergman, a strong skating, offensive-minded defenseman from Sweden. The way Bergman plays is actually very reminiscent of last year’s first round pick, Mirco Mueller. There are a lot of similarities. Both players have incredible spatial awareness, and are rarely caught out of position, and more often than not, they make very low-risk plays. They are incredibly heady players. Both skate well, and have the ability to lay big hits but tend to shy away from the rough stuff. While Bergman is not quite on the same level as Mueller, he does have another gear when it comes to offense that Mueller just has not been able to display. Bergman led all defenseman on his Swedish junior team in points, and showed an above average ability to jump up in the play and create offense. For a team severely lacking in defensemen that can play the left side, this pick certainly fills a need in the organization.
Ready to make the move to the SHL next season, Bergman will continue his developmental climb against men. While his minutes might take a dive, building strength will be a key focus. His real test will be if he can crack the U-20 lineup in December.
Noah Rod is very much the quintessential Doug Wilson/Tim Burke pick. He is a strong, gritty, two-way forward that possesses a lot of character and a lot of heart. What he lacks in offensive upside, he makes up for in defensive reliability and board play. He plays a really strong, dump and chase game, and he proved in 28 games last season in the NLA, that he could handle the rigors of such a style against men.
Rod’s biggest asset, and perhaps the reason why the Sharks elected to reach for the young Swiss forward, is his ability to be a grade ‘A’ shift disturber. Think of Dallas’ Ryan Garbutt–he will not wow you on the score sheet, but he will be one of those players that fans and the opposition really remembers. He will bang and bash, he will chirp, he will whack, and jab. He is one of those players that realizes games can be impacted in other ways besides scoring goals. That is a big part of Noah Rod’s game; he is willing to do whatever it takes to get his team the win.
Schoenborn is another player that understands what it takes to win. Having played with the Portland Winterhawks for one full season now, and being around two Memorial Cups (he only played in one), Alex Schoenborn has firsthand experience in not only playing in the big games, but winning them, too.
The 6’1” tall right wing brings a lot of grit, truculence, and passion to the ice and projects to fill more of a bottom-six role. Schoenborn is a warrior in many respects, and he is one of the few Sharks prospects in recent memory that can hold his own in a fight.
While he potted 18 goals last year (and 18 assists for 36 points) his offensive flashes are few and far between and he should not be looked at as a scoring winger at the professional level. The upcoming departure of some bigger name players on the Winterhawks should get Schoenborn some more ice time next season. He should continue to improve upon his offensive totals, but this is a player that was drafted more on the potential of what he can do away from the puck than with it.
Dylan Sadowy, LW, Saginaw Spirit (OHL)
3rd round, 81st overall
Height: 6-1 Weight: 180
Dylan Sadowy is a slow-skating forward with a penchant for knocking the puck into the net. He was one of the best athletes in the entire draft and showcased his strength and conditioning at the NHL combine in May where he dominated practically every test. Sadowy’s commitment to fitness allowed him to rise up the rankings from almost unknown status.
Sadowy plays a two-way game, with an offensive toolkit that is more hustle than flash. Many of his 27 goals this season came from simply out working the opposition in the dirty parts of the ice. Again, his athleticism and strength were key.
The 6’1” forward, has a lot of room to grow with a very projectable frame. Already a physical specimen, he looks like he could easily put on another 20 pounds and it is this potential that really makes this an alluring pick. While Sadowy might not every be a star, he could be a very good complementary top-nine player, especially if he continues his meteoric rise. Coming off a two-goal season the year before, the 2013-14 season showed he finally gets it. It will be a big season next year in Saginaw of the OHL to see how much higher this player can climb.
Sadowy met with the media following his selection by the Sharks, with some of his comments being captured in this HF video.
Alexis Vanier is a beast. He was one of the heaviest players in the draft, and at 6’5’’ and 225 pounds, it is hard to believe but the 18-year-old man-child is still growing, and projects to be even bigger, and even stronger. Not particularly fleet of foot, Vanier uses his brute force to bully opposition, and clear pathways in front of his own net.
Playing with an injury for half of the year really hampered his play, but Vanier showed an above average ability to score, and used his big booming shot very effectively on the power play. The teammate of fellow Sharks prospect, Gabryel Boudreau, Vanier projects to be a fifth or sixth defenseman, with power play potential if his shot can continue to improve.
Sharks fans might be apprehensive about the comparison, but Vanier looks like a younger, offensively charged Nick Petrecki. Like with Petrecki, Vanier is going to have to prove that he has the hockey sense to go along with his impressive skillset, as that has been one of the knocks on the young man. He also has to tirelessly work on his skating, because it is below average, and at a higher level, he will not be able to keep up no matter how big he gets.
Rourke Chartier, C, Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
5th round, 149th overall
Height: 6-1 Weight: 180
Chartier is a skilled forward coming off an incredible second half in the WHL where he scored 49 points in his last 47 games for the Kelowna rockets. If he had that pace for the entire season, he would have been in the same point range as first round pick Nikita Scherbak (MTL). Chartier has always had a decent skillset, as he was drafted in the first round of the WHL draft, but this season his shot and more specifically his aim has really improved, and he really came into his own.
The Saskatchewan native, has great defensive instincts, plays in all situations, and can be counted on to win key draws. He seemed to really gain his coaches favor after Christmas, and started to bring his game to an entirely different level than scouts had him pegged for at the start of the season.
Chartier comes from a solid pedigree, both by blood (his father played for the Canadian national team) and by coaching coming from the NHL factory in Kelowna. He will need to work on his strength, and show consistency in his offensive game, but he will have a number of years to work on these things.
Kevin Labanc, RW, Barrie Colts (OHL)
6th round, 171st overall
Height: 5-10 Weight: 186
With the team’s last pick in the 2014 draft, the Sharks selected Kevin Labanc. Labanc is a player who might have unfairly been tagged as a lunch bucket type of player. This is likely because of his commitment to not only winning, but being a professional hockey player. While he does have some blue-collar qualities, and battles for loose pucks with the best of them, he projects more of a top-nine forward with grit. He has average skating skill, with a nice easy stride, and shoots the puck well, but he lacks the high-end skill to really make him an offensive force. He looks best when he is not pressured, and there are times when he is pressured when he looks extremely rattled and often makes poor mistakes. This is a player who could really struggle at the professional level if this is not dealt with appropriately.
A skilled shot blocker, Labanc had a little bit of a hard time adjusting to the speed of the OHL game, but by season’s end looked more confident along the wing. Not particularly light, Labanc, like most young players, is going to need to strengthen up if he wants to continue his trajectory.