The San Jose Sharks offseason has been met with a great deal of criticism. Much has been said about general manager Doug Wilson and his idea of a rebuild. His self-described “tomorrow team” looks surprisingly similar to yesterday’s team. That is, until you look at all of the changes that happened within the prospect ranks.
The Sharks prospect pool is strikingly different than it was at the start of the 2013-14 season. The Fall 2014 Top 20 list features an unprecedented seven new faces after graduating several players. The list features an incredibly young cast, but with this lack of age comes one of the deepest prospect pools the Sharks have had in almost a decade. The depth, on defense in particular, is outstanding, and there are prospects with a legitimate chance to play in the NHL.
1. (1) Tomas Hertl, C, 8.0B
Drafted 1st round, 17th overall, 2012
Tomas Hertl is not only the Sharks top prospect, but he is arguably one of the best young players in the game right now. Hampered by injuries in his rookie year, Hertl enters the 2014-15 season as a top-line player for San Jose and known commodity. The league knows what to expect from the young Czech; he won’t be surprising anyone. He will no doubt be one of the main assignments top pairing defenders target throughout the year. How he responds to this attention could be very telling of how high his star will rise.
2. (2) Chris Tierney, C, 7.5C
Drafted 2nd round, 55th overall, 2012
Chris Tierney plays in all situations and in a multitude of roles. Once thought to be a shutdown specialist, the last year and a half of play at the OHL level, have given rise to the belief that there is considerably more offense in his game than first imagined. A strong skater, Tierney has tremendous hockey IQ and could conceivably play anywhere in the lineup. His first professional season will be a solid test for the young centerman, but if he can continue to dominate the opposition as he has in junior the Sharks just might have a future defensive specialist in their midst.
3. (3) Mirco Mueller, D, 7.5C
Drafted 1st round, 18th overall, 2013
Mirco Mueller is a smooth-skating shutdown defenseman who has had a difficult time finding his offensive game at the CHL level. Despite this inability to drive an offense, he is an impactful defenseman who plays a very strong possession game.
Mueller has all the defensive skills and smarts to one day be a top-four defenseman in the NHL, and he could very well make the Sharks’ NHL roster this season with a strong training camp performance. However, if last season’s stint in the AHL was any indication of where he is at in his development, it’s unlikely he’ll get more than a few games of NHL action in 2014-15.
4. (NR) Nikolay Goldobin, RW, 7.5C
Drafted 1st round, 27th overall, 2014
Touted as one of the most intelligent players in his draft class, Nikolay Goldobin is pure offense. Goldobin brings with him a swagger not traditionally found in Sharks players, but management made it clear that things would be different. The deceptively strong Russian forward could potentially break out of camp as a full time NHL player. He has the offensive abilities, particularly on the power play, for him to be on a scoring line if he impresses management, but it is his lack of defensive awareness and inability to stay with the puck that will likely keep him in Sarnia for the year.
5. (6) Dan O’Regan, C/W, 7.5D
Drafted 5th round, 138th overall, 2012
Dan O’Regan’s decision to return to Boston University for his junior year was an easy one. The undersized playmaking forward, had a demoralizing season in 2013-14. Unable to find his groove in David Quinn’s new system, O’Regan also found himself riddled with small injuries that plagued his play throughout the year, including at the World Junior Championship. Healthy, rejuvenated, and likely to be paired with one of the most highly touted prospects in all of hockey –Jack Eichel– Dan O’Regan stands to have a big season. Not only should playing with Eichel help the young Sharks prospect, but a permanent move to the wing could help his rise up the depth chart.
6. (7) Konrad Abeltshauser, D, 7.0C
Drafted 6th round, 163rd overall, 2010
A fan favorite in Worcester last season, Konrad Abeltshauser is one of a handful of young Sharks defenseman that could wind up in the NHL after San Jose breaks camp this fall. He played very well during the second half of the 2013-14 season. At 6’5, the German-born defender looks imposing, but he plays a very soft game. He uses his stick and speed more than his body which at times can be frustrating, but he does such a great job of moving the puck that much is forgiven. Not quite as dominant as he was in junior, Abeltshauser is adapting well to the professional game and while the chances of him starting the season with the Sharks are slim, it won’t be long until he’s an NHL regular.
7. (13) Michael Brodzinski, D, 7.0C
Drafted 5th round, 141st overall, 2013
Michael Brodzinski is easily the most offensive-minded defenseman in the San Jose system, Brodzinski uses his excellent speed and crafty puck-moving skills to carry the puck out of the zone to lead the rush. He has a very strong, low shot that is difficult to track, which makes Brodzinski a potential powerplay participant in the future. For all of Brodzinski’s skills with the puck, however, he is still learning how to play smart, two-way hockey. After a strong freshman season, Brodzinski looks capable of being a true force on the University of Minnesota blueline.
8. (4) Freddie Hamilton, C, 6.0B
Drafted 5th round, 129th overall, 2010
It is likely that the 2014-15 season will be the year that Freddie Hamilton loses his prospect status. For the past few seasons he has been close, though ultimately unable, to stick with the Sharks as a bottom of the lineup role player. Hamilton had a successful junior career and solid production last year with the Worcester Sharks, where he was easily the best forward. He is a shutdown forward who will earn his keep more so on his defensive acumen than with the points he will produce.
9. (NR) Julius Bergman, D, 7.0C
Drafted 2nd round, 46th overall, 2014
A second round draft pick from the 2014 NHL Draft, Julius Bergman is a strong two-way defenseman with high offensive potential and a willingness to play the body. He has a an above-average transition game, plays in all situations, and plays very intelligently away from the puck. The young Swede will come over to North America for the 2014-15 season, where he will play for the London Knights of the OHL. The organization looks to be excited about Bergman, as he quickly signed an entry-level contract just weeks after the draft.
10. (8) Dylan DeMelo, D, 7.0C
Drafted 6th round, 179th overall, 2011
For as long as Dylan DeMelo has been a part of the Sharks system, he has been buried behind a number of young, agile defensemen. Due to this, the smart puck-moving defenseman is often overlooked. Despite his heavy shot and his ability to make breakout passes he is far from memorable. DeMelo does not play a flashy game and often goes unnoticed because he does not do anything spectacular, but he also does not do anything poorly; he just plays the way his coaches ask him to. DeMelo has quietly found a place as one of the better defenseman in the San Jose system and could surprise some by getting a long look at training camp this fall. Do not be surprised if his development jumps past that of Matt Tennyson and Kondrad Abeltshauser in the coming year.
11. (12) Sean Kuraly, C, 6.0B
Drafted 5th round, 133rd overall, 2011
Sean Kuraly brings with him a strong two-way game and plays hard every single night in all situations. He has an average shot and blazing speed thanks in part to his quick acceleration. These skills have helped him become an above average player in the NCHC. After a couple of seasons in the organization, however, it looks as though the young RedHawk might not have much scoring upside after college, and he projects to be more of a role player in the professional leagues.
12. (NR) Noah Rod, C, 6.5C
Drafted 2nd round, 53rd overall, 2014
Noah Rod is a strong, gritty two-way forward who possesses an excellent work ethic, great character, and a willingness to win. What he lacks in offensive upside he makes up for in defensive reliability and good play along the boards. He plays an excellent dump-and-chase game thanks to his ability to break away from the opposition with his above average skating ability. The young Swiss-born forward is a fantastic shift-disturber, and has a propensity to get under his opposition’s skin. This singular skillset might be enough to leapfrog him up the organizational depth chart.
13. (20) Fredrick Bergvik, G, 6.5D
Drafted 4th round, 117th overall, 2013
Fredrick Bergvik stands the best chance out of the Sharks’ small pool of goaltenders to one day start for San Jose based on his age, opportunity and ceiling. The Swedish butterfly-style goaltender has recorded good statistics the past two seasons in the Swedish junior leagues and quietly started to garner attention. How he handles himself over the course of a full season in the SHL will help reveal Bergvik’s career potential, but as it stands he looks to have the talent to be a spot-starter in the NHL, though proper coaching and development could change that.
14. (15) Taylor Doherty, D, 6.0C
Drafted 2nd round, 57th overall, 2009
Every prospect pool seems to have one player with skill and size but very little hockey sense; for the Sharks, that player is Taylor Doherty. While he has grown into a much more serviceable defenseman over the years, Doherty is frustratingly inconsistent, and just as it seems like he’s turned a corner he falls back to where he started. This is a player with considerable potential given his skating, size, and long reach, so there remains a distinct possibility he could one day turn into at least an average NHL player. At this point, he is going to have to prove he can be reliable at the AHL level before playing in the NHL is within reach.
15. (NR) Alexis Vanier, D, 6.0C
Drafted 4th round, 102nd overall, 2014
Alexis Vanier is quite simply a behemoth player. He hits hard, shoots hard, and clears the net hard. He does everything well, except skating. The big man’s stride is similar to how one might expect a behemoth to skate; slow and awkward. It is this singular flaw in his game that prevented him from being a realistic second round talent in the 2014 draft. Vanier is an exceptional offensive defenseman in the QMJHL, and he is coming off a knee injury that kept him away from the ice and dropped his draft stock last season. He is going to need to improve his skating if he ever wants to make it to the NHL.
16. (16) Joakim Ryan, D, 6.0D
Drafted 7th round, 198th overall, 2012
Joakim Ryan is an undersized defenseman who is a great skater and has a good offensive skill set. Defense has always been his biggest weakness, and much of that has to do with size and his inability to control bigger opposition who encroach upon the net. Ryan enters his senior year with Cornell University as a player who might not have done enough to earn a contract after his schooling is finished; the 2014-15 season is in many ways a do-or-die scenario for the young defenseman.
17. (19) Gabryel Boudreau, LW, 7.0F
Drafted 2nd round, 49th overall, 2013
After a terrible year in Baie-Comeau, Gabryel Boudreau found himself traded to the Chicoutimi Sagueneens. With a new coach and new teammates, Boudreau stands a good chance of reinvigorating his game. For that to happen, however, he is going to have to learn not to hold on to the puck for too long, as he tends to dangle the puck one or two moves too many. This leads to Boudreau committing frequent turnovers.
The San Jose second-round pick is very much a work in progress. He possesses the offensive skill set to one day play in a top-six role at the NHL level, but his inconsistent play at the junior level does create some concern and limits the probability of that happening.
18. (10) Daniil Tarasov, RW, 7.0F
Signed as free agent, April 2013
Daniil Tarasov stands to be one of two things; a second-line NHL player or a scorer in another league. There is no middle ground, as he just does not have the defensive skills or drive to succeed in a third- or fourth-line role in the NHL. While his offensive skill set is good, it is not good enough to get him on to the first line, especially in the San Jose organization. The reality is that Tarasov probably will not crack the Sharks lineup in 2014-15 due to his inconsistent play.
19. (NR) Ryan Carpenter, C, 6.5F
Signed as free agent, March 2014
Every season the Sharks seem to make a splash in the college free agent market, and last season was no different. Ryan Carpenter is a skilled two-way forward with NHL-caliber size and strength. Carpenter will begin his professional career in Worcester, adding a much needed degree of offensive ability to a team desperate for scoring. While Carpenter was a scorer for Bowling Green, he likely will not fill the score sheet with his ability and his production will likely be similar to what Rylan Schwartz and Travis Oleksuk saw in the AHL.
20. (NR) Emil Galimov, RW, 6.5F
Drafted 7th round, 207th overall, 2013
Most seventh-round picks never make a Hockey’s Future Top 20 list, but Emil Galimov is a special player. He is an incredibly gifted scoring forward with legitimate offensive potential, and also has good character and work ethic. Like Goldobin, Galimov struggles with defensive assignments, but he has worked hard to correct these flaws, and his play in 2013-14 during relegated minutes in the KHL were proof of that. With one year left on his Lokomitiv contract, Galimov could conceivably make his way to North America to play with Worcester in April 2015.