The San Jose Sharks have an intriguing group of prospects at the NCAA and European levels. These prospects represent some of the highest potential this pool has to offer; it is also mired in shortcomings.
The collegiate and European group features six key prospects ranked in the San Jose Sharks Top 20: Nikolay Goldobin, Dan O’Regan, Michael Brodzinski, Fredrik Bergvik, Joakim Ryan, and Emil Galimov; all of whom have varying degrees of potential to one day be NHL players.
Dan O’Regan, C/W, Boston University Terriers (Hockey East)
Drafted 5th round, 138th overall, 2012
After playing most of last season hurt, and struggling to get on the same page with Boston University Head Coach David Quinn, O’Regan rebounded in his junior season with a vengeance. Thanks in large part to his chemistry with top 2015 draft prospect Jack Eichel, O’Regan shattered his previous highs (38 points) in scoring with 23 goals and 27 assists for 50 points in 41 games; that total was good enough for O’Regan to sit 7th in national scoring.
While Eichel’s presence casts a shadow, and some of O’Regan’s production is surely bolstered by the star-effect, the young talented forward showed at the very minimum that his speed and offensive awareness were good enough to keep up with the world’s best. After coming so close to a national championship, and the likely departure of Eichel, it will be interesting to see if O’Regan stays with Boston University for his senior year, or if he elects to turn pro. Either way, O’Regan is going to have to prove next season that he wasn’t just the by-product of a star.
Sean Kuraly, C, Miami University Redhawks (NCHC)
Drafted 5th round, 133rd overall, 2011
Sean Kuraly’s speed and tenacity are the two skills that are going to carry him to become a very serviceable professional hockey player; even if the offense doesn’t quite come around. For the second consecutive season, Kuraly finished with 29 points in the NCHC. While that total isn’t particularly noteworthy, it was Kuraly’s effective two-way game, and his increased role with the Miami Redhawks that did draw notice. Kuraly became an integral part of that top unit and was used in all situations.
Colin Blackwell, C, Harvard University Crimson (ECAC)
Drafted 7th round, 194th overall, 2011
Colin Blackwell’s return to hockey is one of the great comeback stories of the year. Blackwell had missed almost two season with injuries, suffering heavily from post-concussion syndrome, before stepping back onto the ice with the Crimson this spring.
Still affected by some symptoms and issues, Blackwell was huge down the stretch for Harvard, coming up with timely goals and playing a strong intelligent game down the middle of the ice. Blackwell will look to stay healthy in his senior year, and will need to work on using his teammates better and overcoming small lapses in play.
Max Gaede, RW, Minnesota State University – Mankato Mavericks (WCHA)
Drafted 3rd round, 88th overall, 2010
Max Gaede finished his collegiate career the way he played it: quietly. The big, brawny forward had a respectable season, given his lesser role for the Mavericks, registering 5 goals and 5 assists for 10 points in 40 games. The 2010 third rounder probably didn’t do enough to garner a contract from the Sharks, who feature much better players who fill similar roles in their organization.
Cliff Watson, D, Michigan Tech Huskies (Big 10)
Drafted 6th round, 168th overall, 2012
Cliff Watson had a very strong season for Michigan Tech; in fact, it was a bit of an eye opener. The defensive defenseman was used heavily in defensive situations, and at times used as a shutdown option. A prolific shot blocker, Gaede finished top 10 in the NCAA in blocked shots, and became a fan favorite for just how selfless he was in his own end. It’s hard not to cringe watching this young player take a point blank slapshot, and then hobbling around to make another–but he does it on a nightly basis. He gave everything he had last season to his team, and if he continues to chip in offensively as he had (he bumped up his production to 13 points) he might be a sleeper pick to climb the prospect pool rankings come next season.
Michael Brodzinski, D, University of Minnesota Golden Gophers (Big 10)
Drafted 5th round, 141st overall, 2013
Now two seasons into redefining his play-style as a complete two-way defenseman, and not just an offensive weapon, Michael Brodzinski was a strong competitor along the blueline for the University of Minnesota. The Michael Brodzinski of today and the one that began his collegiate career two seasons ago are very different players; the present Michael Brodzinski is a more physically-mature puck-moving defenseman who plays responsibly in all three zones.
With veterans Brady Skjei signing with the Rangers and Columbus draft pick Mike Reilly also electing to turn pro, this could be largely Brodzinski’s team next season. With an increased opportunity on the man-advantage, and more ice time in general, Brodzinski will be poised to have a breakout season, and should gain some national attention.
Gage Ausmus, D, University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux (NCHC)
Drafted 5th round, 151st overall, 2013
If you watch a University of North Dakota game, you might never hear Gage Ausmus’s name mentioned, despite the fact that he played big minutes as a sophomore for the Fighting Sioux. This is the best compliment for a defensive defenseman. Ausmus plays a very non-flashy, almost textbook, defensive game, and it’s hard to get excited about this player, even in big games like those UND played this 2014-15 season. However, he plays his role very solidly, and because of his defensive presence and ability to stop the opposition in their tracks almost effortlessly, he could one day etch out a role as a professional hockey player. Just don’t expect to hear his name uttered very often.
Joakim Ryan, D, Cornell University Big Red (ECAC)
Drafted 7th round, 198th overall, 2012
The undersized Joakim Ryan was a workhorse all season for Cornell University, and in many ways was their most important player on the ice. He played in all situations, and found ways to compensate for his lack of size in the defensive zone by using an active stick, and using strong positioning to subdue bigger and stronger opponents. Ryan’s biggest strength is when he has the puck on the power play. He can drastically improve a team’s man advantage as seen this season when he returned from injury. After completing a solid, albeit understated, collegiate career, Ryan earned a professional contract with the Sharks. In limited play with the Worcester Sharks (which next year will be the San Jose Barracuda), Ryan has looked good at times, but size continues to be a hurdle he will have to overcome.
Nikolay Goldobin, RW, HIFK (Liiga)
Drafted 1st round, 27th overall, 2014
Goldobin made huge strides this season while playing for HIFK of the Finnish Liiga. The young Russian forward had the highest points per game average among players under 20 with his 21 points in 38 games, and was an integral part of his team, playing on the top line. While the defensive side of his game still leaves a lot to be desired, the improvements he has made have made him a better player. After a strong postseason with HIFK, Goldobin was re-assigned by the Sharks to Worcester, where he has mirrored his season in Finland. That is, he creates opportunities to score…on both sides of the ice. Goldobin’s play in the AHL might indicate that he isn’t quite ready for primetime, and another year of seasoning might just be the best route of development. But don’t be surprised if he earns a spot on the Sharks next season due to the Doug Wilson’s aggressive approach to developing his higher-tier prospects.
Fredrik Bergvik, G, Frolunda J20 (SuperElit)
Drafted 5th round, 117th overall, 2013
Bergvik has the talent to become a starting goaltender in the SHL and perhaps even in the NHL one day, however opportunities have been limited to really test his mettle. Forced to continue his development in the SuperElit League despite little left to prove at that level, Bergvik turned in another respectable season for the Frolunda J20 team. Despite a rather lackluster defensive squad playing in front of him, Bergvik had a 2.34 goals against average and a .912 save percentage: an improvement over last year’s numbers.
Emil Galimov, RW/LW, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl (KHL)
Drafted 7th round, 207th overall, 2013
Galimov finished the year strong, collecting a KHL career-high nine goals, despite being limited in his opportunities on the ice. Yaroslavl seems committed to its veterans, and Galimov, while talented, is only getting 13 minutes a game on the third line. The lack of opportunity has been noticeably frustrating, especially when Galimov at times looks like one of the best forwards on the team. The politics of favoring elder players might just push Galimov out of the KHL come 2017 when his contract expires. The two-way Russian has the toolkit on both sides of the ice to be a productive player.
Prospect of the Month
Chris Tierney was one of the hottest NHL rookies in the final month of the season. In his final 18 games of the year, Tierney registered 5 goals and 9 assists for 14 points, and quickly established himself as a force centering San Jose’s third line. The coaching staff’s trust in the young two-way forward’s game was made evident when Tierney began getting big shifts late in games, even on the power play.