Mike Robinson, G, Lawrence Academy (Massachusetts High School)
3rd Round, 86th overall
Height: 6-4 Weight: 200 lbs
The lanky goalie from Lawrence Academy in Massachusetts (an obvious Tim Burke pick) was a bit of a reach at the tail end of the third round, especially with more notable goaltenders still available. However, the Sharks scouting department really liked what they saw in the goaltender. As a junior, who will play his senior year of high school hockey next year before joining the University of New Hampshire’s lineup, this is a definite long-term play to fill an organizational need.
The big knock throughout the season is Robinson’s athletic toolkit. He isn’t as flexible, agile, or even as quick as his peers, but shows an average skillset. The Sharks are obviously betting his weaknesses can be improved. What he does well is square up to the puck and he has decent rebound control for a big goaltender. There is a technical element to his game that is a bit more pronounced than some other goaltenders in this draft.
Adam Helewka, LW, Spokane Chiefs (WHL)
4th Round, 106th overall
Height: 6-1, Weight: 201 lbs
In the fourth round, the Sharks made a bit of a surprise pick in drafting third-year draft-eligible player Adam Helewka from the Spokane Chiefs of the WHL. Helewka (as one might imagine from an older draft pick) has a very refined two hundred foot game. He skates well, he protects the puck well, and is considered a plus possession player with a slightly above average offensive side to his game (highlighted by a pro shot) that keeps defenses honest. Considering all this makes you question why he was never drafted, but he has grown exponentially the past two seasons in the WHL. Late last season he started figuring things out, and came to the ice with a lot more consistency. His willingness to learn, and ability to get better through proper coaching is very promising, and no doubt one of the key features that drew the Sharks to the big-bodied forward.
While Helewka doesn’t project to be a top-six forward with his limited pedigree (he was undrafted in the WHL, earning a tryout) his trajectory is something to watch and he could surprise a lot of people. Look for Helewka to get a chance to play in the AHL this upcoming season.
Karlis Cukste, D, HK Riga (Russian MHL)
5th Round, 130th overall
Height: 6-2, Weight: 202 lbs
The Sharks began raiding Latvia in the fifth round, taking two relative unknowns from the Baltic nation. Karlis Cukste is an underrated two-way defenseman who skates well, has an NHL-style frame, and competes hard. Despite only having an average to below average offensive toolkit, he has an uncanny ability to rack up points during important games – something not exactly common in the pipeline thus far.
Cukste doesn’t project to be a big point producer like fellow countryman Sandis Ozolinsh (a Sharks fan favorite) especially with his below average shot, but his smart, mistake-free style of play is going to give him a realistic opportunity at eventually making it to the NHL as a bottom-pairing option. This will likely not go down as a big-time draft selection, but it shows (along with recently-signed QMJHL product Nikita Jevpavlovs) the club’s growing interest in players from Latvia.
Rudolfs Balcers, LW, Stavanger Oilers (Norway)
5th Round, 142nd overall
Height: 5-11, Weight: 165 lbs
It’s difficult to get excited about a fifth round selection, but Rudolfs Balcers has the potential to be a home run pick. Right now, the Latvian left wing is a raw long-term project. He has blazing speed, above average to excellent hands, a good slap shot, an even better wrist shot, and a no-quit motor that rivals that of countryman Zemgus Girgensons of the Buffalo Sabres. It is easy to see the potential (a sniper with a blue collar grit to his game), but Balcers needs to get stronger and add more structure to his development. While he excelled against his peers (especially at the U18s) he looked lost during entire games playing against men. Despite that, he still posted great numbers as a 17-year-old with 21 points in 36 games.
The lack of on-ice awareness could be seen during prospect development week, where Balcers looked lost during some drills and even scrimmage. Language was probably at play, as when he received a bit of extra attention he really started to take off. It will be interesting to see where Balcers ends up next season. Norway isn’t the idea development path for this young player long-term; unfortunately he went undrafted in the CHL import draft so it looks like the only option for now.
Adam Parsells, D, Wausau West (Wisconsin High School)
6th Round, 160th overall
Height: 6-5, Weight: 192 lbs
Adam Parsells represents an organizational tendency to go after towering defensemen. The three most notable in recent memory – Nick Petrecki, Taylor Doherty, and Konrad Abeltshauser – have all failed to pan out. Parsells will have an uphill battle to stop that streak, but like them, he does have the potential. Right now, Parsells has shown skating to be a bit of a weakness but it could be looked as average for his size. While he did register 22 points for his high school, his offensive toolkit is somewhat limited. He plays an average game away from the puck and benefited greatly playing against smaller competition. It is his size that makes him a very attractive prospect (especially with how he uses that big stick) but until he plays against better competition, he’s basically a lottery ticket.
At camp, Parsells looked to have a bit of an edge at times, but played inconsistently in that regard and was overpowered at times (which should be expected for an 18-year-old in this format). The Wisconsin native has committed to play with the Green Bay Gamblers (USHL) next season and for the University of Wisconsin the season after that. It remains to be seen what type of physical game Parsells brings to his shutdown style and, more importantly, how intelligent of a game he can play under pressure against more skilled players. Like a lot of the Sharks picks this season, this is a project pick.
Marcus Vela, C, Langley Rivermen (BCHL)
7th Round, 190th overall
Height: 6-0, Weight: 204 lbs
Marcus Vela is a player who lacks in skating ability but makes up for it with a willingness to do whatever it takes to win. Playing in the BCHL, Vela racked up 46 points in 50 games (not necessarily indicative of future scoring success but still third best among U18 players in that league) playing in all situations. While Vela has been noted as a player who doesn’t shy away from the rough stuff, he isn’t particularly nasty or forceful.
What the big-bodied forward does bring is some two-way reliability and swagger. He doesn’t play defense like Chris Tierney, and shouldn’t be considered a future shutdown force (especially with how Vela struggles to retain speed with the puck). Vela will begin his long journey toward the pros by playing for the University of New Hampshire next season.
Jake Kupsky, G, Lone Star Brahmas (NAHL)
7th Round, 193rd overall
Height: 6-5 Weight: 210 lbs
The Sharks made it obvious with their seventh round selection of Jake Kupsky that their goaltending philosophy is focused on size. In the past, the Sharks targeted goaltenders who were not particularly tall (Alex Stalock, Troy Grosenick, and J.P. Anderson) when filling their prospect ranks. The times they are a-changing. Robinson is tall and Kupsky is even taller, measuring a conservative 6’5. He probably isn’t done growing either and by the time he’s done with college, he’ll be a big kid that fills up the net.
Kupsky, unlike Robinson, relies more on his athleticism than technical structure to make saves. He is a fast goaltender, and moves side to side well. He was not an easy goalie to play against in the NAHL. The lanky goalie has an aggressive style to his game, and he challenges shooters with his big frame. He may be a bit too aggressive at times. His pad-work is bit underdeveloped, but his blocker and glove are above average. He doesn’t have the strongest positioning, but that can improve. Kupsky will likely play backup for Union College next season (where Grosenick also attended) and he is a long ways away from ever being relevant to the Sharks, but could turn out to be the better Sharks goalie selected in this draft.