10. (7) Dylan DeMelo, D, 7.0C
Drafted 6th round, 179th overall, 2011
Dylan DeMelo enters the 2015-16 season as the most groomed defenseman on the list, sitting only behind Matt Tennyson for an NHL job. After beginning last year as Konrad Abeltshauser’s second fiddle, DeMelo’s steady, mistake-free game, basically made the more hyped Abeltshauser expendable. DeMelo impressed in all situations, especially on the power play and even strength, and his willingness to battle has really impressed management. DeMelo is one of those quintessential defenseman that will almost never wow you (despite an above-average howitzer from the point) but he will rarely do anything that really hurts the team either.
Look for DeMelo to be a dark horse candidate to fill in for the sixth defender spot on the Sharks this season, as he fights with Mirco Mueller, Matt Tennyson and company.
9. (6) Barclay Goodrow, W, 6.0B
Signed as a Free Agent March 2014
After a Cinderella season where he scratched and clawed his way into an NHL job out of training camp, Barclay Goodrow enters his second professional season in a very precarious position. With a healthy forward core (including veteran Raffi Torres) and very few bottom-six players who are waiver exempt, Goodrow could begin the season as a Barracuda.
The hardworking 22 year old does everything the coaches ask of him, including shot blocking and tremendous board play and he will certainly be a player that new head coach Peter DeBoer appreciates, but last season’s 60 games of solid play won’t be enough to stamp his free pass to the show. He will have to have an excellent camp (just like last season) if he wants to continue his run at the NHL level.
8. (5) Rourke Chartier, C, 7.0C
Drafted 5th round, 149th overall, 2014
Rourke Chartier was the biggest surprise in the organization last year. Very few people were expecting such a high degree of offensive talent to come from the smooth skating two-way center. His amazing chemistry with linemate Nick Merkley (ARI), quick shot, and his ability to outwork the opposition made him an early favorite for the WHL MVP. He was unstoppable for the first few months of the season.
If not for a slough of head injuries, Rourke Chartier would have won that award, and apart from a shaky Memorial Cup where he endured yet another head injury, he looked great during the playoffs. His recurring ailments are a concern when looking at his long term development, especially given the severity of these head injuries. That being said, at the Team Canada Development Camp in Calgary this summer, Chartier showed no ill effects.
7. (4) Dan O’Regan, W/C, 7.0C
Drafted 5th round, 138th overall, 2012
2015-16 or 1 A.E. (After Eichel) is a big, show-me season for the offensively gifted and undersized O’Regan. He’ll be one of the main weapons on the Boston University Terriers this season after Jack Eichel’s departure to the NHL. As strong as O’Regan was last season, scoring 50 points in 41 games, he is going to have to show that he is more than a product of a superstar.
The senior has a very complete skill set, and his defensive ability is very underrated (even as a freshman he outshone Matt Nieto). Not quite a first line talent, O’Regan could be another Matt Nieto type-tweener for the Sharks in the next few seasons.
6. (NR) Joonas Donskoi, W, 7.0C
Signed as a Free Agent May 2015
Liiga playoff MVP Joonas Donskoi brings with him a very complete package away from the puck. He is a fantastic skater who isn’t afraid to play with a bit of an edge. He defends well, is rarely out of position, and has a very active stick that he likes to use in opposition passing lanes. With the puck, he is most known for his highlight reel dangles and strong passing ability. The one glaring deficiency in his game, however, is his underdeveloped shot. A lot of his goals are generated through his speed or in close, and while he is by no means a small player, he’ll have a much more difficult time trying to score such goals in North America against bigger competition.
Donskoi will likely begin the year in the AHL but should be one of the first call-ups of the season – especially if DeBoer’s bad luck with the shootout continues in San Jose.
5. (NR) Jeremy Roy, D, 7.5D
Drafted 2nd round, 31st overall, 2015
Roy is a two-way defenseman who can run an offense, but is limited by a lack of physical maturity and subpar skating. Penciled in at a very generous 6’0 and 188 pounds, Roy is not very imposing and will have to rely on proper positioning at the next level to succeed defensively. What Roy lacks physically, he makes up for it with heart and intelligence: two quintessential traits of a modern Sharks prospect.
Still years away from ever being a factor, Roy has the potential to one day be an integral part of the San Jose power play and blueline. Don’t expect first pairing potential, but if Roy can continue to get stronger, and work on his skating he will be a great piece to the puzzle.
4. (2) Mirco Mueller, D, 7.5C
Drafted 1st round, 18th overall, 2013
Mirco Mueller for all intents and purposes shouldn’t have been playing in the NHL (or rather dressed as an NHLer) last season. He wasn’t ready. The big 6’3 two-way defenseman has all the physical potential in the world, but his timid play and lack of offensive ability really showed in his first 39 games of his career. He needs to get bigger and more comfortable.
Mueller’s simplistic mistake-free game is very alluring, and his potential is obvious to see. However he really needs to better adapt to the speed of the professional game. He can make a great first pass, but under pressure he really struggled with this. His strong positioning when he was with the Everett Silvertips was almost non-existent in San Jose. Mueller could very well be the next Marc Edouard-Vlasic, but it’s going to take a little bit longer than first expected. Don’t be surprised if Mueller starts the year with the Barracuda.
3. (3) Nikolay Goldobin, RW, 7.5C
Drafted 1st round, 27th overall, 2014
After an impressive year in Finland, Nikolay Goldobin will look to continue his development path this season with the San Jose Barracuda. In a brief nine game stint with Worcester last season, Goldobin showed his trademark offensive flash, and his lack of defensive instincts.
The gifted sniper has the potential to be a big-time scorer in the NHL with his excellent wrist shot. If not for his abysmal moments of defensive play, he likely could have been a realistic NHL option to start the season. With a new coach that values smart, two-way play in Peter DeBoer, Goldobin’s long term potential could be in peril. As it stands Goldobin is a dynamic offensive weapon, but if he cannot adapt his game, and become more of a complete player, he might never realize his potential in San Jose.
2. (1) Chris Tierney, C, 7.5C
Drafted 2nd round, 55th overall, 2012
Chris Tierney is on the precipice of big things. He finished the year as one of the few bright spots in an otherwise forgettable Sharks season. His smart two-way play, and relentless hustle made him an instant fan favorite. It is his strong compete level, and high hockey I.Q. that should allow Tierney and coach DeBoer to get along famously. The way Tierney thinks about the game at such a high level is something DeBoer will really appreciate and it bodes well for an increased opportunity.
Once seen as merely a shutdown forward, Chris Tierney has evolved into something much more, and has shown glimpses of legitimate top-six potential without sacrificing his defensive prowess – a bit like a young Patrice Bergeron. Don’t be surprised if Tierney takes a huge step this season and starts to earn some recognition around the league, especially after working hard on face-offs over the offseason.
1. (NR) Timo Meier, W, 8.0C
Drafted 1st round, 9th overall, 2015
It is now officially Timo time in San Jose. Timo Meier has the heart of a lion and the body of a bear. You won’t find a harder working blue-chip prospect in the entire NHL. Coupled with his strong skating, explosive NHL-ready shot, and physical aggression, Meier has an unrelenting determination on the ice, and was regarded as one of the more difficult prospects from the 2015 draft to take the puck away from. In a world of puck possession, this is a huge asset.
Meier projects as a prototypical first line power forward, and while he has the physical maturity to perhaps play in the NHL this season, don’t expect Meier to be rushed. The hard working Swiss forward will head back to Halifax and continue to work on his explosive skating, board play, and offense. And in a year or two he’ll take the league by storm.