The last three years, the Sharks have aggressively traded on draft day to trade up for either a second pick in the first round, or an early first round pick. In 1996, the Sharks traded two second round picks to Chicago, obtaining the 21st selection in the first round, picking Marco Sturm. In 1997, the Sharks traded a second and third round pick to Carolina to pick defenseman Scott Hannan with the 23rd selection in the first round. In 1998, the Sharks traded down one spot, moving from the second to the third, and obtaining the first selection in the 2nd round, choosing Jonathan Cheechoo with the 29th overall selection in the draft.
So far, each of these trades has proven beneficial to the Sharks. Marco Sturm has proved to be one of the Sharks main players this year, proving his worth, although at the time, many San Jose fans feared another European draft, from the year before. In picking Scott Hannan, the Sharks chose a player on my top five list of underrated prospects. Swiping Hannan out from underneath teams like Colorado and Detroit very well may prove to be a great move for the Sharks. Last year, people really scratched their heads at the Sharks trading down one spot, passing up on David Legwand, and picking Brad Stuart. Now, it looks like that move may turn out best for the Sharks as well. In addition, they picked up the first pick in the second round to pick up a player who very well may turn out to be a good player in Jonathan Cheechoo, although he is a project.
This year, the Sharks will find it far more difficult to trade up. The most important draft pick terms of trading, is their second round pick. The Sharks don’t own one this year, also lacking a 2nd rounder in either 2000 or 2001 at the Sharks choice. If you see the Sharks making any noise in trades, it will most likely be trading down, if the offensive talent in the draft is chosen before the Sharks choose at #14.
The Sharks already have one of, if not the, best group of young defensemen in the NHL. With names like Brad Stuart, Scott Hannan, Andy Sutton, Shawn Heins, and more, the Sharks hardly need more defensemen going through the system. While it’s true that you can never have too many #1 defensemen, it can become counter productive, trying to figure out when you’re going to play all of them. If the Sharks do choose a defensemen, it may be because they have a trade already set up with him involved.
Expect the Sharks to be looking for either centers or left wings for a simple reason — there’s not much talent at right wing by the time the Sharks pick, and goaltender Brian Finley will be long gone by #14.
Among the names that could possibly still be available by the time the Sharks pick are Taylor Pratt, Scott Kelman, Michal Sivek, Barrett Heisten, and Oleg Saprykin. Taylor Pratt has the speed, the shot, the toughness, and that “nose for the net.” However, due to these reasons, he may be gone shortly before the Sharks pick. While many have accurately referred to Kelman as a very “safe” pick, Kelman’s numbers and playmaking ability likely have been more due to having Bret DeCecco and Oleg Saprykin along with him. Kelman may very well be a solid 2nd or 3rd line player someday, but he doesn’t fit well with what the Sharks need.
My prediction for the Sharks pick is center/left wing, Oleg Saprykin out of Seattle of the WHL. At 6’0 (probably a tad bit generous on that height), 175lbs, Saprykin plays a style of game that the Sharks are known for. He is incredibly annoying, and frustrating to his opponents. Saprykin, perhaps more than any other player in the draft, inspires more four-lettered words from his opponents than any other player. His ability to read a play, and wait for just his shot, is as good as anyone. He won’t always have the time to do that in the NHL, but his ability to find the holes and read plays is something you can’t teach, and will serve him well.
In addition, Saprykin fits the Sharks personal mode of the type of player they like to go after. He has a willingness to learn, and is aware of his defensive responsibilities. Some things that need some work in his game include his toughness and being a little bit quicker to what he wants to do. Saprykin won’t avoid confrontations; in fact, he has no problem getting in the middle of things. However, he needs to get better at it. The last game of the year, he was one of many players involved in one of several fights. He tried to get in there a little, but he looked more like a five-year-old sitting his dad’s shoulders. When he goes into the corners, he needs to learn how to lead with his body more, making better contact, instead of taking the corner of the man. He also needs to be quicker at making decisions at times. In the WHL, that slowness doesn’t effect him negatively so much, in fact, it’s helped him. However, he won’t have that time in the NHL or AHL.
This year, the Sharks lack a 2nd round pick, lost in the Mike Vernon trade. That leaves the Sharks with single picks in the 3rd, 4th, 6th, 8th and 9th, along with two in the 7th. They once had 2 picks in the 5th round, but both have since been traded in deals that brought Vinny Damphousse and Jeff Norton to the Sharks. The following are my predictions for the remaining picks for the Sharks.
1st: Oleg Saprykin for reasons mentioned above.
3rd: Jason Jaspers: Center, Sudbury (OHL). Decent size, not a lot unlike Oleg Saprykin in his play. Very good at annoying opponent, and has a feistiness about him. Temper occasionally causes him to make costly penalty, but has gotten better at it. Goalie Evan Lindsay would also be a good pick. He re-entered the draft when he couldn’t agree to terms with Calgary, but he’ll likely be gone by the Sharks pick, although you never know with re-entrants.
4th: Craig Anderson: Goalie, Guelph (OHL). Good size with good mobility. Needs to read plays a little better though.
6th: Bart Rushmer: Defense, Lethbridge (WHL). Good size to go along with a good mean streak. Not to bad at moving the puck up ice either. Good at lifting the puck out over the blueline.
7th: Petr Zajgla: Center, Czech Republic. Good offensive upside, but not much awareness of defense yet… Worth a late round pick though. Plus, the Sharks haven’t had a prospect who’s name is impossible to pronounce in a while, so why not?
7th: Jason Baird: Left Wing, Erie (OHL). Kind of along the lines of a Mark Smith. Strong player, who uses what he has. Muscles his way through more than he’d be able to in professional hockey, but could turn into a decent role guy.
8th: Brad Fast: Defense, High School. Definitely a project, but the kid has some skill.
9th: Bill Browne: Defense, Sault St. Marie (OHL). Good toughness, and can move the puck to his players a little bit. Another project, but could be a decent role player when needing extra toughness.