The San Jose Sharks entered the 2013 NHL Draft with high optimism and eight picks in what many were describing as a very deep draft class, filled with players who could make a real impact. In fact, it is quite often compared to the 2003 draft, which gave rise to many of the stars of today. With an already improved prospect pool, along with four of the first 58 picks in the draft, the Sharks pipeline was looking as well stocked as it ever has and primed to become one of those pools other organizations marvel over.
General Manager Doug Wilson spoke adamantly all season long about how amazing this draft pool was, and how fortunate his team was to have so many early picks. So it came at much surprise that early on the day of the draft, he would trade the 50th pick to the Pittsburgh Penguins for restricted free agent Tyler Kennedy. Moves like this are only possible because of the advancement of the Sharks current prospect pool. Kennedy adds depth at the forward position (even taking modest draft conversion ratios, late second round picks are anything but sure bets), and to be fair this was an immediate need for the Sharks, but given Wilson’s adoration of this particular draft, the move was a head-scratcher.
The whole draft for the Sharks could best be described as a head-scratcher. It is not that they did poorly, because many experts agree that the Sharks had a solid draft, rather, the way they conducted business at the draft tables seemed rather disjointed and without flow. But somehow all those strange choices seemed to work; a microcosm of the Sharks prospect pool as a whole.
It will be years before this draft can ever be judged, especially given the fact at just how far away most of these players are from becoming NHL players, but one thing is for certain. Doug Wilson and company were willing to make bold moves to get the players they coveted to help refresh the Sharks.
Slated to draft 20th overall, with a desperate need for offense, it seemed rather obvious that the Sharks would take a forward with their pick. When they moved up two spots, trading away a second round pick to do so, it seemed like they got their man. And they did. They got a two-way defenseman in Mirco Mueller who projects to have limited NHL offensive upside. The Sharks; when you think they will zig, they zag.
That being said, the Sharks got a heck of a player and had been coveting Mueller for some time. He finished all over the board in prospect rankings as Central Scouting Services had him ranked 9th overall amongst North American skaters, while International Scouting Services did not even list him in their top 30 lists. At first glance it might have seemed odd to pay such a steep price to move up only two spots, but there was rampant speculation that the Columbus Blue Jackets who selected 19th were very interested in Mueller, and had seen a lot of him, as he was the defensive partner of their prospect Ryan Murray.
The 6'3 Swiss rearguard was the best rookie defenseman in the WHL, not named Seth Jones (who went fourth overall to Nashville) amassing 31 points in 63 games—despite being more noted as a defensive specialist than an offensive threat. He brings a strong composure with him onto the ice, and is technically one of the best defenders in the whole draft. His positioning got noticeably better over the course of the season and he was starting from a decent spot to begin with. He is a good skater, not terrific, but he battles hard and has a very active stick. He brings with him a shot blocking prowess like no one else in this draft, and he uses his size effectively to clear the crease.
His puck skills leave a bit to be desired, but that part of his game is correctable, and he will only get better. His shot is solid and controlled, but over the next few years he is going to have to start developing it a bit more to retain that two-way title. He is not much of a shooter and much of his offense originates from his strong breakout passes out of the zone.
Mueller immediately steps in and challenges Matt Tennyson for best defenseman in the system. While he is still a few years away, and it seems likely he will play at least two more seasons of junior to try and bulk up and develop the finer points of his game, he is a fairly developed prospect. He has NHL size, super human athleticism, and an understanding of the game that will help him excel at the professional level—he might not have been what the fans and writers were expecting, but the Sharks added a great prospect to their organization when they called the name Mirco Mueller.
Hockey's Future shot video of the Sharks top pick, Mirco Mueller, at the 2013 NHL Draft. You can view his extended remarks in this HF video.
Gabreyel Paquin-Boudreau is an undersized speedster who shot up the draft boards late in the year due to his terrific showing for Baie-Comeau Drakkar of the QMJHL. He finished the 2012-13 regular season with 63 points in 67 games, but it was changes to his game starting in 2013 that saw his play hit new strides. In the final 30 games he registered 32 points, and then added 18 more in as many playoff games—all as a rookie.
Paquin-Boudreau is skilled player with a scorer’s instincts, and blazing speed (in and out of traffic—which is a bit scary to watch). His stickhandling abilities are majestic, and his playmaking ability is exceptional and magnified because of his strong first step acceleration.
The 5'11 forward is quite small, weighing under 170 pounds, and it will take some time for him to bulk up and be able to compete at the pro level, but the fact that this is a late bloomer (he was playing Quebec Midget AAA up until last season) there is considerable excitement given his raw skill set.
He has a lot to work on, including his defensive game, and he is going to take some time to develop. If the Sharks are patient with him, he could be exactly what they are deficient of in their prospect pool: a highly-skilled offensive threat.
Fredrik Bergvik, G, Frolunda J20 (Swedish SuperElit)
4th round, 117th overall
Height: 6’1 Weight: 189
Having not selected a goaltender in the last four drafts, it made sense that the Sharks would look to renew one of their organizational strengths by selecting the tall, lanky Swedish netminder, Fredrik Bergvik. While organizationally speaking the goaltending position is possibly the area of least worry, there was a slight age gap emerging in the system. By taking Bergvik this year the team’s perpetual cycle of good goaltending yield can continue.
From a statistical standpoint, Bergvik was one of the most interesting goalies in the draft. Playing for Frolunda of the Swedish junior league, he was as dominant as they come, posting a 1.29 goals against average, and a .950 save percentage (both league bests). Not since Jacob Markstrom (FLA), and maybe to a lesser extent Niklas Svedberg (BOS), has there been such a young dominant butterfly goaltender in Sweden.
The difference between Bergvik and Markstrom though is size and mechanics. At 6'1, Bergvik’s an average sized keeper, he relies more upon his technique to stop pucks, and sometime during the 2012-13 season, he really improved upon his technique. His positioning, rebound control, and side to side work, are very good. He will have to work on his glove (an area the last goaltender the Sharks drafted, Harri Sateri, struggled with too) as he progresses through the ranks in Sweden, but this is one seed with a little care and proper development could turn into big things for the Sharks future.
The Sharks might have found a mid-round gem in Michael Brodzinski. The USHL All-Rookie Team member has all the physical tools to be a very good offensive defenseman. He skates well, carries the puck well, makes firm first passes, and has a bomb of a shot. Brodzinski’s issues are nothing to do with his skill set, but rather with his decision making. He does not have the highest hockey IQ and will often try and force spectacular plays rather than just making the smart easy play. But if he and the Sharks can correct this, and slow down his game, Brodzinski could be one of the steals of the draft.
If there is one thing you should know about Brodzinski, it is his scoring ability. He has one of the nicest shots coming out of the USHL this year. His shot has the ability to see through traffic. This ability helped Brodzinski score the most goals (16) by a USHL defenseman in the past three seasons. It is quite impressive when you consider the players in that group include first round talents like Jacob Trouba (WPG), Mike Matheson (FLA), and Connor Murphy (PHX).
The Muskegon Lumberjack has often been categorized as a poor defenseman, and in a way this is true. He makes careless plays, and is very inconsistent. However, his raw ability and skill set make him very hard to beat in one-on-one battles, and for all the mistakes he makes, he has an uncanny ability of fixing them with quick recoveries. He will not be able to get away with this at the college level next year when he joins the University of Minnesota, but playing sheltered minutes, on a great team, he is going to have time to correct his flaws.
Gage Ausmus, D, USA U-18 (USHL)
5th round, 151st overall
Height: 6’1 Weight: 211
Ausmus is a defensive defenseman who will never bring you out of your seat but plays the game the right way. He was a quiet leader for the United States National Team Development Program team, shutting down opponent's top lines on a nightly basis.
He plays very hard every shift and hits like a ton of bricks, but for Ausmus to make it to the next level, he will have to most certainly improve his skating. Every year Hockey’s Future tries to find the fastest skater within the Sharks prospect pool, Ausmus might win the bizarro world version of this award. He just is not very swift. He also brings very little in terms of an offensive skill set. Defensive defensemen have their place in the NHL, but Ausmus is going to still need to develop these weaknesses in his game to earn a contract.
It will be interesting to see how well Ausmus does away from his former blue line partner, Steve Santini (NJD), who was drafted in the second round. The two were a terrific tandem. He will get a chance to prove his individual value against faster and stronger opponents next season when he laces up his skates for the University of North Dakota. Next year will provide a better gauge for Ausmus and just how adept he actually is at shutting down forwards.
Jacob Jackson, C, Tartan High School (MN-HS)
7th round, 201st overall
Height: 5’11 Weight: 183
Jacob Jackson is an undersized forward who is coming off a fantastic high school season in Minnesota. He tallied 29 goals and 27 assists in 25 games, and was one of the leaders on a very good Tartan squad.
First and foremost, Jackson is an athlete. He has tremendous athletic ability, which is highlighted by his effortless skating. He can shift to top speeds almost instantaneously, which aided the young center in scoring many of goals. He also reads the game at a very high level and was rarely caught out of position (partly due to his skating ability) and this combined with his athletic ability and inner drive to always fight for every battle, makes Jackson an interesting selection.
The biggest knock on Jackson is his stick skills with the puck. He carries the puck well enough at his high speeds, but he is a very predictable player to defend when he is not on a breakaway, and much of it is to do with his below average puck skills. His shot is underdeveloped but should improve as his body matures. He will have lots of time to develop, as he will play for Sioux City in the USHL next year, and then move on to college hockey as he has committed to Michigan Tech for the 2014-15 season.
Emil Galimov, LW, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl (KHL)
7th round, 207th overall
Height: 6’1 Weight: 169
Even Emil Galimov must have been surprised with this pick. The 21 year old Russian was a surprising selection given his nationality, age, and pronounced one-way game but he caught the eye of Sharks scouts, after he and Artem Anisimov clicked during the lockout. Before Anisimov left for the Blue Jackets, Galimov was at about a point-per-game click and showed definite high-end NHL potential.
Galimov is a traditional Russian-born player, he is fast, he has a terrific wrist shot as demonstrated in the 2011 Subway Series, and he carries the puck moderately well. His defensive game is far from complete, and that combined with the Russian factor, is why he went undrafted before (and the fact that he is 21 and has these types of holes is disconcerting).
Doug Wilson had never previously selected a Russian in his 10 years with the Sharks—though Daniil Sobchenko, a Ukranian did play for Yaroslavl, the same team that Galmov would play for—so it shows that the Sharks are familiar and comfortable drafting from this area.
Through the tragedy of the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl plane crash, Galimov grew as a player and individual. He was one of the first to join the new Lokomotiv team, and vowed to lead on and off the ice and help the community and team rebuild. It is easy to see why a Russian player, with a very one dimensional game would interest the Sharks brass who covet character. Galimov is a stand up kid, with tremendous offensive potential. He is a huge project, and may never reach the NHL, but he is one of those low-risk, high-reward picks that come out of Russia that can make a scouting staff look like geniuses if they ever hit big on this pick.