Sharks Top 10 prospects
The Sharks are one of the deeper teams in the league with several dynamic forwards and a good mix of capable defensemen. They are also stocked with two starter quality goaltenders at the NHL level. The team’s concern in the next season will be to find the final elusive pieces that will allow them to translate their regular season success into playoff triumph.
It is widely expected that one of the team’s netminders, Evgeni Nabokov and Vesa Toskala, will be dealt in the offseason. The two have split time in the last couple of years with Nabokov getting the edge, while Toskala has been very good whenever called on. Nabokov, the owner of a long-term contract, looks to be the best bet to stay, while Toskala, an unrestricted free agent after next season, could be shopped. The Sharks will need one of their young backstops to show that they are ready for the task of full-time backup.
With a disappointing playoff performance and the presence of Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau is deemed by some to be expendable and could be traded if the right deal comes along. The acquisition of Bill Guerin at the trade deadline did not put the 2006-07 Sharks over the top, as they were once again eliminated in the second round. Guerin is an unrestricted free agent who is unlikely to rejoin the team. The Sharks could be in the market for a top free-agent forward that could make an immediate impact and provide a consistent second line threat, especially if neither of these two returns for next season.
Veteran defenders Craig Rivet and Scott Hannan are both unrestricted free agents this summer and it is likely they will lose at least one of the two. The team may look to find another veteran to fill a spot on a young corps of talented blueliners.
The Sharks biggest strength right now has to be their depth of goaltending prospects. With two bona fide NHL starters being pressured for time by a couple of young Germans: Thomas Greiss and Dimitri Patzold. Further, Taylor Dakers just finished a great junior career in the Western Hockey League and Alex Stalock is developing nicely in the NCAA ranks.
The Sharks also boast one of the best groups of young defensemen in the league with Christian Ehrhoff, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Matt Carle joining the pro club full-time in 2006-07. Last year’s first round choice, Ty Wishart, has shown himself to be a good bet to become a top pairing defender a few years down the road. Beyond him, they have a group of defenders who have some solid two-way ability and good hockey instincts.
Up front, the Sharks are loaded with young forwards that demonstrate skill, character, two-way ability and who are not afraid to get physical. Joe Pavelski spent a lot of time with the big club in his first year removed from college, showing impressive scoring ability. Former first round pick Lukas Kaspar has rounded out his game on the right wing and could ready to step in soon as multi-talented forward. Prospects Devin Setoguchi and Jamie McGinn have shown scoring ability and grit in their junior careers and both could become top six wingers after a year or two. The rest are a mix of two-way forwards, some of whom will be able to crack the lower end of an NHL roster someday.
This year, seven young players established themselves as regulars for the Sharks, and at least one other should make the team next season. With all that young depth moving into the big leagues, the Sharks will be looking to replenish their prospect pool. Although they do not own a first round pick, the Sharks have eight picks in total and will look to mine the later rounds for gems as they have in the past.
On the blueline, Wishart stands far ahead of any of the other defenders in NHL potential. The Sharks need to add some depth in skill on the backend by picking up a couple of players in the early rounds who project as top-four defensive talents.
At the forward position, the Sharks have some good youngsters who will play roles on the club, but they lack a true blue-chip forward. They have been experts at drafting and developing their talent, but it has been years since they drafted a real superstar. Furthermore, the depth at right wing is quite thin and could be addressed this year.
The Sharks are, without a doubt, one of the best organizations as far as drafting and developing their talent. Their pro lineup, last season, consisted mainly of homegrown players who have learned to embrace the tough two-way style that has been put in place by the organization. The team drafts shrewdly and finds players who can play within these parameters.
Sharks GM Doug Wilson and his predecessors have not been fearful of taking a chance to get what they want, whether it is moving up to select their man or going off the board to take a player they want. Nor are they scared of going to new hockey markets to find talent, making an art of drafting talented Germans.
Copyright 2007 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.