Photo: San Jose Sharks prospect Tomas Hertl achieved another milestone in his young career with his recent selection to the Czech Republic's top national team (courtesy of Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)
Two years ago, little was known about Tomáš Hertl, then a 16-year-old center for the junior team of Slavia Prague. That season, he played mostly in the Czech U-20 Extraliga, posting better numbers than Radek Faksa, who was, however, drafted at a higher place at the 2012 NHL Draft. The same year, Hertl had his Czech Extraliga debut, not collecting any points, but at the age of sixteen, surely letting the hockey world notice his name.
Photo: Left wing Matt Nieto leads a shallow group of winger prospects for the San Jose Sharks. (courtesy of Ed Wolfstein/Icon SMI)
The San Jose Sharks have long believed in the philosophy of taking things slow, and letting young players develop to earn the opportunity to play with the big club. Unfortunately for the Sharks in the last five years, there have not been many opportunities earned.
San Jose second-round pick Chris Tierney will be a key centerman for the London Knights during the 2012-13 season. (courtesy of CHL Images)
The San Jose Sharks finished the 2011-12 season with arguably the worst prospect pool in the entire NHL. This has been a familiar trend within the Sharks organization over the past few seasons as they have looked to contend in the Western Conference and have sacrificed some of their future to do so. Despite the lack of top-tier talent, the Sharks’ prospect pipeline has become something of a well-oiled machine; year after year lesser known, unheralded players go in, and well-developed, NHL-ready talent comes out. The Sharks head into the 2012-13 season with a strong batch of relative unknowns, hoping to silence the critics.
Photo: San Jose Sharks winger Tommy Wingels saw his first significant action with the big club in the 2011-12 season (courtesy of Tony Medina/Icon SMI)
The San Jose Sharks have improved the team's organizational depth with the addition of their 2012 NHL Draft selections, but it could take four to five years to see the results. Three of the team's six new draftees have high skill levels at this stage of their development and made this edition of the Sharks' Top 20 list. Newly-drafted Tomas Hertl has replaced Freddie Hamilton as the number one prospect in the San Jose Sharks organization.
Photo: San Jose Sharks defenseman and University of Massachusetts alum Justin Braun is the first of a recent group of that school's alums to make it to the NHL (courtesy of Don Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)
Casey Wellman has been with three organizations since turning pro during the 2009-10 season, but this season could mark his best chance to become an NHL regular.