Hertl tops improved group of San Jose Sharks prospects

By David Thicke

Tommy Wingels - San Jose Sharks

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.

Sean Kuraly is the biggest riser on the Top 20 list after an excellent season in the USHL and a stellar showing at the USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camp at Lake Placid in August. Colin Blackwell appears for the first time after his solid freshman year in the NCAA this past season and another successful US evaluation camp. After turning 25 years old, Alex Stalock is no longer considered a prospect under the criteria for Hockey’s Future while the likes of William Wrenn, Marek Viedensky, and Justin Sefton have moved out of the Top 20 due to the increase of talent from the Sharks' draft class and free-agent signings.

1. (NR) Tomas Hertl, C, 8.0C
Drafted 1st round, 17th overall, 2012

Hertl is the only high-end offensive talent in San Jose's prospect pool. He can defend at an elite level and play a complete game. The talented playmaker can play all of the forward positions and has the physical game to do very well in the tight and dirty areas of ice. The big Czech forward has good quickness and agility, which when combined with his excellent hockey sense, allows him to play his game at a high speed.

The first-round pick will need little time to adjust to the North American style of play but must improve his four-step acceleration and stride technique to give him more time and space to use his elite offensive skills at the NHL level. Hertl could play in the NHL this season out of training camp but is still under contract in Europe. He played against men in the Czech league last year and the versatile forward has other aspects to his game to fall back on when he is not scoring at the NHL level.

2. (1) Freddie Hamilton, C, 7.5C
Drafted 5th Round, 129th overall, 2010

Hamilton is an excellent two-way centerman with good offensive upside who can play the shutdown role and play the important minutes of a game. The versatile forward can also play on both the power-play and penalty-killing units. The physical playmaker showed more maturity, character, and improvements on his offensive skills this past season in the OHL.

Hamilton will need to add more muscle mass and strength to play his physical style of game at the professional level. He projects quite easily as a top-six forward for the Sharks in the NHL. The two-way center will probably be playing in the AHL with Worcester this upcoming season and the Sharks will not likely rush his development.

3. (2) Matt Nieto, RW, 7.5C
Drafted 2nd Round, 47th Overall, 2011

Nieto has excellent acceleration and uses his explosive speed to force the oppositions' defensemen to be cautious when defending against him. The quick winger has improved his overall game, is equally fast with or without the puck, and has a quick, accurate shot. He needs to continue improving his overall game while putting up better offensive numbers and shooting more often instead of forcing bad passes.

Nieto will play his junior year at Boston University and has two years of development at the NCAA level. He will be expected to lead the Terrier's offense while providing character and leadership to the younger incoming players. The talented forward projects as a top-six player for the Sharks organization.

4. (3) Tommy Wingels, C, 7.0C
Drafted 6th Round, 177th overall, 2008

Wingels is an outstanding two-way forward that will not shy away from playing the body. He is a competent playmaker and distributes the puck well. The good skating forward is very poised and patient with the puck while possessing solid decision-making skills. His defensive zone play is excellent and he does a great job of containing opposing players by taking away the lanes.

Wingels is versatile enough to play all three forward positions and can play on any line without hurting the team. He will hope to use last season's NHL playoff experience to raise his game to the next level for the upcoming season and find a place in the NHL on the Sharks roster out of training camp.

5. (19) Sean Kuraly, C, 7.0C
Drafted 5th round, 133rd overall, 2011

Kuraly really improved his offensive game as a playmaker and became more of a two-way player this past season in the USHL. He excels at penalty-killing because he can read the play quickly and react to possible scoring chances. The big, speedy centerman started to show his offensive finish and put all the pieces together in his game.

Kuraly really jumped up on the Top 20 list after a stellar performance at the USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camp, where the 19-year-old scored four goals along with two assists in three games and was among the best Americans on the ice at times. He has four years of development in the NCAA at Miami University and it will be very interesting to watch how well the big centerman progresses over those years.

6. (4) Travis Oleksuk, C, 7.5D
Signed as a free agent in March, 2012

Oleksuk was a very good free agent pick-up out of the NCAA by the San Jose organization after his excellent senior year at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. He has a solid two-way game and is also an excellent playmaker with an underrated scoring ability. The speedy forward has good balance while possessing a solid work ethic, hockey sense, and vision. The big centerman produces under the pressure of the big games and scores important goals at the right time.

Oleksuk could compete for the Sharks' roster out of training camp, but if he does not stick, he will most likely be a welcome addition to the Worcester Sharks at the AHL level. He has the all-round game to succeed in a checking role even when he is not scoring at the NHL level.

7. (6) Matt Tennyson, D, 7.5D
Signed as a free agent in March, 2012

Signed after three seasons at Western Michigan University, Tennyson is a big and mobile puck-moving defenseman with a rocket from the point whose defensive game just keeps improving. He has the size and good skating skills, but he needs to be more physical defensively and take fewer risks offensively to reduce his turnovers. The big physical defender has the hockey IQ and all-around capabilities to develop into a top-pairing defenseman but will need time to elevate the defensive side of his game.

Tennyson could compete for a roster position with San Jose out of NHL training camp but will most likely start the season in the AHL with Worcester. He could be one of the Sharks' prospects to watch this upcoming season.

8. (5) Taylor Doherty, D, 7.5D
Drafted 2nd Round, 57th overall, 2009

Doherty is a big man whose skating, speed, and balance were issues in his first pro season, but he improved his overall game by the end of the 2011-12 season. He will be a long-term project and needs to adjust to the speed of the game in order to show his offensive upside. The big defender will need to play more physically and could fill the shutdown role as his confidence grows at the professional level.

Doherty will take two to three years at the AHL level to see if he is going to develop into an NHL-caliber defenseman. His projection is likely to be a big, physical shutdown defender with some offensive potential in the NHL.

9. (7) Konrad Abeltshauser, D, 7.0C
Drafted 6th Round, 163rd overall, 2010

Abeltshauser can really skate for his size and will jump up into the rush. He possesses solid offensive skills and has a hard, accurate shot from the point. The big defender has always had the offensive game but the last two years of junior has seen him become a better defender in his own zone. The big, lanky rearguard needs more strength and has to play with more physicality while using his size down low in the defensive zone.

Abeltshauser will most likely return for an overage year in the QMJHL as Halifax’s top defender and could play 30-plus minutes per game. The Sharks' management would not want him to stay in Worcester as a sixth or seventh defenseman and stunt his overall development. He projects as a top-four blueliner in the NHL.

10. (8) Dylan DeMelo, D, 7.0C
Drafted 6th round, 179th overall, 2011

DeMelo is a mobile, puck-moving defenseman who likes to jump up into the play as the trailer in the offensive zone. The big defender plays a good two-way game, has good hockey sense, and can play on both special team units. He will need to improve his offensive play and bring more physicality down low in his own end of the rink in order to play at the NHL level. He projects as a top-four defenseman if he continues to develop at the same pace.

DeMelo has another year in the OHL with Mississauga to get bigger and continue improving his overall game. He has to show more offense from the back-end at the junior level this season while playing top-pairing minutes for his team.

11. (9) Lee Moffie, D, 7.0C
Drafted 7th Round, 188th overall, 2010

Moffie is an excellent puck-moving, offensive defenseman who has a bomb of a shot from the point but needs to shoot more often. The solid defenseman has excellent poise and patience when carrying the puck and will jump into the rush to become the trailer on the offensive play. He is a smooth-skating defender that can play both sides of the ice but needs to improve his defensive positioning and play a more physical game.

Moffie will be expected to play a bigger role on Michigan’s special team units and asked to provide character and leadership as a returning senior for the Wolverines. The mobile blueliner has improved his level of play in each of his past three seasons at the NCAA level and projects as a top-four defenseman in the NHL.

12. (11) Harri Sateri, G, 7.0C
Drafted 4th Round, 106th overall, 2008

Sateri has the calm demeanor, work ethic, and character to be a solid back-up goalie, but despite his upside, he has not shown that he can carry a team at this time. The smart, butterfly goalie has trouble with his timing when going down too early and misreading the play. His game really improved late in the season for Worcester as the Finnish goalie adjusted to the North American game.

Sateri will have stiff competition in Worcester with all the goaltenders trying to step up their games for a job in the upcoming season. He should be more comfortable with the smaller ice surface and the speed of the game at the AHL level to have a chance at the starting position.

13. (12) Cody Ferriero, C, 7.0C
Drafted 5th Round, 127th overall, 2010

Ferriero is a natural scorer who finds the open areas in the defensive coverage where he can fire his quick, accurate shot. He had a solid offensive year going before a knee injury finished his season. The speedy centerman needs to mature both on and off the ice while continuing to improve his overall game.

Ferrierro has to show that the knee injury has not affected his speed game and needs to bring more offense again this year in the NCAA for Northeastern. The junior sniper should put up excellent number this coming season if he can stay healthy for the whole year.

14. (13) Sebastian Stalberg, C/RW 6.5C
Signed as a free agent in March, 2012

Stalberg is an excellent playmaker who has good hands and sees the ice well. He possesses good passing skills and can set up plays while also being able to finish chances with his good shot and quick release. The speedy forward brings a solid work ethic and compete level, not only to each game but also to every shift. His older brother, Blackhawks forward Viktor Stalberg, has been credited as a big help in the improvement of Sebastian's overall game and his development towards the NHL.

The younger Stalberg could surprise people out of training camp with the Sharks. He has a good overall game but just needs to add more strength over the summer and adjust to the speed of the professional game.

15. (NR) Chris Tierney, C, 7.0D
Drafted 2nd round, 55th overall, 2012

Tierney has the potential to be a high-end playmaker. He is already an excellent penalty-killer, has good hockey sense, and brings a good work ethic to every shift. The solid two-way centerman, like all young prospects needs to add more strength while continuing to improve his overall game and needs a quicker, harder shot. He projects as a shutdown centerman with good offensive upside and a possible top-nine forward in the NHL.

Tierney really improved his defensive game and became the shutdown center for the London Knights in the OHL playoffs and Memorial Cup. He should receive bigger minutes with the top-two lines for the Knights this upcoming season.

16. (16) Brandon Mashinter, LW, 6.5C
Signed as a free agent in March, 2009

Mashinter has improved his offensive game and is becoming a power forward that can hold his own when dropping the gloves. He just needs to stop thinking he is a sniper and begin driving the net hard to make life difficult for the opposition's defenders and goalies. The big winger scores his goals around the net in the dirty areas of the rink and he could be a lower-scoring, Milan Lucic-type player. He projects as a third or fourth line checking forward if he gets to the NHL.

Mashinter has a good chance to compete for a fourth line energy role with the NHL Sharks at training camp this upcoming season. He could add more toughness with a touch of scoring to the San Jose team.

17. (NR) Christophe Lalancette, RW, 7.0D
Drafted 3rd round, 109th overall, 2012

Lalancette has excellent offensive upside and already plays a good two-way game. He always goes to the net, has good inside finishing skills, and can play well along the boards. The skilled winger needs to add some more size and strength while improving his four-step acceleration to make it to the next level. He has other facets to his game to fall back on if his offense dries up at the pro level.

Lalancette will have two more years of development at the junior level in the QMJHL and should put up even better offensive numbers while improving his overall game. He projects as a top-nine, two-way forward with good offensive potential.

18. (14) Nick Petrecki, D, 6.5C
Drafted 1st Round, 27th overall, 2007

Petrecki has NHL size and can play a mean, physical game. He skates well and can move the puck, but does not use his heavy, hard shot enough from the point. The blueliner has all the tools but seems to lack the hockey IQ to use them properly. He needs to bring more offense while staying away from the foolish penalties and looking for the big hit. The first-round pick might still become the big shutdown defenseman with some offensive potential that San Jose was hoping for when the team drafted him.

Petrecki showed enough signs of getting his game together towards the end of last season that the big defender could have a chance of making the NHL Sharks' roster at some point during the upcoming season.

19. (18) Sena Acolatse, D, 7.0D
Signed as a free agent in March, 2011

Acolatse is a physical, offensive defenseman who can really shoot the puck and join the rush. He will stand up for teammates and play the game with grit and physicality. The tough defender needs to improve his defensive zone play and his decision-making when it comes to pinching at the opposition's blue line. If he can improve his defensive game, then the mobile blueliner has a possible upside as a third or fourth defenseman at the NHL level.

Acolatse should be returning for his second season in the AHL with Worcester where he will help lead the power play and improve his defensive game. He could be competing for an NHL roster spot in the near future.

20. (NR) Colin Blackwell, C, 6.5C
Drafted 7th round, 194th overall, 2011

Blackwell plays with tons of energy, drives fearlessly to the net, and can be a good shooter. He also has the offensive vision and solid hockey IQ to be a potent playmaker. The stocky forward will need to add more muscle to his small build while improving his overall defensive game and learning to use his quick, accurate shot more often. The speedy forward jumped onto the Top 20 list after a successful showing at the US junior evaluation camp where he put up six points in three games.

Blackwell will be playing his sophomore year at Harvard University and will be expected to take on a bigger role in the Crimson's offensive scheme this season. He is a long-shot to make the NHL at this time but his work ethic, desire, and passion are extremely high and he has three more years of development at the NCAA level.