Welcome back to our deep dive into the San Jose Sharks system!
If you haven’t seen the other installments of this series, check them out here:
Part 1 covered key terms and standards used in this series like NHLe and DY. Part 2 covered players who very likely will never become NHL’ers, like Jeremy Roy, Jeffrey Viel, and Jasper Weatherby. Part 3 looked at a number of skaters who have one more season to make a big impression like Jonathan Dahlen, Thomas Gregoire, Jayden Halbgewachs,Nikolai Knyzhov, Maxim Letunov, Scott Reedy, and Danil Yurtaykin.
Today in Part 4, we examine a few players who aren’t technically behind the development curve given their draft round or how many years have elapsed since their draft season. As a result, there’s still time for these players to surprise, but each is missing part of the trifecta of a clean bill of health, high-end skills, or scoring progression.
Remember, we’re going to get to 33 San Jose Sharks prospects — we’re inching our way closer to the players with a clear path to the NHL.
Zachary Gallant – C
The Red Wings drafted Gallant in the third round of the 2017 draft. After a disappointing D+1 season and not quite the rebound they’d hoped for, the organization decided to let Gallant’s rights expire.
San Jose took a chance on the center, signing him to an entry-level deal in 2019 after a disappointing season in the OHL. The organization’s gamble paid off somewhat as the 20-year-old finished his final season in junior hockey with 65 points in 59 games, the equivalent of a 22-point NHL season.
In a 2017 McKeen’s Hockey profile of the forward, Scott Crawford serenades us with a sour-sounding song made up of such descriptors as “decent,” “above average,” “frustrating,” and “capable.” These aren’t exactly the superlatives of a player who will break a statistical mold to become an NHLer.
Gallant will begin his D+4 season whenever AHL hockey resumes. About 58.5 percent of third-round skaters who ever play an NHL game do so by the end of their D+4 season. It’s hard to imagine a “decent” junior hockey player comes out of nowhere to outperform the rest of his minor-hockey peers and earn a professional appearance this coming season, which will put him officially behind the curve.
Even if we recognize that Gallant improved during his final OHL outing, it was likely too little too late. Based on his yearly scoring rates to date, he has about a 14 percent chance of becoming an NHL regular, a number that is probably too high given what we know about him.
Vladislav Kotkov – W
Kotkov is a favorite of mine. I noticed his statistical profile during the lead-up to the entry draft and was excited to learn the Sharks invited him to the 2018 development camp. The organization signed him to an entry-level deal toward the end of the event.
The 6’4” winger scored 51 points in 67 draft-year QMJHL games, the equivalent of about 13 NHL points. But he had a strong impact on his team’s even-strength scoring network, suggesting there was more to him than his point totals. Since then he’s posted NHLes of 16 and 15.5, a stagnation that does not portend an NHL future.
According to Pick224.com, Kotkov also received just the eighth-most estimated minutes of ice time among Chicoutimi forwards despite being the fourth-oldest forward.
Despite the lack of scoring progression and ice time, Kotkov’s scouting reports do paint an intriguing picture. He has a prized combination of size and speed along with “the vision to be an effective playmaker.” Others have noted his ability to stickhandle through traffic. It’s unfortunate that these traits haven’t translated to more points, even if scoring production isn’t everything.
Because Kotkov signed his entry-level deal as an 18-year-old his contract will slide. This means the Sharks will own his rights up through his D+6 season if he does not play 10 or more NHL games next season. Kotkov has time to make an impression, and there are some positive signs in scouts’ perceptions of his game. He will have to show his stagnant junior hockey scoring rates are not indicative of a lack of growth if he is to buck historical trends.
Jake McGrew – RW
As Sheng Peng noted, the Sharks had clearly been following McGrew for some time even before his draft season. The forward missed his entire age-17/18 season due to injury, and the Sharks claimed him with a sixth-round pick in the 2017 draft. After two slow seasons post-injury, McGrew came out of the gates quickly to open the 2019-20 season.
The San Jose organization must be enamored with its perception of McGrew, because it signed him to an ELC in June 2018. By the time the ink was dry, the Sharks had seen the young forward play just one WHL season that was fairly average statistically.
Unfortunately, another season-ending injury curtailed his 20-year-old campaign after he had posted eight points in just six WHL games. Because it’s difficult to suss much out of just two full seasons, we can turn to scouting reports to see what it is the winger does that catches Doug Wilson Jr.’s eye.
Bill Placzek of Draftsite.com writes that McGrew is a, “dynamic weapon with a tremendous shot, great instincts and great speed” who controls the puck well but needs to add strength. Steve Kournianos of TheDraftAnalyst.com was intrigued by McGrew’s speed and finishing skills.
A draft hobbyist on Reddit built a model that parses scouting reports—namely, scouting reports from Draftsite.com—to determine if a player is of NHL quality or not. The model is pretty confident McGrew has what it takes to be an NHLer, at least if Placzek’s evaluation is accurate.
Just a sixth-round pick, McGrew has all the time in the world to play his first NHL game. Of the sixth-round forwards and defensemen who eventually play in the NHL, just 51.5 percent of them play their first game by the end of their D+4 seasons. Even if McGrew fails to clear that benchmark, he’ll be right where we’d expect him to be given his draft position.
There appears to be a talented forward with speed here who hasn’t fallen behind the curve yet. But we’ve seen what two major injuries can do to a player’s progression, so we know McGrew is fighting an uphill battle as he not only rehabs but also tries to rise to the top of the San Jose Barracuda depth chart in his first professional season.
McGrew will need to stay healthy all season and score about half-a-point per game next year if I am going to entertain the idea that that scouting report captures the forward’s true essence. Of all the players in this tier, he seems the most likely to eventually see NHL time. Based on his two full WHL seasons, he has a fighter’s chance (29%) to be an NHL regular, according to Byron Bader’s research. That’s still not much better than the chances of an average draft pick.
Kyle Topping – C
Kyle Topping is no stranger to the Sharks organization. He appeared at the team’s 2018 training camp, though he left camp without a contract. The 20-year-old center spent his entire junior career with the Kelowna Rockets where he has been a point-per-game player since his age-18 season.
There isn’t a whole lot to say about the forward signed to an AHL deal. He’s only in this tier and not one of the two below because he’ll begin his age-20/21 season in the fall. This gives him a season or two to impress with the Barracuda and earn an NHL contract, which isn’t completely fair to rule out right now.
Topping probably should have been drafted. More than 2,000 forwards have played more than 25 games their draft year in the CHL. According to Pick224.com, Topping’s rate of even-strength primary points scored per game was in the top 20 percent of those players. Since then, his production has stagnated, a fact that is particularly frustrating for a player older than most of his age-group peers.
The center is entering his D+3 season on an AHL deal. He still has a year or two to surprise at the AHL level and earn an entry-level deal. His lack of scoring improvement suggests that’s an unlikely timeline for the soon-to-be 21-year-old.
Stay tuned for future installments of this series. As we move up the pecking order we’ll attempt to use a wider variety of graphics and tools to understand where players stand relative to historically similar cohorts.
Have a thought about any of these players? Questions? Drop us a line in the comments and let’s discuss.
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