On one hand, Doug Wilson is talking up and down about how deep the 2020 NHL Draft is. On the other hand, the San Jose Sharks need help in a lot of places.
Wilson said on Friday, “Would I listen to [an offer]? Absolutely. But this is a pretty good draft for what we’re looking for. Those picks are valued. Our first-round pick next year is valued. Somebody would have to knock my socks off to make me move around on that.”
Of course, if this Draft is so loaded, couldn’t the San Jose Sharks fetch fairly significant NHL players with even the No. 31 pick? Or one of their two second-round picks?
The San Jose Sharks will pick 31st (from Tampa Bay), 34th, 56th (from Colorado via Washington), 126th (from Ottawa), 127th, 201st (from Pittsburgh), 210th (from Washington) in the 2020 Draft. That’s one first-round pick, two second-round picks, two fifth-round picks, and two seventh-round picks.
So will San Jose use this currency to add NHL-ready talent to their big league roster, supplementing yesterday’s acquisition of Devan Dubnyk and Ryan Donato? Or will they feed their undernourished farm system?
Anyway, Wilson isn’t the only Wilson excited about the 2020 NHL Draft.
“Last year, we made five trades at the draft table to try to move around, based on the amount of guys we had on our list. Last year, we barely had 90 guys on our final draft list. This year, I think the final number was 131. We’re pretty excited about the draft depth of this season,” director of scouting Doug Wilson Jr. pointed out. “For this draft, we’re looking at guys who could fall into the third, fourth, fifth rounds that in previous seasons would’ve gone earlier.”
We’ll see tonight at 7 PM PT during Day 1 of the Draft and tomorrow at 8:30 AM PT during Day 2 if the San Jose Sharks are putting more of their chips into the present or the future.
San Jose Sharks Draft Trends?
J.D. Burke: It’s hard to pick out any one pattern or a developing trend from the Sharks in their last three drafts.
I’d like to think that they’ve consistently made high-upside plays, with Ryan Merkley as the shining example of that, but that doesn’t stand up under further scrutiny when one considers the Josh Norris pick, which at the time seemed like anything but that. This might be a little bit of an Inside Baseball remark, but the closest thing to a pattern that I can detect is how willing the Sharks have been known to take poor skaters from the mid-rounds of the draft onward.
It speaks to the trust that they place on their development staff. Dillon Hamaliuk, Yegor Spiridonov, Linus Karlsson, Jasper Weatherby, Sasha Chmelevski, etc. are not the fleetest of foot.
Ryan Wagman: Looking at the goalies in the Sharks system, there are five that we would look at as prospects. Three of them were undrafted free agents.
The Sharks have a predilection for Russian players more than most other teams. They have a strong history of drafting from there and signing free agents who have that background.
They’re leveraging an inefficiency in the market: Whether these players are less signable or not. But for a team like them, they’re trading draft picks to win now, that’s what you have to do. You try to find guys who can play on the back-end of your roster. Pick up as free talent, whether at a late-round talent or an undrafted free agent.
That’s what they’ve been doing, to their credit. That’s why their system is ranked 25th instead of 30th, which it would probably be if we just went off draft picks.
With late bloomers, you can say its a trend. They get a lot of late bloomers; they develop players well.
They do like bigger players. But if they really like a guy who’s small, they’ll take him. They’re not going to avoid signing Jayden Halbgewachs or signing Ivan Chekhovich because they’re not 6-foot-2. But if they have their druthers, they’ll generally take a guy who’s on the taller side.
Forwards, they tend to draft guys with good instincts. Their performance, their total is greater than the sum of their individual parts. They might not be the toolsiest players, but they manage to get it done.
You can think of [free agent signing] Alexander True who’s a shitty skater but he gets it done. Sasha Chmelevski, not a horrible skater, but not a great skater, he gets it done. A guy like John Leonard, nothing stands out about him except he scores goals. We also like Spirodonov, he does better than his tools suggest.
Most often, in my opinion, it’s a function of hockey IQ. Their ability to maximize their tools, the ability to make the correct decisions, be in the right place.
Who Might San Jose Sharks Draft in First Two Rounds?
Burke: The Sharks have a ton of prospect depth in their forward ranks, so I suspect that they’ll try to even things out with some defensive picks, and maybe even a goalie, depending on how things break.
I’d keep an eye on Topi Niemelä, Joel Blomqvist, and whichever one of the top-four Swedish defence prospects is still available to them, whether that’s Helge Grans, Anton Johannesson, William Wallinder, or Emil Andrae.
Those Swedish defensive prospects, in particular, seem to fit with how the Sharks approach their blue line. They seem to covet mobile defencemen with elite offensive instincts, and those players fit the bill to varying degrees, save for Andrae who has a fair amount of work to do on his skating.
Wagman: They like hockey IQ. One of the smartest players that I remember tracking was Josh Norris. Maybe Mavrik Bourque is available? I wouldn’t expect it.
Based on system strengths and weaknesses. I look at their needs being on the blueline. Their top prospect is Ryan Merkley and they also have Kniazev, they’re both smaller puck-movers. So if they need a defenseman, they need somebody who is solid, perhaps marginally bigger. Viable at both ends of the ice.
One player who should be available and could be a steal there is, the type of guy who fits the Sharks MO of picking guys who the total might be greater than the parts — leveraging on an inefficiency in the market — is Justin Barron. He’s a defenseman from the Halifax Mooseheads. He plays a very mature game, playing regular minutes as a 16-17 year-old. He played for Canada Under-18’s last year as an under-ager.
But this year, he dealt with a blood clot, missed a large part of the season. When he came back, he wasn’t very sharp. But it’s a blood clot, he is healthy, something you can treat with medication.
Based on potential, he could’ve gone in the top-15 picks.
He could be undervalued at the Draft. The Sharks took a gamble like that on a player like Jake McGrew. They’re willing to do that. Justin Barron could be a guy [like Merkley] like that.
Jake Neighbours, winger from the Edmonton Oil Kings. He’s another sum-is-greater-than-the-parts player. Leadership skills. Plays good two-way game. He hustles. Got skill too. He’s somebody, if he is available, I could see the Sharks liking.
Possibly Ozzy Wiesblatt of Prince Albert, high-energy guy.
Luke Evangelista. Definitely the sum is greater than the parts and he’s a late bloomer. If the season has finished like it was supposted to, he would’ve gone up the rankings, because he was getting better and better.
Center Tristan Robins got better and better as the year went on.
On defense, if Helge Grans is available, he’s a Swedish defenseman. Topi Niemelä, good skater, solid offensive tools.
Considering they’re good with the Russians, there’s Shakir Mukhamadullin, could be a reasonable pick in the second round.
William Wallinder of Sweden. I don’t know if he’s their style. He’s more toolsy. He hasn’t put it together. Some think he’s a first-rounder too.
These are guys who I think are reasonable targets for San Jose.
Who Might San Jose Sharks Draft in Late Rounds?
Burke: That’s a tough question to answer.
The Sharks tend to go all over the place with their later-round picks, whether it’s placing some analytics-savvy upside bets in Ivan Chekhovich and Sasha Chmelevski, or going with players who might deveop into support pieces further down the road like Jasper Weatherby.
I could see them going for an Oliver Okuliar or Pavel Gogolev-type of player if they slip through the cracks. That fits with the precedent set by Chmelevski, Chekhovich, and even Joachim Blichfield a few years prior.
They’re definitely not afraid to take high-scoring re-entries, and it’s a posture that seems to pay off more often than one might suspect.
Wagman: I will stick with the area I cover, the USHL and NCAA West. Some guys I like this year who could fit their profile, later bloomers, greater-than-the-sum-of-their-parts players.
Kristof Papp, a rare Hungarian player. Cameron Berg gives me a Kevin Labanc vibe. Got a great shot. Little guy, but he just gets it done. The other one is Sam Stange. Good two-player, very good skater. Wait two years, see how he blossoms type of player.
What Does Chris Peters Think?
Also, we covered similar San Jose Sharks questions with ESPN Draft and prospects analyst Chris Peters last week…take a listen!
Rocky Thompson: “Leave analytics out of the locker room.”
George Kingston was the San Jose Sharks’ first head coach. Fast forward to 2015: He was the President of the NHL Coaches Association when he sent a fateful e-mail.
“George Kingston always sent out an e-mail asking for people who would want to present at the NHL’s coaches conference at the NHL entry draft,” San Jose Sharks associate coach Rocky Thompson told Oilersnation earlier this week. “I felt I needed to get my name out there, so I called him and said I’d like to present.”
Thompson’s career was at a crossroads when he took the stage at the 2015 NHL Coaches Association Global Coaches’ Clinic in Florida. He was a coach without a team — the Edmonton Oilers had just fired his head coach Dallas Eakins — and he didn’t know if incoming head coach Todd McLellan would keep him.
There were over 400 coaches in attendance: “He blew them away.”
Windsor Spitfires owner Bob Boughner was one of them: “What he said really hit home with me.”
The Spitfires hired Thompson as head coach and he led them to the 2017 Memorial Cup. The expansion Vegas Golden Knights followed up, selecting Thompson to be their first-ever AHL head coach, and he led the Chicago Wolves to the 2019 Calder Cup Finals.
And now, the circle from Kingston to Boughner to San Jose is complete: Last month, the San Jose Sharks tapped Thompson to be part of the head coach’s staff. Thompson will be running the defense and the power play.
San Jose Hockey Now caught up with Thompson in a wide-ranging interview earlier this month.
Curious how the San Jose Sharks might maximize Erik Karlsson and Brent Burns’s talents? How Phil Jackson and the triangle offense will apply to the Sharks? As a coach, how to use analytics the right way?
Thompson, to say the least, loves nerding out about hockey.
USNTDP coach Nick Fohr on Bordeleau’s Hockey IQ, Chmelevski’s Skating, Labanc’s Confidence
It’s Thomas Bordeleau Week here at San Jose Hockey Now!
Today, Sheng Peng joined the podcast, and we really got into detail on Bordeleau with his former USA Hockey National Team Development Program coach Nick Fohr.
Bordeleau isn’t the first San Jose Sharks prospect that Fohr has coached — the current USNTDP Associate Coach has worked with Kevin Labanc, Scott Reedy, and Sasha Chmelevski.
Here’s a select transcription from this fun, informative interview — Fohr shares Bordeleau’s greatest strengths and weaknesses, discusses Chmelevski’s flawed-but- improving skating, and reveals what Labanc’s USNTDP teammates gave him a hard time about.
Nick Fohr, on Thomas Bordeleau’s greatest strength and weakness:
In Thomas’s case, he’s a very crafty, skilled forward that competes pretty hard. That was something he really improved on in the two years with us.
He really loves to rely on this skill.
He’s a cerebral player. He really takes in the game. He reads plays well up and down the ice sheet.
That being a strength of his, one of his weaknesses, he relies on his skill too much. That was something we talked with Thomas a lot: Although you are a skilled hockey player, you are not skilled enough to make it in the NHL on skill alone. You have to develop a little more bite, a little more aggressiveness. You gotta round your game out a little bit more defensively. Commit to those things and not rely on just being a skilled player. Those players don’t make it in the NHL anymore. They don’t. They used to. At least they don’t make it for a long, extended period of time.
Fohr, on Bordeleau’s hockey IQ:
If you ask a coach or a scout or a GM, what are your three most important things? People almost always throw hockey IQ at you.
For me, with Thomas, where you really see it, when you see the intelligence, when he gets the puck on his stick, his ability to manipulate the other team, manipulate the defender. For example, on the power play, when he has the puck on his tape, the way he postures the puck, the way he holds the puck on his stick, the way he postures his body, will tell one story to the defender, to get the defender to move. [That] opens up the play he really wants to make.
That’s a really, really, really hard skill. It takes a lot of hockey intelligence to do that, to understand the messages you’re sending to a defender. It’s a really elite trait of his.
Fohr, on Sasha Chmelevski’s skating:
The knock on him was always his skating. He kind of skated really wide. He didn’t recover his skating very well, so his feet were always really, really wide. So people were always worried about his skating, his ability to get around the rink.
I think he’s fixed that a little bit, as I’ve seen him over the years. But he’s similar to a Bordeleau type from his ability to make plays. They actually make pretty good comparables.
Fohr, on Kevin Labanc’s Twitter handle:
By the way, he’s got one of my favorite Twitter handles out there with @Str8ToTheBanc. He had that when he was here and I remember the guys gave him a hard time about it. But I loved it.
Fohr, on if Labanc’s USNTDP teammates were jealous that Labanc has such a cool last name:
(laughs) That was probably part of it. To have the cunning to him to be able to do that, right? Kevin never lacked the confidence to pull something off like that, that’s for sure.
Make sure to listen to the entire interview: It’s well worth your time if you’re interested in the draft process for USNTDP players (6:00), which San Jose Sharks scout concentrates on the USNTDP, what Bordeleau’s game looks like (10:00), and how his father (former NHL player Sebastien Bordeleau) helped shape his game (16:00). We also compare Labanc and Bordeleau (23:30) and get a Chmelevski update from Fohr (30:00).
BREAKING: Sharks Are Talking to Conor Sheary
When free agency began on October 9th, the question was, “Who would the San Jose Sharks sign?”
After almost two weeks of relative inactivity — besides adding familiar faces Patrick Marleau and Matt Nieto and losing franchise icon Joe Thornton — the question became, “What’s Doug Wilson doing?”
San Jose Hockey Now has good news for Sharks fans: Wilson is still active in free agency. So who’s he looking at — Conor Sheary, Erik Haula, or Mikael Granlund? We’ve got the scoop!