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Sharks Draft Preview: J.D. Burke & Ryan Wagman on Who San Jose Might Pick



Credit: jpellgen (@1179_jp) (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

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 Hockey Now spoke with Ryan Wagman of McKeen’s Hockey and J.D. Burke of Elite Prospects about recent Sharks draft trends and who San Jose might be eyeing in the 2020 NHL Draft.

And if you haven’t, get both the McKeen’s 2020 NHL Draft Guide and the Elite Prospects 2020 NHL Draft Guide…you won’t regret it!

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!

ESPN’s Chris Peters on Sharks Swinging for Fence at Draft

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