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Brown Says Bordeleau Has Passed Merkley As Sharks’ Top Prospect

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Ryan Merkley

Has Thomas Bordeleau surpassed Ryan Merkley as the San Jose Sharks’ top prospect? Mitch Brown of EP Rinkside thinks so.

He put Bordeleau over Merkley in his article ranking the team’s top-15 prospects — and overall, Elite Prospects ranked the San Jose system as the 20th-best in the league. Brown joined the Locked On Sharks guys — the full podcast is below — to discuss Bordeleau’s ascension, his specific worries about Merkley’s defensive game, and which young Sharks forward does he think is most likely to crack the top-nine next year, among other prospect-related topics.

This is just a taste from a fun, informative interview:

Mitch Brown, on what role he envisions for Thomas Bordeleau in the NHL: 

Bordeleau is probably more of a middle-six guy. A No. 2 or 3 [center]. I just don’t see enough high-end offensive ability from him, though he’s adding more and more ability to his game.

His pace of operation tends to be a little slower than what you would generally see at this stage than from a first-line center prospect. He’s not quite as deceptive as these other players, though he’s really improved that.

Brown, on Ryan Merkley’s specific defensive shortcomings:

I really hate leaning on a guy’s defense for why he’s not going to play. But Merkley is a pretty extreme case.

He’s never in good athletic position i.e. his knees are never bent. He’s always standing around, watching the puck. He’s never looking for threats behind him. He’s very committing defensively…he just runs straight at guys who are skating toward him, which is never a good thing, because players can just go one direction or another — he’s not driving the play [defensively] in any direction. He also gives up on plays, a ton.

It’s just really difficult to envision an NHL coach trusting him enough to play him in the minutes that he needs to let his offense succeed.

Brown, on which young San Jose Sharks forward is most likely to help out in a top-nine capacity during the 2020-21 season:

Joachim Blichfeld is the only real answer here. You can say True or Gregor, but Gregor is probably a grinder — perhaps a really good one — and True is a big kid who knows what to do on the ice.

But if you’re looking for a top-nine guy, it’s Joachim Blichfeld.

I was not a fan of his last WHL year. I had no idea how he scored as much as he did. And now I watch the tape, and I think he’s a bit of a hockey genius out there.

He’s one of those offensive players who’s better off the puck than with it. He’s all about finding tiny little seams to shoot from. Instead of staying locked to a defenseman’s hip, he pushes off them, just as the puck comes through, so he can deflect it and pick up the rebound or get open for the pass.

It’s really impressive what he does. It’s all about outsmarting the opposition. Finding these little areas from which to work. From there, he builds off with a decent passing game.

It doesn’t hurt that his skating has improved a lot. He’s a bigger kid who understands how to use his body, how to involve his frame, both with and without the puck to create a little bit.

He also really, really understands his role. He doesn’t bring a ton of transitional value — and it’s not because he’s lacking in talent — it’s because he sees his teammates being in better position than he is. Having a better skill-set or at least one that’s more conducive for transition success. So he gets the puck, he makes a quick play in motion to get it to them, and he gets back open again.

He was right there with Wiesblatt and Merkley and Gushchin for the two-spot [in my rankings].

Erik, JD, and Sheng Peng from San Jose Hockey Now are joined by Mitch Brown of EP Rinkside to talk about his article ranking the top-15 San Jose Sharks prospects and where the system ranks in the NHL (Elite Prospects had them at 20th). We discuss why he chose Thomas Bordeleau over Ryan Merkley at the top of his board, touching on what Bordeleau has done to improve his game and where Mitch thinks Bordeleau slots in the NHL (7:30). Also, what’s Merkley’s challenging pro learning curve (11:00)? Some big-name San Jose Sharks prospects didn’t crack his top-15 (20:00) and we also chat about Sasha Chmelevski’s low ranking (23:30), John Leonard (32:00), and why Joachim Blichfeld is “a little bit of a hockey genius” (35:00). Check out the podcast on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

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Gary To

Yes! Finally some love for Blichfeld! His ability sounds a bit like Cheechoo does it not? Cant put him with Thornton anymore, but sounds like a fit with Hertl and Meier who can transition and play make for him.

Sheng Peng

Well, we’re talking Cheechoo super-lite then, a decent third-liner as opposed to a Rocket Richard winner. Also, Blichfeld doesn’t have Cheechoo’s array of hand skills i.e. goal scoring shots (be it tips, backhands, slappers, etc.)

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