SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Is William Eklund ready for the NHL? How about Ryan Merkley? Who else stood out for the San Jose Sharks during the 2021 Rookie Faceoff Tournament?
Three NHL scouts who were in Arizona offered their insights to San Jose Hockey Now about Eklund, Merkley, Ozzy Wiesblatt, Santeri Hatakka, Jasper Weatherby, Artemi Kniazev, and Tristen Robins’s performances.
They also liked Danil Gushchin, Scott Reedy, Brandon Coe, Timur Ibragimov, and Kyle Topping, but didn’t have a lot to say about those San Jose Sharks prospects.
Keep in mind that these were their impressions after a small sample size of three whole games — take all their thoughts with a grain of salt.
Scout #2: I thought Eklund was a good player for an ’02 born. He’s tricky. He’s really, really smart.
Eklund really impressed me quite a bit in his hockey sense. I really liked his ability to find open space to receive the puck. He really wanted the puck and he was dangerous with it at good speed. Good tight turns and mobility. And he’s clever. He understands his size and how to operate in a bigger man’s game.
I thought this kid’s gonna be a guy that picks up and learns the game quickly. Just like Wiesblatt, same type of process.
I think that’s too rich [expecting him in the NHL this year]. It’s really hard. You have to be really careful.
Scout #3: It’s a stretch [to expect him in the NHL this year]. He’s too raw.
[Eklund and Wiesblatt] were the two forwards who impressed me the most on the Sharks.
But he wasn’t a bona fide standout — this guy is better than everyone else.
Scout #3: Robins was fine. I liked his compete with or without the puck. He worked to hang onto pucks. Deceptive strength for a small guy.
Scout #2: He had some nice tools. Good skater. Looked smart enough. His game looks fairly mature.
He’s a better skater than Reedy.
Scout #3: He reminded me a little bit of Alexander True. Big guy, they put him net front on the power play. He skates a little better than True, but True is probably a smarter player.
Scout #2: I think that he improved from the last time I saw him when he played [AHL] games early in the year. He’s come back and he looked like he’s figured out spacing a little bit better. He’s figured out how he can impact games.
Scout #3: He kind of plays with a little fire in his belly. He seemed to play a little better when he was angry.
Scout #1: I thought Hatakka was good. He was really playing physical, standing up, and had a good, full defensive package. He was not afraid to get going with the puck.
Scout #3: Hatakka and Kniazev were [the San Jose Sharks’] best two defensemen [in the tournament].
Scout #2: I thought he had really good mobility. I thought his reads were real good. I liked his lateral movement. I thought he closed well on players. I thought he was smart.
He had good position down low. I thought he managed it okay. There were some size issues a little bit with some players, but that’s teachable. I liked what he brought to the table.
Scout #1: I’d be absolutely terrified if either [Merkley or Brinson Pasichnuk] are playing in your line-up next year.
Pasichnuk doesn’t skate very well.
Merkley fundamentally doesn’t know how to defend. And he’s not very strong. One of those problems is detrimental and he’s got two of them.
Scout #2: I thought he played with decent control. I didn’t mind him. I thought he was pretty good.
I see him as a smart player. But he still has to get better at defending men.
Scout #3: Merkley was much better in Game One than he was in Game Two and Three. I thought he was actually better in two than three.
His blueline play is so high risk, high reward. He tries to do some things, he kind of scares the hell out of you.
I feel his compete level just kind of wavers. He’s easy to play against. If I’m parking out front, he’s gonna give you a couple feet. You can get inside position, you can kind of have your way if you want.
He doesn’t look like he’s any closer to being an NHL player than the last time I saw him.
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