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This Is 3rd-Most Prospects the Sharks Have Ever Had at WJCs

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Credit: USA Hockey

The San Jose Sharks have six prospects at the World Junior Championships, which is solid representation.

In fact, that’s the third-best WJC showing in franchise history.

More good news, five of those six prospects – center Will Smith and defenseman Eric Pohlkamp for USA, center Filip Bystedt and defenseman Mattias Havelid for Sweden, and winger Kasper Halttunen for Finland – have advanced to play each other in the WJC semi-finals.

Only defenseman Jake Furlong of Canada has been eliminated so far.

USA will take on Finland while host country Sweden will square off against Czechia on Jan. 4 for the right to play for the gold medal the next day.

Having that many WJC prospects is a good sign for the San Jose Sharks’ rebuild. Add on top of that, the Sharks reps are playing for the top hockey development countries in the world – meaning they’re the best of the best prospects. Moreover, they have two sleeper prospects in Furlong (2022 fifth-round pick) and Pohlkamp (2023 fifth-round pick) – their other WJC prospects were first or second-round picks – who have both shown well at the tourney, a testament to both the San Jose scouting and player development staffs.

Historically speaking though, what does it mean to have that many reps at World Juniors? Is it an automatic that brighter days are ahead for the San Jose Sharks?

Let’s take a look at all of the prospects that the Sharks have sent to the WJCs, along with how many NHL games, as of Jan. 2, that they’ve played.

A few caveats: Prospects have to be in the San Jose Sharks organization at the time of the World Juniors. Timo Meier in 2015 wasn’t drafted by the Sharks yet. Charlie Coyle in 2011 was still in the San Jose system. By 2012, he had been dealt to the Minnesota Wild for Brent Burns.

Keep in mind too, this isn’t a final verdict on the Sharks farm system over the years. San Jose has had Grade-A prospects who were too good for the WJCs after they were drafted, Patrick Marleau and Milan Michalek come to mind.

YEAR (#)PLAYERTEAMPOSITIONNHL GAMES
2024 (6)Will SmithUSAC0
2024 (6)Eric PohlkampUSAD0
2024 (6)Kasper HalttunenFinlandW0
2024 (6)Jake FurlongCanadaD0
2024 (6)Mattias HavelidSwedenD0
2024 (6)Filip BystedtSwedenC0
2023 (2)Ben GaudreauCanadaG0
2023 (2)Filip BystedtSwedenC0
2022 (1)Thomas BordeleauUSAC22
2021 (4)Santeri HatakkaFinlandD9
2021 (4)Adam RaskaCzechW8
2021 (4)Yegor SpirodonovRussiaC0
2021 (4)Artemi KniazevRussiaD0
2020 (1)Santeri HatakkaFinlandD9
2019 (1)Sasha ChmelevskiUSAC24
2018 (3)Josh NorrisUSAC163
2018 (3)Josef KorenarCzechG12
2018 (3)Joachim BlichfeldDenmarkW8
2017 (3)Rudolfs BalcersLatviaW170
2017 (3)Joachim BlichfeldDenmarkW8
2017 (3)Karlis CuksteLatviaD0
2016 (3)Timo MeierSwitzerlandW500
2016 (3)Rourke ChartierCanadaC44
2016 (3)Noah RodSwitzerlandW0
2015 (5)Mirco MuellerSwitzerlandD185
2015 (5)Nikolay GoldobinRussiaW125
2015 (5)Noah RodSwitzerlandW0
2015 (5)Julius BergmanSwedenD0
2015 (5)Fredvik BergvikSwedenG0
2014 (2)Mirco MuellerSwitzerlandD185
2014 (2)Danny O'ReganUSAC30
2013 (2)Tomas HertlCzechC701
2013 (2)Sean KuralyUSAC453
2012 (1)Freddie HamiltonCanadaC75
2011 (2)Charlie CoyleUSAC821
2011 (2)Konrad AbeltshauserGermanyD0
2010 (1)Marek ViedenskýSlovakiaC0
2009 (2)Harri SateriFinlandG15
2009 (2)Timo PielmeierGermanyG0
2008 (0)
2007 (0)
2006 (0)
2005 (3)Thomas GreissGermanyG368
2005 (3)Lukas KasparCzech L16
2005 (3)Kai HospeltGermany C0
2004 (2)Matt CarleUSAD730
2004 (2)Alexander HultSwedenC0
2003 (2)Marcel GocGermanyC636
2003 (2)Dmitri PatzoldGermanyG3
2002 (2)Tero MaattaFinlandD0
2002 (2)Michal MachoSlovakiaC0
2001 (2)Jon DiSalvatoreUSAL6
2001 (2)Tero MäättäFinlandD0
2000 (3)Jeff JillsonUSAD140
2000 (3)Miroslav ZálešákSlovakia W12
2000 (3)Willie LevesqueUSAL0
1999 (2)Brad StuartCanada D1056
1999 (2)Miroslav ZálešákSlovakia W12
1998 (2)Matt BradleyCanada R675
1998 (2)Joe DusbabekUSA R0
1997 (3)Andrei ZyuzinRussia D496
1997 (3)Vesa ToskalaFinland G266
1997 (3)Teemu RiihijarviFinland R0
1996 (8)Miikka KiprusoffFinland G624
1996 (8)Alexander KorolyukRussia R296
1996 (8)Vesa ToskalaFinland G266
1996 (8)Teemu RiihijarviFinland R0
1996 (8)Brian SwansonUSA C0
1996 (8)Marko MakinenFinland L0
1996 (8)Michal BrosCzech F0
1996 (8)Robert JindrichCzech D0
1995 (7)Shean DonovanCanada R951
1995 (7)Jeff FriesenCanada L893
1995 (7)Vaclav VaradaCzech L493
1995 (7)Alexander KorolyukRussia R296
1995 (7)Vlastimil KroupaCzech D105
1995 (7)Jonas ForsbergSweden G0
1995 (7)Angel NikolovCzech D0
1994 (2)Jonas ForsbergSwedenG0
1994 (2)Alexander OsadchyRussiaD0
1993 (2)Mike RathjeCanadaD768
1993 (2)Alexander CherbayevRussiaR0
1992 (2)Sandis OzolinshSovietD875
1992 (2)Corwin SaurdiffUSAG0

You can draw your own conclusions, but the 1996 (8 prospects), 1995 (7), 2015 (5), and 2021 (4) classes provide instructive examples for the range of outcomes that we might see with the 2024 class. Those also happen to be the top-five most prospects in a year that the San Jose Sharks have sent to the World Junior Championships.

GM Mike Grier would be thrilled if the Sharks’ 2024 WJC class followed, or even outperformed, the 1995. Jeff Friesen was the jewel there, topping out as a 30-goal two-way force. Alex Korolyuk was a highly-skilled middle-six winger, while Shean Donovan and Vaclav Varada were solid third-line wingers.

The 1996 class was also a strong one, albeit with fewer hits. Miikka Kiprusoff become a franchise goaltender, though for another team. Vesa Toskala excelled in a 1B role. Korolyuk rounded things out.

The San Jose Sharks, however, can brag of no such hits from their 2021 and 2015 WJC classes.

While it’s too early to completely rule out the NHL prospects of 2021’s Santeri Hatakka, Adam Raska, Yegor Spirodonov, or Artemi Kniazev, early returns aren’t promising.

Meanwhile, 2015 could be the worst-case scenario for the 2024 class. Mirco Mueller was supposed to be the heir apparent to Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and Nikolay Goldobin was supposed to be a perennial 20-goal scorer. Neither highly-touted prospect, both who should be in the primes of their careers, is playing in the NHL. Noah Rod, Julius Bergman, and Fredvik Bergvik didn’t make the big league.

Smith has the hype, will he live up to it? Bystedt, Havelid, and Halttunen were also high picks. Can Furlong and Pohlkamp continue to surprise?

Stay tuned.

At least six World Juniors prospects are better than none – from 2006 to 2008, the San Jose Sharks had zero WJC prospects.

Grier can only hope this 2024 World Juniors class will usher in two decades of success like the 1995 and 1996 classes did.

Special thanks to Keegan McNally for his help.

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