D+ / 30th overall
In late January, Sharks scouting director Doug Wilson Jr. could scan the list of top scorers across the Canadian major junior landscape and smile. Joachim Blichfeld was leading the WHL in points and goals. Ivan Chekhovich was doing the same in the QMJHL. Both had been taken by San Jose in the seventh rounds of recent drafts. Oh, and no OHL defenseman had more points than San Jose’s top pick in 2018, Ryan Merkley. Yes, it’s a long road from major junior to the NHL. But not bad for a franchise whose constant playoff presence has denied them access to the game’s most highly touted 18-year-olds.
1. Ryan Merkley (96th overall)
D, 18, 5-11, 163 – Peterborough (OHL)
2018 draft, 21st overall
The Sharks rolled the dice in 2018, drafting an offense-minded D-man with flashes of temper that gave other teams pause. Are they second-guessing their decision? Nope. “During camp and in our rookie tournament, he was fantastic,” said Wilson Jr., the GM’s son. “There’s nothing else we could ask from him.” Merkley was traded in December from Guelph to Peterborough. The Sharks say they played no role in that. “Those GMs, they’re all trying to win the Memorial Cup,” Wilson Jr. said.
FW18| n/a - NHL | 2020-21
2. Mario Ferraro (1ooth overall)
D, 20, 5-11, 195 – UMass-Amherst (HE)
2017 draft, 49th overall
Only a sophomore, Ferraro is one of three co-captains on a UMass-Amherst team that held down the No. 2 spot in NCAA rankings. “He brings people together,” Wilson Jr. said. “He’s a natural leader and a natural worker.” The Sharks see Ferraro as “an absolute gamer” with high energy and speed. “He pushes the puck north all the time,” Wilson Jr. said. “He jumps into plays.” Down the road, the scouting department can envision Merkley and Ferraro as high-end partners.
FW18| No. 3 - NHL | 2021-22
3. Jeremy Roy
D, 21, 6-0, 195 – San Jose (AHL)
2015 draft, 31st overall
After missing nearly two seasons with ACL injuries, Roy is getting a chance to show the Sharks what he brings to the blueline. The team says Roy was on board with their plan to ease him into the pro game. “Then I think he rattled off a seven or eight-game point streak to start the season,” Wilson Jr. said, “so our plan switched to get him more ice time.” Roy’s hockey smarts with and without the puck as a key asset. “We’re working with him to play the game faster,” Wilson Jr. said, “pushing his pace.”
FW18| No. 9 - NHL | 2021-22
4. Dylan Gambrell
C, 22, 6-0, 195 – San Jose (AHL)
2016 draft, 60th overall
After three seasons of college at Denver that included the 2017 Frozen Four title, Gambrell played things too safe when he came to his first camp last fall. “He was just extremely tight because he wanted to make the team so badly,” Wilson Jr. said. “So we sent him down and told him to work on creativity. He has one of the hardest shots, but he just has to use it more.” Gambrell has taken that advice to heart. Through January, he averaged 0.90 points per game in the AHL, almost matching his 1.1 PPG pace at Denver.
FW18| No. 2 - NHL | 2019-20
5. Sasha Chmelevski
C, 19, 6-0, 187 —Ottawa (OHL)
2017 draft, 185th overall
Scoring more than a point per game for the 67’s shows consistency. But his Team USA performance in the WJC was more noteworthy. There, Chmelevski had seven points in seven games – including the semifinal winner against Russia and a goal and assist in the gold-medal 3-2 loss to Finland. Wilson Jr. noted Chmelevski was the most versatile player on Team USA and that his playing time increased every game. “He’s a strong, natural center with high-end vision. He has to keep pushing himself every single night.”
FW18| No. 10 - NHL | 2021-22
6. Jonathan Dahlen
LW, 21, 5-11, 176 – Utica (AHL)
Trade (Van), Feb. 25, 2019
Tough transition from Sweden, but comfort factor and scoring have improved.
7. Ivan Chekhovich
LW, 20, 5-10, 176 – Baie-Comeau (QMJHL)
2017 draft, 212th overall
“Our game-breaker prospect,” Wilson Jr. said of the Russian-born scoring ace.
8. Maxim Letunov
C, 23, 6-4, 185 – San Jose (AHL)
Trade (Ari), June 20, 2016
Adjusting to the role as third-line center in AHL after top-line duties at UConn.
9. Joachim Blichfeld
RW, 20, 6-2, 188 – Portland (WHL)
2016 draft, 210th overall
“He’s a shooter, an agitating shooter,” Wilson Jr. said of WHL’s leading scorer.
10. Noah Gregor
C, 20, 6-0, 180 – Prince Albert (WHL)
2016 draft, 111th overall
Centers top line on top team. Likely in AHL if injuries hadn’t cost him a season.