The rebuild - or at least retool - is finally on in San Jose it seems.
This summer, the team jettisoned longtime pillar Brent Burns, changed GMs and seem committed to building out their prospect pool by coveting draft capital and young players. They still have a number of bad contracts on the books and their prospect pool is a long way from being one of the best in the league but they are no longer barren when it comes to their pipeline as they once were.
The Sharks gave top prospect William Eklund a taste of NHL action last year but decided to send him back to his native Sweden to continue playing with Djurgården of the SHL. Eklund was notably upset with the decision as he played well in his short stint but he went back over without issue. Djurgården wasn’t a good team this past year, getting relegated to the HockeyAllsvenskan. Eklund might not have filled the scoresheet as some expected but a large part of that was the lack of talent around him. Eklund plays with pace, creativity, and high-level decision-making, which should translate to the Sharks in short order.
Thomas Bordeleau has been one of the best under-the-radar prospects since his draft year. His ability to read the play and utilize his speed and skill as a puck carrier are his biggest assets which is why he has been able to adapt to new levels so quickly. His jump to the AHL after his NCAA season was so successful that he made his NHL debut and collected five assists in eight games. Bordeleau is almost certainly going to play NHL games again this year, even if the AHL is where he starts the year after his World Junior Championship appearance.
The Sharks have found some excellent value in the draft recently as well. Tristan Robins, Daniil Gushchin, and Brandon Coe have all been outstanding since they were drafted in the 2020 draft. Robins is a refined offensive player who leans towards being a playmaker but anticipates play quite well and gets to the home plate area to make his shot more dangerous.
Gushchin is a highly motivated playmaker with impressive skill in tight space. His ability to open up defenders and then shift his weight to cut back before making a pass is impressive. Coe’s tools are all impressive from his skating to his shooting talent and he pairs them with an impressive two-way mindset. Coe took big strides this year in the OHL, becoming a 100-point player for the first time.
The backend isn’t quite as deep but the Sharks do have a few notable players. Mattias Hävelid and Michael Fisher are nice additions to the group. Artemi Knyazev is the top defender in the group. The puck-moving Russian blueliner had 28 points in his first AHL season last year. His defensive game is still being refined and he's likely a year or two away, but Knyazev has been progressing steadily. Santeri Hatakka is a defense-first rearguard who will never try to play outside of his skill set. He understands what he is and plays to his abilities. Hatakka makes safe passes on the exit and does a good job of providing outlets in the offensive zone for players being squeezed out along the boards.
The Sharks have a couple of really solid goalie prospects as well. Benjamin Gaudreau has been quite good in the OHL and seems to play his best when the big games arise, whether it be in international play or high-stakes league games. Strauss Mann was outstanding in the NCAA, then played well in the SHL last year, and represented USA at the Olympics and World Championship, playing quite well at both.
2022 NHL Draft Class
Round 1 (27 Overall) - Filip Bystedt, C, Linkoping HC Jr. (J20 Nationall)
Round 2 (34 Overall) - Cam Lund, C, Green Bay Gamblers (USHL)
Round 2 (45 Overall) - Mattias Hävelid, D, Linkoping HC Jr. (J20 Nationall)
Round 3 (76 Overall) - Michael Fisher, D, St. Mark's School (USHS - Mass.)
Round 4 (108 Overall) - Mason Beaupit, G, Spokane Chiefs (WHL)
Round 5 (140 Overall) - Jake Furlong, D, Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
Round 6 (172 Overall) - Joey Muldowney, RW, Nichols School (USHS - NY)
Round 7 (195 Overall) - Eli Barnett, D, Victoria Grizzlies (BCHL)
Round 7 (217 Overall) - Reese Laubach, C, Northstar Christian (USHS - Minn.)
New GM Mike Grier made a splash on the draft floor, trading the 11th overall pick to the Arizona Coyotes for picks 27, 34, and 45, giving them three picks in the top 50 rather than picking at 11 and waiting until 76th overall. Using the first of those picks on Filip Bystedt, a center out of Sweden, the Sharks added a player who plays with speed and effort in all three zones. He’s excellent in transition, using the boards and teammates as bumpers to move the puck around neutral zone defenders. Bystedt has some good puck skill and the ability to dip and dangle at times but he’s at his best when he’s keeping the game simple and using his speed to attack.
Cam Lund had a good year in the USHL, improving throughout the season in just about every aspect of his game. He is a high-end shooter who gets to the middle of the offensive zone and wants to get the puck on and then off his stick as quickly as possible. Lund flashes puck skill from time to time which could become more consistent over time. His physicality is also an asset as Lund will use his 6-foot-2 frame to punish opponents at times.
Hävelid is a slick puck-moving defender who has shown the ability to get into the offense at both even strength and with the man advantage. His passing is silky smooth from his own end, moving the puck up ice. He uses his skating to manipulate opponents to open up passing and shooting lanes on the blueline. Hävelid can get himself into trouble at times trying to do too much but if the Sharks can reign his decision-making in, they could have a very nice two-way defender.
Mason Beaupit is a 6-foot-5 goaltender who moves well in his crease but he also lacks body control at times. He can often overslide, lose his posts, and be forced into using his length to make up for it. There’s a raw ball of clay to work with here, but it'll take some time.
The Sharks took three U.S. high school players, highlighted by Micheal Fisher who has all of the size and skating ability that you’d want but there is quite a bit of refinement that will be needed in his game over time. Three high school players is a lot for any draft class but with a total of nine picks, you can justify taking a few extra risks, particularly late in the draft when they grabbed forwards Joey Muldowney and Reece Laubach.
The wings are a strength for a fairly well-rounded prospect pool. Particularly the right side, where they boast one of the deeper pools of right-wingers in the league despite not having a stud at the position. Robins, Wiesblatt, Coe, and Gushchin are all interesting players who could play anywhere in a team's top nine. Adam Raška is a bottom-six guy who has already seen some NHL action. The Sharks have a bountiful group to choose from should injuries strike on the wing and they need to call one of their young players up.
Although they have a few guys, including four newly drafted players at the position, the defense is fairly weak. They have a couple of interesting names at the top end of their pool such as Knyazev and Hävelid but even they have question marks surrounding them. They don’t have any surefire NHLers at the position despite having a few players with intriguing upside.
Next Man Up: LW William Eklund
Eklund looked good in his limited run with the Sharks last year. He may not have only put up four assists in his nine-game stint, but he was playing on a bad team early in the year. He certainly belonged with the Sharks from a pure talent perspective and I’d expect him to earn a job in camp as well. AHL time is possible as San Jose has NHL forwards who can hold down his spot if needed, but Eklund brings a ton of skill, pace, and tactical play that they could use.
Prospect Depth Chart Notables
LW: William Eklund, Dillon Hamaliuk, Liam Gilmartin
C: Thomas Bordeleau, Filip Bystedt, Cam Lund
RW: Tristan Robins, Ozzy Wiesblatt, Brandon Coe, Daniil Gushchin, Adam Raška
LD: Artemi Knyazev, Jake Furlong, Santeri Hatakka
RD: Mattias Hävelid, Michael Fisher, Gannon Laroque
G: Benjamin Gaudreau, Strauss Mann, Eetu Mäkiniemi
For a deeper dive into the prospect pool with player rankings, check out the Yearbook and Future Watch editions of the Hockey News print edition!