FT. LAUDERDALE – As the NHL draft approaches on Friday, a few facts and figures to ponder, as well as some leftover points of interest from Doug Wilson’s media availability last week…
1. The Sharks will be choosing ninth overall for just the second time in their history. They traded up to take Logan Couture in that spot 2007.
In recent years, it’s yielded some very good, promising NHL players. Among them are Josh Bailey (Islanders, 2008), Mikael Granlund (Minnesota, 2010), Dougie Hamilton (Boston, 2011) and Jacob Trouba (Winnipeg, 2012). Former Sharks forward James Sheppard was taken ninth overall in 2006 by Minnesota, but a serious knee injury impeded his NHL career.
Other notable players in NHL history taken in the ninth spot include Rod Brind’amour, Brian Leetch and Cam Neely.
2. So, could the player the Sharks take in the first round (assuming they stay in that spot) make an immediate impact at the NHL level? It’s doubtful, according to Wilson.
“We would never say that even if we could,” Wilson said. “They’ve got to come in and earn their spot with the team and with the coaches. We would never ordain a guy. He’s got to earn that himself.”
“There might be some guys that are NHL ready. If they are, they are. But, I’d be very surprised if they didn’t at least play some time with [Barracuda head coach] Roy [Sommer].”
3. The Sharks are likely to add some depth at the draft at goaltender (although don't expect them to use their first round on one). San Jose has drafted just one goalie in the last six years (Frederik Bergvik, 4th round in 2013).
“Will we be adding more goaltenders? The answer is yes,” Wilson said, also pointing out that the team signed Joel Rumpel out of the University of Wisconsin in March.
The general manager indicated that his current crop of goalies shouldn’t feel slighted because of those plans.
“We believe in Alex [Stalock]. He ran into an injury in the Dallas game (on Nov. 8), but we want him competing. Troy Grosenick, we really believe in him. He had an injury. But, we need to add more goalies.”
4. Speaking of Grosenick, the 25-year-old battled a concussion for much of the second half of the season. Sommer had Grosenick in Worcester, and provided an update on the goaltender that made headlines with a 45-save shutout in his first NHL game on Nov. 16, 2014 in Carolina.
“Good, he was back,” Sommer said of Grosenick’s status by the end of the season. “Those concussions on some guys, it takes awhile before they're back and clear, but he was joking around. We missed him there awhile but I think he tried to come back too early, one of those things that an athlete's really got to watch.”
5. The early returns on the Sharks’ 2014 draft class have been positive.
Notable performances include first round pick Nikolay Goldobin, who could potentially challenge for a roster spot in the fall after spending last season in Finland. The 19-year-old tallied 21 points in 38 games against older and more experienced competition, and helped Russia to a silver medal in the World Juniors.
Second-round defenseman Julius Bergman led all London (OHL) defensemen with 13 goals and 42 points, and 3rd round pick Dylan Sadowy led Saginaw (OHL) with 42 goals (tied for 9th in the league) and 74 points.
Fifth rounder Rourke Chartier was a tremendous bright spot, with 48 goals and 82 points in 58 games with Kelowna (WHL). He could end up being the steal of the draft.
6. While the Sharks have some extra picks in this draft, as well in 2016 and 2017, what can’t be overlooked is that they’ve given some high round picks in recent years in deals that simply didn’t work out.
They sent a second round pick to Tampa Bay in exchange for Dominic Moore (and a 7th round pick) on Feb. 16, 2012, and that didn’t help them in the playoffs that year (Moore had to leave the team in April to be with his ailing wife, but was ineffective before receiving that tragic news). They traded a second rounder to Pittsburgh in 2013 for Tyler Kennedy, who never fit in and was traded to the Islanders. More recently, Wilson gifted Philadelphia the Sharks’ third round pick in this year’s deep draft for Tye McGinn, who was eventually waived after a dismal half-season.
San Jose also traded a second round pick in 2013 to Detroit in order to move up just two spots in the 2013 draft to select defenseman Mirco Mueller in a deal can’t be fairly evaluated yet.
7. The Sharks also swung and missed on recent second round pick Gabryel Boudreau, who was drafted 49th overall in 2013 but was not signed and will re-enter this year’s draft. Boudreau ran into some injuries problems last year, but was declining in production even before that.
Regarding Boudreau, Wilson said, “he got some injuries. He just didn't progress. It happens. That's the draft. Good kid, competitive kid, ran into some injuries and didn't quite get there. For every one of those, you hope you get a fourth, fifth or sixth round pick that does come through.”
8. Even with some of those recent moves, Sharks draft picks have played in more NHL games (7,232, either with San Jose or elsewhere) from 2003-14, covering the Wilson era. That’s despite having just 90 picks, or 13th-most over that span.
Sharks draft picks have 1,214 goals since the 2003 draft (4th in the NHL), and 3,036 points (5th).
9. As for the current roster, Wilson expects that the Sharks’ young players will take the next step in their development next season.
Despite overt indications that the Sharks will be adding pieces prior to training camp, the younger players are going to continue to play a key role and will have to be better in 2015-16 if San Jose is going to return to the postseason.
“There’s a couple of things we’d like to see happen prior to September and we’ve talked about that,” Wilson said. “But, we also have some young guys who have certainly earned the opportunity to come in. Tomas Hertl, we expect a big bump in his game. Mirco Mueller, we’re big fans of his. Certainly, Brenden Dillon is only 24. Chris Tierney came in and showed what he’s capable of. We’re going to need that to happen.”
Hertl, in particular, will be in focus. After bursting onto the scene as a rookie in 2013, the 21-year-old simply hasn’t looked the same since getting kneed by Dustin Brown. Wilson would like him to play center at some point in the near future, too - something Todd McLellan didn't seem to agree with at this stage of Hertl's career.
10. Finally, another player that Sharks are going to need more from, and whose middling performance in 2014-15 may have been a bit overlooked, is Justin Braun. The 28-year-old defenseman signed a five-year, $19 contract extension last September that kicks in this year.
“He needs a bounce-back year,” Wilson said. “He's a really important player. Him and [Patrick Marleau] are probably the two fastest skaters on our team, and his performance is really important. He'd be the first to say it was not up to his standards. We expect a substantial bounce-back from him, and he feels the same way.”