Editor's note: Stay logged on all weekend as Sharks Insider Kevin Kurz reports from the NHL Draft in Florida. Bookmark Kevin's blog right here as the news rolls in.
FT. LAUDERDALE –- As expected, two players were in much higher demand at the NHL top prospects media availability on Thursday than all the others. Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel are locks to go 1-2 in Friday’s first round of the NHL draft to Edmonton and Buffalo, respectively.
There were a few players around that could fall to the ninth spot, though, where San Jose is set to choose. Forwards Lawson Crouse and Mikka Rantanen, and goalie Mackenzie Blackwood have all spoken with San Jose. Rantanen had a follow-up interview on Thursday.
Crouse has been predicted to go to San Jose in several mock drafts, including by Mike Morreale of NHL.com. The six-foot-four, 215-pound left wing, who had 51 points in 56 OHL games last season, said he doesn’t pay attention to those predictions, though.
“At the end of the day I think I’ve put myself in a strong position,” Crouse said. “I just have to wait and see. It’s all a waiting game now and out of my control.”
Regarding the Sharks, Crouse said: “I talked to them at the [scouting combine in Buffalo]. Obviously it would be a nice spot to play, but who knows what can happen on draft day? Wherever I go I’m going to be a happy kid at the end of the day.”
Rantanen, the top ranked European skater, could be another possibility. The Finnish right wing also has good size, at 6-4, 211 pounds.
“Every organization is pretty good. San Jose, there’s good stuff there and I like [that] team,” he said.
Doug Wilson’s philosophy is that wingers are much easier to integrate into the NHL than any other position, and that’s even more likely if the player already has good size. Rantanen’s goal will be to make an NHL roster in the fall, wherever it may be.
“I know the NHL is a tough league, and the best players play in the NHL,” he said. “My goal is to train this summer so hard that I will be ready to fight for a place in the NHL lineup. I know it’s hard, but I will do everything I can to be ready.”
Wilson has already said that the Sharks are looking to add to their organizational goaltending depth. Although it’s highly unlikely they will use their first round pick on one – there simply aren’t any ranked high enough to do that – perhaps they will utilize the 39th overall selection in the second round for a netminder.
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If they do, Blackwood could targeted. The Barrie, Ontario native is the top-ranked North American goalie.
He knows that San Jose is looking to add at his position.
“I’m aware of who has interest in goalies, but at the end of the day it’s not about who picks you,” said Blackwood, who met with the Sharks at the combine. “As long as you go to a place that wants to develop you and wants to have you in their plans for the future, that’s all that really matters.”