A quick reminder that all top 10 candidates must be no more than 25 years old as of October 7, 2015. The lists consider all skaters in that age group who have played in fewer than 40 NHL regular season games, with 25 games being the cut-off among netminders.
The San Jose Sharks have a couple of highly touted prospects in their system but they show some concern in terms of depth. At the top of the food chain you will find two selections from this year’s draft with Timo Meier and Jeremy Roy. While Meier was estimated as a top 15 pick, it was surprising to see that Roy was still available at the beginning of the second round. It is interesting to note that the Sharks have two Swiss prospects in their top 10 ranking, something very unusual considering the relative paucity of high-end talent from the Alpine nation. At the bottom of the ranking there is a dramatic drop while beyond the top 10 prospects there is not much high-end talent available in the San Jose organization.
- Timo Meier, RW, Halifax (QMJHL) 6-1”, 209. 9th overall, 2015
- Jeremy Roy, D, Sherbrooke (QMJHL) 6-0”, 185. 31st overall, 2015
- Joonas Donskoi, RW, Karpat (Liiga) 6-0“, 180. UFA: May 19, 2015. Originally: 99th overall, 2010 (Florida)
- Nikolai Goldobin, RW, HIFK (Liiga) 6-0“, 178. 27th overall, 2014
- Mirco Mueller, D, Worcester (AHL) 6-3“, 205. 18th overall, 2014
- Taylor Doherty, D, Worcester (AHL) 6-7”, 235. 57th overall, 2009
- Rourke Chartier, C, Kelowna (WHL) 5-10”, 173. 149th overall, 2014
- Dylan DeMelo, D, Worcester (AHL) 6-0”, 195. 179th overall, 2011
- Nikita Jevpalovs, LW, Blainville-Boisbriand (QMJHL) 6-1”, 196. UFA: Jan. 26, 2015
- Julius Bergman, D, London (OHL) 6-1”, 187. 46th overall, 2014
Players likely to lose eligibility
- Ryan Carpenter, RW, Worcester (AHL) 6-1”, 180. UFA: Mar. 26, 2014
- Danny O‘Regan, C, Boston University (Hockey East) 5-9”, 162. 138th overall, 2012
- Mark Cundari, D, Adirondack (AHL) 5-9”, 195. UFA: Jul. 1, 2015. Originally: UFA: Sep. 24, 2008 (St. Louis)
Timo Meier was projected to be picked within the top 15 of this year’s draft but there was a question mark if he might be able to break into the top ten. The Sharks finally ended the speculation when they picked the Swiss born player over Finnish Mikko Rantanen and Canadian Lawson Crouse and selected Meier at nine overall. Next to fellow countrymen Kevin Fiala, Meier is considered to be the best Swiss forward prospect as of today. After being selected 12th overall by the Halifax Mooseheads in the 2013 CHL Import Draft, Meier left Switzerland to play in the “Q”. His point production exploded in his second season with Halifax and he finished 11th in the league’s scoring list as he scored 90 points including 44 regular season goals. He built a dynamic duo with Winnipeg Jets prospect Nikolaj Ehlers and was a big reason for the team’s success last season. Meier has an elite shot and is a dangerous offensive weapon. His shot release is lightning quick and he isn’t afraid to get involved physically although this will become much harder for him at the NHL level. There are some questions about how he will do without Ehlers at his side but Meier had a very solid U20 Worlds and eliminated some concerns in this regards. It will be interesting to see how he does at the NHL level as it does not look like there is much he can benefit from playing in the QMHL anymore as he simply dominated in this league, outside of proving that he does not need an elite playmaker at his side to put up big point totals.
Jeremy Roy’s selection was an easy one for the Sharks at position 31. As they do not have a high-end defenseman prospect in the system other than Mirco Mueller, this was an area which they had to fix. They probably did not think Roy would still be available at that time as he was projected to go earlier in the draft. He is a two-way defenceman who uses his stick very actively when playing in his own zone. He shows a very good work ethic and maturity and it would not surprise if he captains a team one day. The young blueliner is a prospect the Sharks can definitely be happy to have in their system.
Joonas Donskoi’s selection at number three of our ranking might come with some surprise to many. The Finnish forward was selected in the fourth round by the Florida Panthers back in 2010 but never played in North America, which seems odd as his playing style fits the NA game very well. He had an outstanding past season with his Finnish team Karpat in which he scored 49 points, ended the season as the fifth highest scorer in Liiga and also won the best player of the playoffs award. He played at the World Championships in the Czech Republic and was dominant in nearly each shift. He uses his size and long reach very well to protect the puck and is a powerful skater. He shows a decent two-way game as well. It needs to be seen if the Sharks can find space for him in one of the two top lines or if newly hired Peter DeBoer goes with wingers Melker Karlsson and Tomas Hertl instead. Donskoi definitely has the upside to play in a top six forward role for the Sharks.
Nikolai Goldobin spent the past season with HIFK Helsinki and returned to the Sharks AHL affiliate for a couple of games at season’s end. The Russian-born prospect is a highly skilled forward with tremendous puckhandling skills and is a dangerous offensive threat. He can reach top speeds and make fast turns while still carrying the puck. He impressed the Sharks coaching staff in last year’s pre-season camp and was close to making the team but they sent him to Europe to expedite his development. This year Goldobin could make his first NHL games but that may depend on the status of Tomas Hertl.
Mirco Mueller already played in 39 NHL games last season and would certainly have graduated from consideration for this list were he not released by the Sharks to represent Switzerland at the World Juniors. He will be the Sharks’ number six defender by the start of training camp. Mueller would fit perfectly into a spot on a line with an offensive defenceman as he is a typical stay-at-home defender and is focused on his own zone game rather than joining rushes and jumping in offensively.
After Mueller there is a drop in the Sharks prospect system which show a severe lack of depth. Taylor Doherty and Dylan DeMelo are two more defenders among the top 10 who could not be more different in style. Doherty is a mammoth defender who uses his long reach for poke checking. He sees his strength in the defensive zone. DeMelo is an undersized two-way defender who likes to move the puck and uses his good top speed to join rushes offensively. Neither player has yet dressed up in a single NHL game yet but Doherty seems to be closer in doing so. The final blueliner in the top ten has higher upside than either of his two predecessors, but is much further away from reaching those heights. Julius Bergman is very much an offensive defenseman whose confidence in his own talents is both a blessing and a curse. While it allows him to attempt riskier plays than many others might, thereby showcasing his strong stickhandling and above average shot, he also sometimes fails to recognize danger and puts himself and his team at a disadvantage through his casual regard for opponents.
Rourke Chartier was picked by the Sharks in the fifth round in 2014 and had a very dominant year with the Kelowna Rockets. He scored an incredible 48 goals in 58 games in the regular season and was a constant scorer in the playoffs as well. Chartier is a forward with good work ethic and is a powerful puck carrier. He is looking to confirm his good numbers this season and add some much-needed bulk prior to beginning a professional career. Another player from the CHL who needs to prove that his strong past season was no fluke is Nikita Jevpalovs. The undrafted Latvian forward was the third best scorer in the “Q” last season and was signed by the Sharks as a free agent in January. He is a good protector of the puck and shows good patience when stickhandling. He is going to play with the Barracudas of the AHL next season.
Looking outside of the top ten for under-the-radar potential future NHL contributors immediately brings Mark Cundari to mind. A two-way defender who gets involved physically if needed, he was signed in July and could play in some NHL games next season. The undersized blueliner has five professional seasons under his belt between the St. Louis and Calgary systems and only eight NHL games to his credit. Danny O’Regan and Ryan Carpenter are both looking to make their NHL debuts, although the way to the big league for O’Regan might be a bit longer than for Carpenter, as he is slated to play his last season for the Boston University while Carpenter had a decent season in the AHL scoring 34 points. O’Regan is an undersized forward who plays with a lot of energy and speed while Carpenter is an effective two-way forward who supports his defenders with a good backchecking.
More than any other system thus far profiles, and in truth, at all, San Jose relies less on its draft to stock the organization. While they are not the only team to have a player who was acquired as an undrafted free agent make the top ten, they are the only team to have four once we account for the sleepers as well. That route saw Melker Karlsson and Barclay Goodrow emerge as NHLers last season and Donskoi is poised to join them this year. The top five here is one to be envied but that absolute lack of upper echelon talent after Mueller shows a system that needs quite a bit more to enable the Sharks to return to their long-time status as top tier contenders.