Sharks Can Still Thrive Without Drafting Connor Bedard

The San Jose Sharks are on the countdown until May 8, perhaps the most highly anticipated day in the team’s recent history. On that Monday evening, the NHL Draft Lottery is set to take place, finally revealing where Connor Bedard will be playing in October. The Sharks ended the season with the fourth-best odds to land the generational talent, but they have to be lucky enough to pass the Chicago Blackhawks, Columbus Blue Jackets, and their longtime rival, the Anaheim Ducks, for the chance to draft him.

Despite having a decent chance of moving up to the first overall pick, the odds are still not in the Sharks’ favor. However, because of the significant focus that has been put on Bedard, many of the other prospects set to go in the top ten have been overshadowed. This has caused the fans of many lottery-eligible teams to become worried that their franchise is doomed if they don’t land Bedard. However, specifically in the Sharks’ case, there is plenty of reason to celebrate their position in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft, even if they don’t win the lottery.

Sharks Have a Variety of Talent to Choose From

Assuming the Sharks fail to win the lottery, they are currently selecting fourth overall. Realistically, Bedard and Adam Fantilli will likely be the top two in this draft, leaving the Sharks with Leo Carlsson or Matvei Michkov as the most likely options if they remain fourth. This year, Carlsson had 25 points in 44 games with Orebro HK in the Swedish Hockey League. These numbers are relatively similar to what William Eklund put up in his draft year, and Carlsson’s skill bears a shocking resemblance to the Sharks’ current top prospect.

Leo Carlsson Team Sweden
Leo Carlsson, Team Sweden (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

While Carlsson has been impressive, Matvei Michkov is no slouch, either. Though he used to be the consensus second-overall pick, that narrative has largely shifted due to a slow start to the season and the emergence of Fantilli. However, Michkov began to shock the hockey world when he became a member of HK Sochi in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL). In 27 games, he had 20 points on one of the worst teams in the KHL. However, his contract in the KHL runs until 2026, so if the Sharks take him, they will have to wait a while to acquire his services.

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Regardless of who falls to the Sharks at fourth, they will be adding a superstar to their roster. Both players offer huge upside that could have seen them going first overall in any other year. Having a top-four pick in this draft is nearly equivalent to owning a first-overall pick. However, due to the lottery functioning as it does, the Sharks have the potential to draft as low as sixth. With that said, that, too, is far from terrible.

Sharks Secure a High Pick in a Deep Draft

While the players residing in the top four are fantastic, the Sharks have the potential to move down to fifth or sixth if another team moves above them. But due to the sheer insane amount of depth in this draft, this is still nothing to complain about it. Then again, I understand how absurd this sounds on paper. It’s basically the equivalent of telling the 2015 New Jersey Devils, “Hey, sorry you didn’t move up to first overall to draft Connor McDavid. Here’s Pavel Zacha as a consolation prize.” However, the prospects available at sixth could very well make up for having to move down in the draft order.

Will Smith USNTDP
Will Smith, USNTDP (Rena Laverty / USA Hockey’s NTDP)

Assuming the Sharks drop as low as they possibly can, they will likely be choosing between Zach Benson and Will Smith. Benson played for the Winnipeg Ice in the Western Hockey League and put up 98 points in 60 games. Despite his small size, he tore up the league playing alongside former first-round selections Matthew Savoie and Connor Geekie. In fact, he managed to lead the team despite the large number of already-drafted players they have. He could be a wonderful piece to add to the Sharks’ young prospect pool.

Will Smith played for the National Team Development Program in the United States Hockey League. Despite potentially not being selected in the top five of this year’s draft, the numbers he managed to put up were jaw-dropping. In 57 games, he put up 122 points, which are numbers capable of catching any scouts’ eyes. If the Sharks are lucky enough to select him, he could be fantastic in teal.

Related: Sharks’ Karlsson Trade Continues to Bite Five Years Later

This draft will be incredibly important for the Sharks. Although they have plenty of prospects in their system already, this year gives the team their best chance to add another elite talent to the pool. While it is certainly nothing more than a consolation prize for the terrible season they had, at least it’s something for fans to be able to look forward to.

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