Now that the San Jose Sharks’ subpar season is over, management must turn their attention to what they need to change moving forward. Outside trades and signings this offseason, the Sharks have a lot to consider regarding the potential prospects they can acquire at the end of July.
Related: THW’s 2021 NHL Draft Guide
San Jose has a 6.7 percent chance of nabbing the first-overall pick, but it’s much more likely that they’ll get the seventh or eighth overall pick (39.5 percent odds for each). It’s anyone’s guess where they’ll end up and which prospect will be picked, but here are the players worth keeping an eye on.
Matthew Beniers (C)
It’s no surprise that Matthew Beniers has crawled to the top of the 2021 prospect list. With ten goals and 14 assists in 24 games during his tenure at the University of Michigan, he could be the first overall pick this year. The Sharks will likely miss out on Beniers, but, as the saying goes: there’s still a chance.
Beniers is not a one-dimensional forward; he’s a two-way player with a veteran hockey IQ. He has great mobility and versatility and knows how to make the most of his ice time. He has been compared to Jonathan Toews during his university days in North Dakota. If that’s not worth getting excited about, I don’t know what is.
The Sharks are in desperate need of a third-line center who can play both sides of the puck. Beniers would not solve the offensive woes that have plagued San Jose for the past two seasons, but he has the potential to stem the bleeding.
“Beniers’ game could find a role in the NHL next year, but he would be more likely to reach his offensive ceiling if he was given one more full season in the NCAA, one more run at the WJC, to stretch out his skillset and simply dominate for a time. Even if he may never be a generational, franchise defining player, he could play a Jonathan Toews/Jack Eichel type of first line center role throughout his prime.” – Ryan Wagman, McKeens Hockey
Brandt Clarke (D)
Another defenseman is not necessarily what the Sharks need right now, but there’s more than meets the eye with the Canadian-born Brandt Clarke. Playing for HC Nove Zamky in the Slovakian professional league, he registered five goals and 10 assists in 24 games. These numbers are not mind-blowing, but he’s a defenseman.
One of Clarke’s biggest selling points is his ability to get up the ice quickly. This not only allows him to backcheck effectively, but he’s able to join the rush—something the Sharks could use next season.
His agility and edgework are worth writing home about; his footwork makes it difficult for the opposition to track him. He shares some on-ice qualities with Erik Karlsson—who could serve as a great mentor for the developing youngster.
“Brandt Clarke has the potential to become a dynamic offensive defenceman going forward. He could become a franchise-changing player, as well as compete for the Norris Trophy while in his prime if he reaches his ceiling. Of course, this is no guarantee. Clarke needs to continue his development, especially in the defensive end of the ice. However, his outstanding skating ability, ability to produce offence and hockey intelligence are all high-end. Clarke has some experience playing against men, so he could challenge for a spot in camp next year, but it is more likely that a little more time in junior is needed. His game is reminiscent of Erik Karlsson, however, this is a stylistic comparison only and not one based on skill or potential.” – Ben Kerr, Last Word On Sports
Dylan Guenther (RW)
The prospect who most realistically could be available when the Sharks are on the clock is right-winger Dylan Guenther. Though some analysts once had him ranked outside the top ten, that doesn’t take away from the fact that Guenther is a constant threat when he has the puck on his stick.
He’s not expected to be a record-breaking goal-scorer, but he has great vision and knows how to use his teammates, whether that means threading a pass through heavy traffic or taking a quality shot himself. That is precisely what the Sharks need on their third and fourth lines if they expect to get back to form.
During his time with the Edmonton Oil Kings, Guenther scored 12 goals and 24 points in 12 games. It’s unknown if he can maintain this kind of dominance, but if the past is anything to judge the future by, Guenther has a bright one ahead.
“Guenther may look wiry and slight, but he plays an aggressive in-your-face game with a dash of bite. He always seems to be in attack mode whether on or off the puck, to include the forecheck and penalty kill. Guenther’s style of play seems to bug the heck out of opponents, who also have to worry about his elite puck skills.” – Steve Kournianos, The Draft Analyst
“He’s constantly surveying his surroundings to find pockets and unleash his shot. Playmaking and stride form are both in need of fleshing out, but the upside is a 30-goal top-line player.” –Cam Robinson, Dobber Prospects
Planning for the Future
Without yet knowing the draft order for 2021, the Sharks have some decisions to make—and that decision will be an indication of the organization’s plans for the future. The club is not planning for a rebuild, so it makes sense to focus on drafting well and finding prospects who hopefully can contribute in the NHL sooner rather than later.
As with many young kids who grow up in the Midwest, CG played a lot of hockey. His love and appreciation for the game is why he’s here, writing for The Hockey Writers, covering his two favorite teams: Montreal Canadiens and San Jose Sharks. But he writes other things, too, including a debut novel that is set to come out in July of 2021. You can find him on Twitter @TheLastSisyphus.