The San Jose Sharks recently participated in a rookie prospect tournament with other local teams. The tournament took place from Sept. 16-19, and it gave fans a chance to see all the recently drafted and signed prospects take on some pretty talented groups. And at the end of the day, they showed what they were made of.
The Sharks finished the tournament with a 2-1 record, losing only to the Los Angeles Kings’ rookie squad. While the team played well as a unit, there were a few standout candidates that really stole the show. For a more detailed overview of the tournament, check out Lizz Child’s article recapping the games. With that in mind, let’s look at who blew the doors off the rookie tournament this year.
William Eklund Proves His Dominance Yet Again
While there were plenty of players that deserved the spotlight, there was no greater moment in the tournament than William Eklund‘s spin-o-rama goal to finish off the Anaheim Ducks in overtime. Sharks fans already had their minds made up that he was the best prospect in their system, but if there was any doubt that was true, Eklund put it to rest in record time.
When Eklund was drafted by the Sharks in 2021, it seemed that many scouts had him pinned as the steal of the draft. Obviously, the world situation at the time made it hard to be sure, but he seems to be living up to every word of that analysis. Granted, this was a rookie tournament and not a full-blown NHL game, but that level of skill transfers between leagues. Through the contest, Eklund has given every Shark fan a reason to believe he will be the team’s future.
Related: Eklund Ready to Play in the NHL
This season will hopefully be Eklund’s first full year on the Sharks. There are certainly benefits to letting him start with the San Jose Baracuda, but it is hard to believe that he will struggle to find his way at the top level. Once he gets his chance, it seems the Sharks might have a bit more to cheer for this year than maintaining a .500 win rate.
Sharks’ Goalie Issues Rapidly Shrinking
When the Sharks announced they were adding Aaron Dell to their goaltending core, many fans had some concerns. Sure, bringing him back was something no one had a personal issue with, but from a roster standpoint, it made no sense. At first, it seemed like they would play Dell over some rookies. However, when taking this showcase into account, it seems that fans may have less to fear than they thought.
Benjamin Gaudreau, Mason Beaupit, and Strauss Mann each got a start in the three games played. Between the three of them, they put up an incredibly impressive showing and only allowed five goals. Considering each of these three goalies is regarded as the team’s future, this is great news for what has been a routinely depleted depth area for the Sharks.
Ryan Merkley Finally Shines Through
While many of the prospects who performed well were relatively new additions to the depth chart, Ryan Merkley has been a Sharks prospect for a long time. Since getting drafted in 2018, he has only gotten a few chances to play in the NHL, but this season may finally be his chance to blow the doors wide open.
While people like Eklund or any of the goalies had directly visible contributions, Merkley’s primarily came from behind the scenes. He was the one who made the outlet passes to create the big moves or shut down the other team’s offense. He looked much better than he has in the past. With the right chances, this could be his year to prove why he was a first-round selection all those years ago.
Related: Ryan Merkley Needs More Ice Time
The Sharks have a bright future, and things are absolutely beginning to trend in the right direction. Their youth looks fantastic, and they have the veterans they need to continue pushing their semi-rebuild further along. This season has the potential to end up in numerous different ways, but the rookie tournament did provide a light at the end of the tunnel. Now, all fans can do is hope it stays that way.