Sharks Need a Defenseman with 14th Pick in 2024 NHL Draft

Over the next five weeks, the San Jose Sharks will have plenty of decisions to make when it comes to their picks at the 2024 NHL Entry Draft. A few will likely be very easy, such as taking Macklin Celebrini first overall. But the majority will be much more difficult, and those tough decisions will begin with their other first-round pick, the 14th selection. But given the players available to them, and the current state of the roster and farm system, they would be best served to use that pick to improve their blue line. Given the likelihood of taking a forward with the first pick, going in the other direction can help them round out their lineup. There are a number of ways to go about finding the right defenseman, and choosing the right path will make the Sharks a more balanced team for the future.

Sharks Will Have Multiple Good Options at 14th Pick

The projected middle of the first round of this year’s draft has more forwards than defensemen, but that doesn’t mean the Sharks can’t find a quality blueliner with their pick. Two defense prospects, Canadian right-shot Carter Yakemchuk and Czech right-shot Adam Jiricek, are expected to fall right in that range.

Adam Jiricek HC Plzeň
Adam Jiricek, HC Plzeň (Photo Credit: HC Plzeň)

Both are tall, strong defensemen, which fit the exact mold the Sharks are looking for on their blue line. Although he’s been injured recently, Jiricek is probably better suited for San Jose at the moment, given that his game is more defensive-minded and the Sharks need their blueliners to improve in that aspect. Yakemchuk relies largely on his offense to be productive, but he is a very raw prospect. If the Sharks believe they can develop his defense, he would be a perfectly understandable pick as well.

It’s not just those two who the Sharks could land. If a slightly higher-touted defenseman such as Sam Dickinson or Anton Silayev fell to 14th, it would be all the better for San Jose. But either way, that pick should be the result of a focus on improving the defense.

Sharks Should Only Take a Forward if It’s a Steal

While the Sharks should have no problem taking a defenseman who was projected as a mid-first-rounder, the same does not apply to the forward position. They should not take a forward at No. 14 unless a highly-projected one falls to them.

Let’s say that, by an unlikely turn of events, someone like Cayden Lindstrom or Tij Iginla slips to the 14th pick. This would be the primary way that would make sense for the Sharks to choose a forward.

Related: Sharks’ Top-5 Farm System Reflects Increase in Prospect Talent

But besides the improbability of this occurring, the Sharks are already set to add an elite forward in Celebrini, and their current prospect pool is far heavier on forwards than defensemen anyway. They don’t need to force another forward into the depth chart and can instead improve their thinner list of defense prospects.

Of the forwards likely to be available at 14th, none fit the Sharks so perfectly as to leave general manager Mike Grier with no choice but to select them. Instead, they should try to find a defenseman who one day can work with Celebrini and others as a team that can dominate all aspects of the game.

Sharks Can Turn Pick Into an Asset

The Sharks should use the 14th pick to improve their defense, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they have to take a defenseman with that pick. They could package the pick, perhaps with another pick or one of their many forward prospects, and move up in the draft or bring in a more NHL-ready defenseman from another team.

Either of these methods, while risky, would have a lot of potential benefits attached to them. The former could enable San Jose to select a better-regarded prospect such as the aforementioned Dickinson or Silayev. The latter could help the Sharks build up their NHL roster around the prospects they already have. Many of their young players are on the cusp of joining the big club, but they’ll develop best if their teammates are skilled, NHL-caliber skaters. A trade of the pick and a young forward such as Thomas Bordeleau in exchange for a good blueliner could do wonders for the development of the players they’ve drafted in the recent past and will draft this year.

The Sharks had two strokes of luck in this year’s lottery, landing the top pick while also gaining control of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ selection. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they need to maintain control of it if they think they can take another direction to best improve the franchise.

Sharks Have a Chance to Make Team More Complete

The selection of Celebrini is nearly a given, allowing the Sharks to add an elite forward prospect to their already highly-regarded forward prospect pool. Now they can use their other first-round pick for the other side of the puck. While their forward prospects offer a lot of hope for what their offense might look like in a few seasons, their defense still needs a lot of work. They allowed the most goals in the NHL this past season, and only a few of their best prospects are blueliners. The 14th pick is a chance to start evening out the imbalance and create a complete, Cup-contending team that excels in all facets of hockey.

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