Sharks Look to Save Their Prospects From a Disastrous Season

The San Jose Sharks have begun the 2022-23 season with nothing more than a whimper. After multiple crushing defeats at the hands of the Nashville Predators, the Sharks were looking to get on the right track by taking down the Carolina Hurricanes. However, that was not the case, and they got snuffed out in the game’s final moments. To make matters worse, the Chicago Blackhawks wiped the floor with them despite being in full-rebuild mode. Needless to say, the year is starting off on the wrong foot.

Related: Sharks’ Global Series Performance Indicates a Rough Season

However, while the majority of the season looks like doom and gloom for the Sharks, there are two significant upsides to playing this bad: a chance at Connor Bedard this upcoming draft and giving their prospects more time to develop. While they will have no clue whether they will land him until the offseason, they have already begun sheltering the prospects. However, if the season continues at this pace, it could be a long time until they get their chance in the NHL.

Sharks’ Prospects Off to a Booming Start

While the NHL squad has been struggling, the Sharks’ prospects are having a decent run thus far. Granted, it has only been a few games into the season, but their talent is already beginning to shine through. As far as their American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, the San Jose Barracuda, is concerned, Ryan Merkley, William Eklund, and Thomas Bordeleau have already begun making their presence known. In addition, Eetu Mäkiniemi, who the Sharks acquired in the Brent Burns trade, has done phenomenally in the net.

Eetu Makiniemi Chicago Wolves
Eetu Makiniemi, Chicago Wolves (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

Outside of the AHL, the Sharks’ prospects are holding up just as well, if not better. Filip Bystedt, who they selected with their first-round pick in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft, has scored five points in nine games with the Linköping HC in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL). In addition, Alex Young and Cameron Lund are both producing well at the NCAA level, and Jake Furlong and Ethan Cardwell are a point-per-game in the Canadian Hockey League. Any way you slice it, the prospects are doing very well so far.

While the initial call to leave nearly every young player off the opening night NHL roster was confusing, it is making a lot more sense now, as the Sharks have been extremely lackluster thus far. Typically, anything could happen to change the course of the season, but it just doesn’t look like that is going to happen at this point. They will have a rough year and letting their prospects continue their forward momentum is the best way to help continue their development.

Sharks Look to Boost their Prospects’ Morale

The Sharks’ new general manager, Mike Grier, is working hard not to repeat the mistakes of the past. They have been so desperate to win for so long that their solution has been to find talent in entry-level contracts. However, now that the era of trying to win a Stanley Cup is over, Grier is avoiding rushing his prospects’ development at any cost.

Ryan Merkley San Jose Sharks
Ryan Merkley, San Jose Sharks (Photo by Matt Cohen/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

By keeping their younger players out of the NHL, the Sharks are effectively looking to keep morale high. Putting a rookie in the NHL only to get lit up at every corner is far from the optimal way to develop players. If Grier wants to protect the young players, he’s doing the right thing by continuing to let them play outside the NHL. If they manage to have great years and gain some extra confidence along the way, they could be all the more impactful when things begin to turn around.

Related: Sharks’ Three Keys to Success this Year

The season is young, and the Sharks could fix their lackluster performance. That being said, it is unlikely to happen. The team will likely continue to struggle, and they will have to leave their prospects behind to protect them. If the only upside to this season is the potential to get Bedard and sell at the trade deadline, this could be a very long season for Sharks fans.

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