Shark Attack Draft Strategy
The 2015 NHL Entry Draft is just weeks away. Scouts and front office folks for all 30 teams have been busy making final evaluations of prospective 17- and 18-year olds. So which players are bound to go to which teams?
For those of you who love the ever popular mock drafts, you can find THW’s official first round mock draft here. Colleague and fellow Sharks writer Drew Weber has San Jose selecting defenseman Zach Werenski with the ninth overall pick. From researching around the web, few draft “experts” would be critical of the Sharks choosing Werenski at this spot.
Now since yours truly hardly ever watches major junior or NCAA prospects, the rest of this column isn’t going to be about who the Sharks should target in each round. Instead, it will primarily be about the general strategy the Sharks should employ when making their decisions.
As noted here recently, the Sharks have been absolutely dreadful when it comes to drafting goaltenders. In fact, they have only drafted one goaltender in the previous six drafts. If you find that perplexing, you are not alone. Everyone should find that perplexing when you consider the Sharks haven’t drafted a starting caliber NHL netminder since Vesa Toskala and Miikka Kiprusoff who were drafted back in 1995.
Not to be captain obvious, but 1995 was 20 years ago. Therefore, in this upcoming draft the Sharks need to select at minimum two goaltenders. More often than not starting NHL goaltenders are drafted in the mid-later rounds. Taking a risk on a goaltender in the first two rounds isn’t recommended. But between rounds three and six, the Sharks should select multiple goaltenders.
First 2 Rounds
As for the first two rounds, selecting the best player available is always the best way to draft. However, if deciding between players whom the team feels are equally talented, the Sharks should lean a certain way. With that ninth overall choice in the first round, both a forward and defenseman would be wise choices. Ideally though the forward has the ability to play in the middle.
While the Sharks are short on wings, they are also at some point going to need to find Joe Thornton’s heir apparent. Neither Logan Couture, nor Tomas Hertl look to have No. 1 center ability. As for defensemen, Werenski will probably be the best available but if all else is equal, the Sharks should be looking for right-handed shooting defensemen. That is the shallower side of their current defense corps.
Depending on who the Sharks take at ninth overall, the second round pick ideally would be the opposite position. If a defenseman is taken at No. 9, then preferably a forward is snatched up in round two and vice versa. While the centers projected near ninth overall are mostly left handed shots, the Sharks are short on right-handed faceoff men both in terms of NHL players and prospects. Perhaps then going Werenski in the first round and taking a right-handed center as the best player available in round two is the way to go.
On draft day there is often wheeling and dealing of picks for a lot of teams. The Sharks may end up with seven picks but might have multiple in one round and none in another. Or they may end up with eight or nine picks. It will vary depending on how the draft shakes out.
While the Sharks gave up their 2015 third round pick last offseason to acquire Tye McGinn, they currently have eight selections in the seven round draft. Let’s just hypothesize that the Sharks end up making seven selections. The ideal draft would have them selecting one forward and one defenseman in the first two rounds, two goalies in the middle rounds, and two more defenseman and one more forward overall. Three defenseman, two goalies, and two forwards would be a good mix of selections given the outlook of the current NHL roster and the prospect pool.
Both forwards would ideally be centers, as current top forward prospects Nikolay Goldobin and Rourke Chartier both project more to the wing. Goldobin is a pure winger and while Chartier has played a lot of center as an amateur, his future looks more like a winger in the NHL. When Oilers top center prospect Leon Draisaitl was sent back down to junior, he played on a line with Chartier on the wing. Plus with 48 goals to 34 assists this season with Kelowna, Chartier’s number suggest more of a finisher than a play-maker in the middle.
Defensively the Sharks have a lot of young left-handed shooting defenseman. Their best defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic is still only 28 years old, RFA Brenden Dillon is 24 years old and 2013 first round pick Mirco Mueller will be 20 years old this season. The right side of the Sharks defense is older with Brent Burns now on the wrong side of 30. Plus Burns can always be bumped up to the forward position or traded if the Sharks look to make a splash and sell high. Outside of Burns, only Justin Braun is an experienced right-handed shooting defenseman. Last year’s second round pick Julius Bergman does shoot right-handed but the Sharks could certainly use a beefing up of that side of the blue-line in terms of their future.
Agree or disagree on how the Sharks should attack the draft? Leave a comment below!
Andrew has been credentialed to cover the Sharks since 2010 and the 49ers since 2012. He graduated with his BA in Broadcast Electronic Communication Arts in 2013 from San Francisco State University.