The World Cup of Hockey has given NHL prospects and minor leaguers a new opportunity at training camps over the last week. It is not yet known what kind of ripple effect this will have on the 2016-17 season, but some of these newly opened doors may very well remain open throughout the preseason, and possibly into the regular season.
The San Jose Sharks have a history of drafting players in later rounds, who then go on to become the franchise’s key players. However, anticipating who their hidden gems are is a tad challenging. Take a look at their Captain, Joe Pavelski for instance. He was drafted at No. 205 in 2003 and ended up having a 0.95 point-per-game rate last season. Unlike the Los Angeles Kings who draft hidden gems in earlier rounds, and thereby illustrate their unseen stock value for the world to see, the Sharks leave more to the imagination.
Speaking of imagination, I imagine the Sharks have a list of things to do this season, and obviously their top priority is maintaining Stanley Cup contention. That’s not their only priority, though – so is defeating their long-standing rival, the Los Angeles Kings. Some of the things to consider when developing Kings’ Kryptonite, is a player’s natural inclining to diversified styles-of-play.
Over the last two years, the Sharks have been replenishing their system through the draft, and they’ve been choosing players with speed on purpose. That’s how they’ve been able to sustain Stanley Cup contention for so long. That is, by having players on their roster fully equipped to play varying roles, and styles of hockey. Furthermore, accumulating well-rounded players has become part of their strategy as of late, and that means experience on the power play in junior is a must. As we saw in the Sharks performance during round one of the 2016 playoffs, they scored a total of five power play goals:
1: April 14, 2016 – Joe Pavelski
2: April 16, 2016 – Logan Couture
3-5: April 29, 2016 – Brent Burns, Joe Pavelski, Patrick Marleau
Finally discovering their weak spot, the Sharks will undoubtedly continue to utilize players with optimal performance on the power play. With this in mind, their first preseason game will feature several prospects with the potential to become key players.
First, we have Kevin Labanc, who was the OHL’s leading scorer for the 2015-16 season. Drafted in the sixth round of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft at No. 171, the right-winger has significant experience on both the power play (PP), and penalty kill (PK). That being said, his penalty infraction minutes do raise some red flags. One would assume that all those penalties would lead to more goals scored against, but on the contrary, Labanc seems to make up for it by scoring more short-handed goals. He was actually tied for first for most short-handed goals in the OHL last season, along with teammate Andrew Mangiagpane (Barrie Colts), and Michael Amadio (North Bay Battalion).
Next, we have Rourke Chartier, who was also drafted in the 2014 Draft, but in the fifth round at No. 149. The centreman also has experience on the PP and the PK, but unlike Labanc, Chartier doesn’t have a track record for getting a ridiculous amount of penalties each game.
Next, we have Daniel O’Regan, who was selected in the fifth round of the 2012 Draft at No. 138. O’Regan’s stats look quite similar to Chartier’s, and yes, his point production has been a little sporadic over the last four seasons, but inconsistencies can sometimes be signs of hidden gems. The challenge with inconsistency is knowing how to use that player in order to get the best out of him. Now at the age of 22, the 5-foot-10 centreman is unlikely to get any taller, and will have to convince the Sharks that there are other reasons to keep him in the lineup.
O’Regan is an undersized but skilled offensive player who is among the better playmakers in the Sharks’ system. He has an accurate if not overpowering shot, significant puck skills, and the ability to make control the puck at his top speeds. He plays well under pressure and can thread passes effectively. O’Regan’s size will likely be an issue at the pro level but his electric though not reckless style reminds some of players like Tyler Johnson and former BC rival Johnny Gaudreau. He should continue getting stronger and become more defensively aware but his development to this point is encouraging. – Hockey’sFuture
Marcus Sörensen is one of those player’s with speed. Drafted in the fourth round of the 2010 Draft at No. 106, the Swedish left-winger has no experience playing hockey in a North American league. While some European players have difficulty adapting to the North American culture right away, Sörensen is 24-years-old, and may have no issues on that frontier.
Sorensen is a fast but light forward with strong stick handling and passing skills. He can be overmatched physically in one-on-one situations at times but is willing to go into the hard areas either to retrieve pucks or create scoring chances. He was a dynamic scorer in junior hockey but played more of a two-way game in the SHL. Undisciplined at times early in his career, he has shown much more composure as he has gained experience. – Hockey’sFuture
Preseason Tells All
For the San Jose Sharks, the 2016-17 preseason will debut younger, and newer, as well as underrated faces. It will not only make clear who’s ready to play hockey at the NHL level, but it will also start shedding some light on some of those mysterious hidden gems that we never saw coming.
I’m a Hockey Journalist based out of Barrie, Ontario, a Contributing Writer for The Hockey Writers covering OHL, and NHL prospects with an insatiable thirst for all things LA Kings, and PR gal for Abel Sports Management.