Team Recap: San Jose Sharks
Steve Kournianos | 11/14/2020 | Nashville | [hupso]
It wasn’t supposed to be the most rewarding of draft experiences for Sharks fans, who not only endured the big club’s miserable season, but also saw Ottawa draft Tim Stutzle with the No. 3 pick they traded for Erik Karlsson. Nonetheless, GM Doug Wilson was able to reacquire a late first-rounder from Tampa for Barclay Goodrow, and the drafting of speedster Ozzy Wiesblatt with that selection began a string of high-quality draftees who will undoubtedly push the Sharks out from near the bottom of league-wide prospect pool rankings.
The nine picks the Sharks accumulated were the most since 2015, but four of those selections were in the first three rounds. The biggest takeaway from San Jose’s draft aside from the high picks? All nine selections were forwards — the first time that happened in their 29-year history. After grabbing Wiesblatt at 31st overall, San Jose nabbed an excellent center prospect in NTDP’er Thomas Bordeleau, who was ranked in my first round most of the season. Soft-mitted center Tristen Robbins at 56 could look like a major steal when the time comes to do a proper re-draft (whatever that means), and explosive Russian import Danil Gushchin sliced through North American competition in each of his last two USHL seasons. Dual-threat winger Brandon Coe was once considered a potential first-round pick before coming back down to earth, but he was a shrewd pick at 98 nonetheless. And each of their four seventh-rounders (yes, four) were forwards with either European ties or headed for the NCAA. Overall, it was quite an impressive job from by scouting director Doug Wilson Jr. and his staff.
Ozzy Wiesblatt, Right Wing (31st overall)
In one of the more touching podium announcements made in any draft, the Sharks’ selection of this aggressive puck hound in the form of Doug Wilson Jr. signing Wiesblatt’s name for his hearing-impaired mother provided a fitting end to a job well done by the league. As for the player himself, Wiesblatt is one of those kids who never seems to take anything for granted and finds a way to work really hard and look super flashy all in the same shift. Prince Albert is a highly competitive team and Wiesblatt’s efforts contribute greatly to their success.
Thomas Bordeleau, Center (38th overall)
The Sharks once had in their possession a fine center prospect from the NTDP named Josh Norris, who was traded (surprise, surprise) as part of the Erik Karlsson deal. Bordeleau is similar to Norris in that both will have committed to Michigan but also served as the No. 1 pivot on the NTDP and impacted the game in all three zones. He’s not as physical or overpowering as Norris, but Bordeleau has ridiculous hands and vision, plus a highly-deceptive shot. His skating package offers nothing to worry about, but even in panic situations, Bordeleau still finds ways to outmaneuver multiple opponents and enter the zone with complete control of the puck.
Tristen Robins, Center/Wing (56th overall)
Robins is a nice story in that he was never considered a highly-touted junior prospect up until a few months into his draft season. And even then, there were some (including yours truly) who doubted whether his off-the-charts production was either a mirage or an anomaly. The answer is neither, and Robins did more than his part to silence any doubters but putting ridiculous numbers in the second half to place him among the top point producers in the entire WHL. In fact, Robins trailed only Seth Jarvis and Connor Zary in scoring among first-year WHL eligibles, and those two were picked in the first round. What you get from Robins beyond the scoring is an excellent on-ice approach to every shift, in additional to a multitude of ways to freeze defensemen and goalies simultaneously. He’s tricky, shifty, slippery, and most importantly — deadly near the net.
Danil Gushchin, Left Wing (76th overall)
It was after this pick where I was really feeling this San Jose draft class. Not because there was an obvious desire to draft players with top-flight puck skills, but also for the fact that each of their first four picks are very tough outs who don’t get intimidated. Gushchin fits that description to a T, as he is a high-motor, high-awareness dual threat who can speed up the ice in a flash. He’s played for Russia at several under-18 tournaments, but Gushchin’s decision to play his last two season for Muskegon in the USHL not only made him a more appealing option, but helped him prove that his size (5-foot-8 and 166 pounds) would be a forgotten footnote as he blitzed through defenses. He’s a streak scorer as well, which spells trouble for the run-and-gun OHL after he suits up for Niagara this season.
Brandon Coe, Left Wing (98th overall)
Another highly-skilled winger taken by the Sharks, Coe is more of a long-term project than the others, and for good reason. He’s never lived up to the expectations after he was drafted third overall in the 2017 OHL Priority Selection, but to Coe’s credit, he’s been stuck in a tough situation with a North Bay squad that finished dead last in the OHL. Drawing the opponent’s top matchups didn’t seem to hamper him, however, as he established career highs with 25 goals and 57 points. Coe has buttery-soft hands and can stickhandle in a phone booth, but sometimes he looks like he’s stuck in a lower gear and stays on the periphery rather than consistently engage in puck battles. One thing to consider was how garbage time during blowouts became a regular occurrence in North Bay games, and it felt like that was when Coe did a lot of his damage.
Alex Young, Center (196th overall)
The first overager taken by San Jose, and he’s a good one. Young has excellent speed and can finish or setup chances, but it’s his hard-nosed, physical style that probably intrigued the Sharks the most. Passed over in 2019, Young went on to lead the AJHL’s Canmore Eagles in scoring and finished ninth in the league overall. He also plays an aggressive north-south game. Young, who has played for Canada at the World Jr. “A” Challenge, is headed to Colgate, presumably for at least four years
Adam Raska, Right Wing (201st overall)
Being bullish in the early season on a kid with an impressive international resume is something that can humble an evaluator by midseason, especially if they transfer to a North American league from Europe. Such was the case with Raska, a hard-hitting winger who was one of the Czech Republic’s top under-18 players but served as a role player for the QMJHL’s Rimouski Oceanic. It’s not that Raska didn’t deserve top-line minutes — a quick glimpse at a random shift will show you how well he combines playmaking and physicality. But the Oceanic were led by Alexis Lafreniere, who had ridiculous chemistry with his top linemates. Still, Raska seemed to be hitting his high gear when he was injured, and now he’s playing back home with Trinec.
Linus Oberg, Center (206th overall)
A top scorer in the J20 Superelit who probably outgrew that league two years ago, Oberg is an all-situations center who is now in his second full SHL season for Orebro. He plays a quick game for someone listed at over 200 pounds, which helps him outmuscle opponents and be tough on the puck no matter the speed he’s moving at. Oberg off to a great start in his sophomore SHL season (6 goals in first 13 games).
Timofey Spitserov, Right Wing (210th overall)
The San Jose-Amherst connection rolled on with this UMass-bound winger, who was a top scorer for Culver Military Academy after emigrating from Russia. There is a significant (and obvious) level of explosiveness and flair to Spitserov’s game, but not just in open ice. He looks a lot bigger than his listed 5-foot-11 measurement, and Spitserov is not shy about getting involved in tough battles or taking the puck strong to the inside with speed.