This isn't a mock draft. It's like a semi-realistic dream draft of mine. Or maybe it's a pipe-dream, who knows. Anyways. These picks are some of the players I'm interested in for this upcoming draft and where I realistically think that Sharks could take them at with their 12 upcoming 2023 picks.
The top 100 (to be released next month before the draft!) will have dudes that I think absolutely should be drafted in June, but I fully recognize that some of them might not. From my 2022 rankings, 8 guys didn't get drafted from the top 100, so it's certainly possible that happens again.
Anyways, we'll break it down by a general "vibe" or "class" of player I think the Sharks should be after at each pick. It's always hard to predict a draft, but there are some themes and "pockets" of the draft that make it easier to try to guess where players might fall. There's normally a run on goalies in the 2nd or 3rd. There's normally a run on overagers in the 4th/5th rounds. There are big defensemen who get reached for in the late first/early second ranges as a team tries to grab a "safe" option. The later rounds have obscure high school or European players that I imagine a scout is banging the table for before the lights go out on draft day. So let's take a ride, let's be that scout banging that table and pick a few, shall we?
#4: First line talent - Leo Carlsson
Other options: Matvei Michkov, Will Smith
This one is pretty simple. The odds are that this one pick will matter more to the future of the franchise than all the other picks for the Sharks in this draft combined. So the debate will likely rage for the next month over the Carlsson vs. Michkov vs. Smith pick that the Sharks are seemingly locked in to. I personally have Michkov ranked ahead. I think he's likely to be the most productive from a pure points perspective than Smith or Carlsson. But. But. But. Carlsson would probably be my pick if all three were available. Probably. He's simply too important to an NHL lineup. Gifted, competitive, big centers with hands and an offensive mind like his don't come around very frequently. If he's there, I think you take him and hope you've found your cornerstone center for the next decade (despite playing the entirety of his draft year on the wing, he did play center at the WC, and that's the expectation for him eventually).
If it isn't Carlsson, I do really hope it is Michkov. I've made the case for Michkov many times and it seems silly to stop here. I really like Will Smith, but the alram bells with him ring louder to me than Michkov's, even with the KHL contract situation. My GUT tells me the Sharks will pick Smith though, and there is still a very high chance he becomes that first line talent the Sharks desperately need with this high of a pick.
#25: Top 4 Potential Defenseman - Lukas Dragicevic
Other options: Tom Willander, Luca Cagnoni, Tanner Molendyk, Dmitri Simashev, Mikhail Gulyayev
Sharks are severely lacking in top 4 talent on defense in their prospect pipeline. There's Shakir Mukhamadullin, a late addition by Mike Grier, and then a lot of still developing types in Mattias Havelid, Gannon Laroque, and Jake Furlong. Henry Thrun feels like found money, but even he doesn't seem to have the true top of the lineup potential that the Sharks need.
Dragicevic is my pick here to try to fill this archetype. It's a gamble, and one that the Sharks have taken before in this range with Ryan Merkley in 2018. Now this is a mostly new drafting squad this time than 5 years ago, and maybe the failed experiment with Merkley still scares the Sharks. Dragicevic has some qualities that are similar, in that he's a right shot, highly skilled offensive defenseman with questionable defense. But I'd argue Dragicevic has a few things that make him more likely to reach an NHL floor than Merkley. He's bigger, of an ideal size for an NHL defender at 6'2". He's got a bomb of a shot, with accuracy from the point that not many bluelines in this draft possess, and something Merkley never had or developed. This caused him to be ineffective when he couldn't dangle that last man or make that creative pass. The muffin shot could never get on net when all else failed. Dragicevic is also more physical than Merkley, and plays a patient game defensively, albeit a poor one.
So the Dragicevic pick sounds a lot like the Merkley one, but when you look closer, the verses don't really rhyme. His offensive ceiling to me though is one of the highest among defenders in this draft, and the Sharks need to take the risk again, even if they're scared to do so. If he's gone, or they opt for safer options, Willander had such an impressive U-18s that he has worked himself into the spot. A lot of mocks, mostly on the Athletic have him even higher than this though. I'm not entirely sold he's above Simashev, Gulyayev, Dragicevic, and certainly not above ASP or Reinbacher. He's good, but I saw plenty of questionable plays in his J20 tape to give me some pause. His offense is effective, but not dynamic or eye-popping. He'll definitely play NHL games though, and maybe the Sharks want that security with this pick. Molendyk and Cagnoni are more likely Day 2 candidates, but also could fill into an NHL top 4 someday. There are plenty of options here, and I hope the Sharks recognize the opportunity to grab a future top 4 D with this pick.
#36: Undersized Draft Day Faller / Swing For the Fences - Andrew Cristall
Other Options: Jayden Perron, Gavin Brindley, William Whitelaw, Bradley Nadeau
It's seemingly a draft day tradition. The undersized but super skilled player who falls into Day 2. Stankoven, Debrincat, Hutson, Zellweger to name a few who got picked around this range. This year that name appears to be Andrew Cristall. I'll certainly admit that there are flaws with this player. His skating, his defensive work-rate and habits, and his junior-esque style of offense. But. But. But. There's something there that is hard to come by in a prospect. His natural tendency to change the pace of his attack is extremely advanced. He's supremely skilled at dissecting a defense and making plays happen. The risks are there, but the benefit could be huge.
Perron is even smaller, but plays a very well-rounded game for his size. If he's available and Cristall has been taken earlier, I'm jumping at the opportunity to take him. Brindley almost assuredly will be a first rounder, but you just never know on draft day. If all of the above are gone here, take William Whitelaw or Bradley Nadeau. A raw but skilled player who the Sharks need to swing on with this pick.
#96: Goalie Who Is Still Available - Trey Augustine
Other Options: Damien Clara, Michael Hrabal, Carson Bjarnason, Jacob Fowler
The above five goalies are going to start dropping like flies come the 2nd/3rd round. If any of them fall to the #96 pick, grab them. In this case, I think Augustine might be the most likely to fall this far. If it's starting to look a bit dicey near the 60s/70s or so, I'd trade this pick and #100 or #117 to move up if I could get a team to bite. This draft is deceptively deep for goalies, especially after last year's lull in the position at the draft. I think the Sharks are going to draft at least one goalie this year given Ben Gaudreau is re-entering the draft from the 2021 class. Augustine is a proven winner who is competitive, has great instincts for the position, and just lacks a bit of size. Still though, I want a guy like him in my prospect pool. Damien Clara is an interesting case, because I've seen lots of goalie scouts super high on him for his tools and his size. I tend to agree. Get it? Tend? Tend. See what I did there? Alright good. Clara is extremely confident in his crease, and has such a good glove. He's a bit rigid in his movements and needs to work on his speed laterally, but there's a lot there to like with him. Hopefully he sneaks to this range if all the others are gone.
#100: Defenseman with NHL Potential - Carter Sotheran
Other Options: Andrew Gibson, Cameron Allen, Aram Minnetian, Drew Fortescue, Maxim Strbak, Tristan Bertucci, Matthew Mania
I'm only picking Sotheran so Lizz Child retweets this post. That and I love him. 50/50.
Sotheran I believe has the tools to play NHL games, and I think this range with this pick the Sharks should be digging for that. Cameron Allen, Andrew Gibson, Aram Minnetian, Drew Fortescue, Mania, Bertucci, all have some or most of the tools necessary to play NHL games.
Sotheran is the pick here for me mostly for realism sake, as I think Gibson and Allen are gone, Mania and Strbak are likely gone, and Sotheran is just a hair above the others. He's such a great counterbalance to Cagnoni that watching them in tandem makes me want to draft both. He's big, aggressive, and skilled at carrying the puck out of the zone, as well as stopping rushes in their tracks. I think there's a real NHL future with this pick, and a great value here at #100.
#123: Forward with NHL Potential - Jaden Lipinski
Other Options: Matthew Soto, Joseph Willis, Andrei Loshko, Felix Unger Sorum, Alexander Rykov, Rasmus Kumpulainen
Lipinski is the type of pick to go end of the second round, but I am holding out hope that he's available this late. If not there are plenty of other options, but let's talk about Lipinski for a bit. He's a big body center, who is aggressive, has a great checking form and retrieval skills. He's got a decent if not spectacular shot, and a roving skating style that helps him cover lots of ice laterally. He's an NHL GM's dream for a future defensive center given his skillset. I think his playmaking and hands leave a lot to be desired, as he often is trying to force passes that aren't open or just passing to dead ice, but the other elements help balance his floor. Loshko is similar, and one of my personal bets for an NHLer someday. He's a similar defensive minded center who flashes more playmaking talent, but isn't as well-rounded as Lipinski. Unger Sorum has the smarts and hands to possibly make the NHL. Rykov is fun, fast and has a good looking shot. He'd be fun as hell on a team's penalty kill someday. I think the theme here is just find a forward that is going to hopefully make your NHL squad better down the line, even if they aren't going to be a top of the lineup guy.
#130: Overager Who Is Killing It - Rodwin Dionicio
Other Options: Yegor Sidorov, Gabriel Szturc, Hudson Thornton, Oskar Asplund, Beau Jelsma
Rodwin Dionicio is my pick here, but there are a lot of overagers who are killing it to consider around this spot. Actually someone (me) picked him for last year's draft. You can find those picks at this page, which shows the in-real-time picks that I would have made for the 2022 draft. I'll be doing the same this year. Anywho. Dionicio has a great offensive mind, but doesn't always have the skill necessary to pull off the moves or passes he thinks up. His feet were so bad last year, that I think that's mainly why he wasn't picked, but there has been some improvement this year. He's a bit more agile, a bit faster, and his game really took off after his trade to Windsor. He's going to get drafted this year, and he could be a real hidden gem if his upward trajectory continues. Sidorov and Szturc are both skilled forwards that I've come away impressed with during viewings. Thornton and Asplund I'm a little less high on, as their styles don't really fit with an NHL defender, but both have done so well in their leagues and teams that the gamble is worth it.
Last year the real winner was Amadeus Lombardi, a savvy Detroit team took him at #113 in 2022. He's the perfect example of finding something to hang your hat on in an overager, and being brave enough to take the plunge early-ish.
#132: Second Goalie, overager/long-term project - Tomas Suchanek
Other Options: Adam Gajan, Thomas Milic, Samuel Urban, Scott Ratzlaff
Goalies are voodoo, and with 12 picks/darts at the dartboard...or I guess it has to be more voodoo-esque... 12...pokes at the voodoo doll? 12 shrunken heads? I dunno fill in your own metaphors. With this many picks, take two goalies, maybe it'll work out. Yes the counter-argument could be made that the draft success of goalies is so low that they're not worth two picks, but I think for this specific year for the Sharks it makes sense. The pipeline needs more filling, they just lost a prime member of it, and this draft class is deeper than most expect at this position. My pick is Tomas Suchanek, a now third time draft eligible who has just shown steady improvement in the WHL and internationally for Czechia, now ending up as the #9 NA goalie on CSS. I think he's getting taken around this range, and I'm here for it. Plus now Lizz Child will DEFINITELY retweet this article.
The other options include Gajan, Milic, Urban and Ratzlaff, the last two who are first time eligible. The point is, there are a multitude of good goalies about this draft, and one or two of them might just pop off down the line.
Alright I'm drawing a line. Here.
See the line? ^^^^^ That's the one. I'm calling this the Fall Zone. Essentially I'm going to make picks for some people that should be available here, BUT. But. But. If there are any fallers from above, or anyone from the yet to be released top 100 who make it this far, I'd rather the Sharks just take one of them. Mostly. Except Hugo Fransson. God I love Hugo Fransson. Let's talk about him.
#164: Defenseman with Tools, Overager or Project / Fall Zoners - Hugo Fransson
Other Options: Brady Cleveland, Matthew Koci, Peteris Bulans, James Petrovski, Albert Wikman, Kalem Parker, Jeremy Hanzel, Luke Coughlin
My pick here is Hugo Fransson, an overage prospect out of Sweden. He was one of the youngest draft eligibles for the 2022 draft, being an August '04 birthday, and was unselected after a decent J20 season with 26 points in 48 games. This year, again just being 18 the entire year, he blossomed into 22 points in just 27 games, and also spent half the year in the Swedish 3rd division men's league, putting up 9 points in 17 games. The tape I've watched of him is really good. He's active, with great skating, four-way mobility, and great hands. He's aggressive in cutting off attackers, but almost to his detriment by sacrificing positioning. But he's so fun, active, and mobile, all traits that can maybe someday make an NHL defenseman. Maybe. He has OKAY size, in the 5'11"/6 foot category. There's a draft pick here and I hope he's picked up this time around.
Besides Fransson, this category is basically just a "toolsy" one. I'd be looking for a defender with tools. Cleveland and Petrovski have some defensive and physical tools that maybe something blossoms there. Wikman and Koci are calm and have some good breakouts, but that's about it for now. Bulans is aggressive and has some of the elements of an offensive defenseman, but isn't all there. Sort of like Dionicio last year in a way. Parker would be a steal here, but might not be available. He's fast, and slowly coming into his own as a more reserved player. He was very risky last year, but his play this year surprised me with his growth. Jeremy Hanzel is another overager I'd bang the table for before the lights go off, despite not ideal size. Very smart, mature game offensively and defensively.
#196: Forward With Potential But Lots of Flaws / Fall Zoners - Deagen McMillan
Other Options: Kuusla/Assadourian/Hendrickson/Vermette/Squires/Vote/Romani
Deagen McMillan is my pick here, but it's a soft call. I'd still just want to leave the draft with him with any of these last three picks. He's got ideal size for a power winger, a good shot, great scanning ability on retrievals and breakouts. He's steadily improved throughout his WHL year, and by the end juuussst started to scratch the surface of being a play driver. His feet are poor, and his playmaking, defensive impacts, etc. are a definite work in progress. But this is the range where you see a tool and you focus on it. McMillan has a shot, offensive instincts, and size. See if he runs with it next year.
Kuusla popped off the screen at me at the U18s. He's quick, mobile, and has great hands. Sort of reminds me of a worse Sawchyn or Perron. Like significantly worse, want to make that clear, but in style there are some similarities. Assadourian has some Kevin Labanc vibes, with a decent offensive mind and toolkit, but lots of flaws everywhere else, and is undersized. Hendrickson may not be here at this range, as his size alone gets him drafted higher, but if not, pick him up. Vermette/Squires/Vote/Romani are all forwards with a bit of skill, enough to bet on if you have some extra picks and none of the fallers have come down.
#203: International skaters / Injured / Fall Zoners - Filip Eriksson
Other Options: Brandl / Felcman / Cedzo / Hes / Simon Meier
Filip Eriksson was injured the majority of the year, after a very good start in J20 and the SHL. I watched some tape of him from October before his injury, because his stat line of 10 points in his first 8 games, and then immediate SHL debut matches more in line of a first 3-4 round player than a potential undrafted. He's aggressive, engaged and has a decent offensive mind, decent skating, and a good looking shot. I like him, but he also was very unproductive coming back after missing 5 months from injury. Maybe the first month of his season was a flash in the pan, and never to be repeated, maybe not, but I'd like to get on board now with one of these picks and see if the bet pays off. That's sort of what this pick should be about. Long-term projects, injured guys, or guys that maybe you have only some limited but good viewings of. Felcman I've seen some good and some not so good tape of him. He's big, a center, and has good playmaking talent. I would love to have him fall to here. Hes, Brandl, Meier, Cedzo all have made impressions to me from international play, and if there are no more fallers to fall, snagging one of them would be just fine.
Above all else though, I would want to make the final checks of the top 100, the guys above that line, and see if any are available.
#206: Faller from way up high on the draft board / trade into next year's 7th / trade up in the 5th or 6th with this pick
I would consider trading out of this pick if we've wrapped up most of the dudes on the upper tiers here. Or maybe it gets packaged to move up to grab one of the above dudes. I just have a sneaking suspicion that the Sharks aren't going to make all 12 picks this year one way or another. I dunno, maybe just take like Markus Vidicek or Jake Sloan. Or please someone just take Beau f'in Jelsma.
So to put my money where my mouth is, I ran the draft at:
Just to see if I could get a draft to look similar to above, and here's what resulted:
Basically took three goalies because the simulator forgot Clara existed apparently, and a faller in Loshko.
Anyways, super excited for the draft this year, and for the content for the next few months!
Thanks for reading!