Updated: Aug 5
What better time than the offseason to post a brand-new Sharks prospect ranking! This year we'll be doing a top 20 and honorable mentions in 5 separate articles. After taking a deep dive into the prospects for the Sharks, I realized how much the overall depth has improved over the past year. 12 of the top 20 have been acquired by the Sharks over that span, through the course of two drafts and a whole lot of trades.
It's a top-to-bottom overhaul that Grier has started, and I am excited for the continued stockpiling. It's been refreshing to hear the Sharks finally embrace the 'rebuild', using that word instead of the tired re-fresh, re-tool, re-structure, re-try, etc. Defense was a particular focus for Grier, but he took some massive swings at forward in the 2023 draft that we'll discuss as well. For now, let's start with the honorable mentions, who are ranked alphabetically. These are players who have potential to be NHL players someday, but I wouldn't say any of them individually have a great shot of making it to the show.
NHL Potential will be rated for each prospect. This is kind of like their max ceiling if all goes well in their development. It does not mean that every prospect will for sure be what I'm projecting for them, just to be clear. Many will bust, some will grade out above this when all is said and done. I use a 1-9 system for my prospects, with a 9 being a generational player, a 1 being like an ECHL guy, and a 6 being a third liner.
9 - Generational F/D
8 - First Line/pairing
7 - Second line/pairing
6- Third line/pairing
5- Fourth line/#7-8 D
4 - AHL top line F/D
3 - AHL mid-level F/D
2 - AHL/ECHL tweener
1 - ECHL or below
Most players end up somewhere in the 4-5 range that get picked by NHL clubs just naturally, so don't be surprised to see lots of those numbers.
All prospects are not established NHLers yet, and all are under 23. Let's get into it!
Acquired: SJS 2020 NHL Draft, 4th round, #98 Overall
2022-2023 Season: AHL San Jose Barracuda
Brandon Coe had some struggles adapting to pro hockey this year. He had exploded in 2021-2022 in the OHL, putting up 101 points in 62 games for the North Bay Battalion. As a 6'3" winger who can skate well for his size, expectations were sky high. I had highlighted some warts with Coe's game last year before he joined the Cuda, and much the same persisted this year in the AHL.
He's a playmaking winger, who does his best work on the powerplay, and on the periphery of the ice. He doesn't have much of a retrieval game, and doesn't anticipate play well enough defensively to chip in there. He's got good speed in a straight line, and he has some incredible vision when he has the puck. The problem, and one that will prevent him from moving up this list, is that he cannot get the puck onto his stick unless teammates are digging it out for him. His pace of play is very low on most nights. There are flashes with Coe, when he uses his frame effectively, maintains a physical presence on the ice, and his pace improves. But it is infrequent. More time is needed before completely ruling out Coe as an NHL prospect given his size, skating and playmaking, but certainly a change is needed.
NHL Potential 4.5: AHL scorer
Acquired: SJS 2022 NHL Draft, 3rd round, #76 overall
2022-2023 Season: USHL Youngstown Phantoms
Michael Fisher was an interesting choice in the 2022 3rd round for the Sharks. He was coming out of the USHS-Prep circuit, and was highly regarded for his overall combination of size, handedness and skating. He was, and still is, considered a long-term project for the Sharks. Expectations were high for him to come into the USHL, a one-year stop before he is to play for Northeastern in the NCAA in 2023-2024. Then he got injured, tearing a meniscus in his left knee.
I'll be honest, I didn't watch Fisher in his draft year (if someone has footage from it, I'd love to!), and it was hard to catch him healthy at the USHL level this season. The few times I watched him there he was mostly...fine. He does have good mobility, and he can change directions extremely well. He defends like a junior player at this stage, doing his best to sort of get in the way of attackers rather than really attempting to get pucks off sticks. He's lanky, and not particularly strong on the boards. The biggest barrier I see for him to move up is his offensive game. His decision-making with the puck is extremely slow. He has decent puck skills, and can lead a breakout sometimes, but takes far too long to recognize options. He has good mobility, but either stops up entirely too early to do anything with that speed, or doesn't move the puck into high-danger areas. He remains a long-term project, one that needs many, many years of development to see if his offensive brain can come around.
NHL Potential 4.5-5: Depth transition defensemen if the offense comes about, AHL/Europe if not
Acquired: SJS 2021 NHL Draft, 5th Round, #135 Overall
2022-2023 Season: OHL Peterborough/Flint
This time last year I would have been hesitant to put Guryev even on the honorable mentions list. His time in Peterborough was something of a mixed-bag. Last year I saw a large defender who took himself out of plays repeatedly trying to make a big hit. He was a defender who had issues with gap control, rush defending, in-zone cycles, and reading cross-ice plays. A lot of that is still true, but after a trade to Flint, he started to come into his own...slightly. Enough that I think he's an honorable mention. He's a large defender, with surprisingly decent footspeed for a physical defenseman. He has next to no offense, other than a decent point shot. The Sharks didn't draft him for that though. With the Vegas-ification of NHL defenses underway, large, mobile, physical defensemen are a commodity. Whether Guryev actually cleans up his defense enough to make the NHL in that capacity is another story entirely. After purging lots of prospects from the Wilson era, it is telling that Guryev was signed by Grier though.
NHL Potential 4.5: AHL top pairing/replacement physical defensemen
Acquired: SJS 2023 NHL Draft, 5th Round, #130 Overall
2022-2023 Season: J20 Nationell HV71
I watched a fair amount of Axel this past season mostly on accident. I was scouting Hugo Fransson, his teammate, and someone I thought might get picked in 2023 as an overager, but didn't. Maybe next year. Anyways, Axel was interesting. He's a decent skater, he's smart defensively, and focused on stopping up players in transition. He'll often skate aggressively at a forward, leading with his stick first, and then tie them up if he hasn't disrupted the play enough. He can get walked through, but overall it's decently effective. He thinks out of situations well when he gets the puck behind the net, and can recognize his outs to get the puck away from his net. I think there's a fair amount there from a defensive standpoint, and he does have a good shot from the point as well. I don't think it'll ever be a hallmark of his offense but it isn't bad. I see him as a physical depth defender, but not as big of a hitter as Guryev.
NHL Potential 5: Physical depth defender
Acquired: SJS 2023 NHL Draft, 5th Round, #132 Overall
2022-2023 Season: USHL Cedar Rapids
Pohlkamp was extremely impressive in his D+1 year this season, earning USHL defenseman of the year honors with the RoughRiders. He's a physical defenseman who also possesses some of the better shooting skills of any player on this honorable mentions list. He's aggressive in his stance and how he challenges his attackers, and can lay the hit on anyone coming up the boards. I like him, but he isn't the fastest, biggest or most dynamic for the type of game he plays. Still, he's unique, and his upwards trajectory cannot be ignored.
NHL Potential 5.0-5.5: Depth/third pairing two-way defenseman
Acquired: SJS 2023 NHL Draft, 7th round, #203 overall
2022-2023 Season: MHL MHK Dynamo Moskva
Rimashevsky feels like an ECHL forward to me to be perfectly honest, but he has the skills of at least an AHLer. He's a floater, he waits to get the puck at the blueline, then tries to make something happen off the rush the other way. When in the offensive zone he's sort of just...waiting for the puck to get to him. He's a good shooter, and he has good vision with his passes. He's big and can box out in front of the net. I just wanted something more from him almost every time I watched him. He won't get much farther than the minors unless he rounds out his game, improves his skating, and start chipping in defensively. He's making the honorable mentions because maybe, maybe, maybe, if all that happens then you've got a talented, big, offensive winger.
NHL Potential 4: AHL scoring winger
Acquired: SJS 2020 NHL Draft, 7th round, #196 overall
2022-2023 Season: NCAA Colgate
This is probably the safest projection on this list to be honest. I think Alex Young will make it into the NHL in some capacity, likely as a checking forward on a fourth line or a 13th, 14th forward. He's got enough skill and smarts to keep the puck alive, maintain possession long enough for plays to develop. He's a competitive player at heart, which drives most of his projection. I don't think there's much else going on offensively at an NHL level other than a good wrister and simple rush patterns. His skating isn't a standout. I am interested to see if more of his game comes alive after he transfers to Arizona State for his final season in the NCAA. I'll also be curious if the Sharks are signing him after that, as the runway on him as a pick has been quite long.
NHL Potential 5: Fourth line checking forward
Acquired: Sharks Fan Brain Implant v.2.4, unknown date
2022-2023 Season: Locked On Sharks Content Wheelers
That's all for now! Next week will be prospects from 20 to 16 on the list. Got to draw out that content you know.
PS: I still have not watched a single game of Nikita Okhotyuk in my life, and I don't see that changing until next season for the Cuda. But by then he'll probably be above 23, so I'm not counting him. This is for purely selfish reasons of not wanting to dig up tape on him, but I am sure he is just fine and would fit right into this range / possibly in the last 5 of the top 20.