Yesterday, San Jose kicked off their offseason by sending a pair of draft picks to Arizona for center prospect Maxim Letunov.
They finally did it. The San Jose Sharks made the blockbuster trade we were all waiting for. Well maybe not quite.
Well, we won’t know that answer for a while as Letunov just finished his freshman year at the University of Connecticut and the Sharks hold his rights for another three years. So the likely scenario is Letunov won’t see professional hockey as he continues his collegiate career.
That being said, despite the main piece of this trade being an unsigned prospect, this is a great trade for the Sharks.
First of all, the draft picks they traded away (a 2017 third-round pick and a 2016-fourth round pick) shouldn’t be considered valuable assets. Developing an NHL player in that part of the draft is rare, so a team would be wise to make any gamble at that price.
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Also, if you looked at the details of this trade, you would notice that the third-round pick was acquired for Dylan Sadowy‘s rights. We talked earlier about how Sadowy might have denied a chance to play behind the logjam of forwards in the system. If that is the case, then the Sharks were lucky to get anything for him at all.
With that in mind, this trade amounts to receiving a 2017 sixth-round pick for Sadowy (which is still a good return) and using the 120th overall pick on Letunov. Considering that Letunov was drafted 55th overall two years ago and has developed since, this is a phenomenal pickup.
As a result, Sharks fans now know one prospect acquired in this year’s draft. So what do the Sharks have in him?
The first thing that pops up is his size at 6’4″ but only 170 pounds. Now I’m not sure if anyone knows someone that size but is one lanky hockey player. So obviously, the biggest concern is developing his strength, something Doug Wilson mentioned about the trade. At that size, fighting for any puck in the NHL is almost out of the question. That’ll be the reason why Letunov goes back to college for the next few years.
Otherwise, what the Sharks have is a capable offensive-minded player who scored more than a point-per-game as a freshman. That type of size and skill is hard to find so the Sharks did a good job of addressing a weakness in their prospect pool today.
Once Letunov can round out his frame, he fits the mold of a Shark draft pick. If the Sharks’ top line of Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski and Tomas Hertl taught the fans anything, it’s that the Sharks love players who can protect the puck along the boards. Being able to facilitate a consistent cycle is the reason why the Sharks are able to control possession and get scoring chances at a high rate. So once he is developed, I expect Letunov to fit right into the Sharks lineup.
That being said, as an offensive player, he could use some development on his defensive game. Come to think of it, he might be a taller version of Nikolay Goldobin but with slightly less skill.
With this trade, the offseason has started off nicely for San Jose and it’s only getting better from there. Here is Letunov after he was drafted by the St. Louis Blues.
Edit: One more interesting note that happened in the NHL. With the trade of Fredrik Andersen, the Anaheim Ducks now own the Sharks second-round pick in next year’s draft. All the more reason to go on another championship run.