San Jose Sharks: Potential Areas To Address At NHL Draft

Dec 8, 2015; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; San Jose Sharks defenseman Mirco Mueller (41) against the Calgary Flames during the second period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Calgary Flames won 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 8, 2015; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; San Jose Sharks defenseman Mirco Mueller (41) against the Calgary Flames during the second period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Calgary Flames won 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports /

San Jose has just five picks in the upcoming 2016 NHL Draft but let’s take a look at where team teal could use those selections.

Based off of their recent run to the Stanley Cup Final, I wouldn’t be surprised if San Jose Sharks fans expressed a general sense of apathy ahead of the 2016 NHL Draft. With only five selections, how are the Sharks going to make an impact? The best way to do that is to address areas in the prospect pool which are lacking in depth and talent.

Granted, I can understand this state of apathy. You can only do so well in the lottery with a limited amount of tickets. But I’m sure Sharks fans are still interested in the type of players the Sharks could acquire this weekend.

Now I’m not saying that I have any insider information, but fans should expect the Sharks to target players that can fill a need in their organization. After all, Sharks fans have Timo Meier to thank for that strategy. With their highest selection since Logan Couture, the Sharks walked to the podium with good hockey players Mathew Barzal and Mikko Rantanen still on the board. With two potential top-six playmaking centers available, the selection seemed like a forgone conclusion.

But with pretty much every other Sharks player being a playmaker, the Sharks decided to go a different route. Enter Meier, the rare Shark with a shoot-first mentality. So don’t be surprised if they decide to employ a similar strategy this year.

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Areas of Need

So now the question becomes, what areas should the Sharks be looking for? Obviously finding players similar to Meier that like to shoot the puck is one. But for the other categories, I consulted with Hockey’s Future to get a good read on the prospect pool and where it stands.

According to Hockey’s Future, the three areas of weakness the Sharks should address are depth at left wing, forwards with high-end scoring potential and shutdown defensemen.

With the trade for Maxim Letunov today, the scoring forward has already been addressed. But even with the acquisition of one skill player, I would still like to see the Sharks address this area even more. As the Toronto Maple Leafs have taught us this past year, too much skill is never a bad thing. Skill is needed to score goals and that is how hockey games are won.

As a result, I would expect San Jose to target players with high point totals rather than the typical third-line grinder. This need ties in to another category which is depth at left wing. Since Meier and Nikolay Goldobin are both right-wingers. Finding an impact left-winger is paramount in this draft. Especially, if Matt Nieto is traded this offseason.

In an ideal world, the Sharks would find a Meier clone to counter his shot totals but as this organization knows, finding a player that can shoot as many pucks as Meier is rare. Therefore, I think the Sharks will draft a left-winger who is a playmaker but a player that can be mesmerizing with the puck and can create many scoring chances (I have a specific player in mind but I’m not jinxing this).

Do the Sharks Need Shutdown Defensemen?

We finally arrive at the final category the Sharks could address at the draft, shutdown defenseman. Basically, defensemen that lack offensive skill. When you think about it, does any team need players that can’t contribute to scoring goals. I would think no but I fear some general managers still have this mindset.

Since shutdown defenseman is starting to sound more like “player who is bad at hockey,” its becoming easier to see that players of this caliber will not develop into NHL players.

However, there is hope for drafting defensemen of this mold. As Sharks fans know, Marc-Edouard Vlasic is a phenomenal shutdown defenseman and didn’t have high point totals in junior until he was ready to join the Sharks. But why is Vlasic so successful?

The key is skating and hockey smarts. I can’t stress this enough. Any defenseman that can skate has a chance to contribute in the NHL. Sharks fans don’t have to look further than Mirco Mueller. While his development has stagnated, he can still skate at an NHL level, and with confidence, can make smart decisions with the puck.

But the reason why his development has stagnated is because he has struggled to contribute on the scoreboard since before he was drafted. This brings me to my next point. All NHL defensemen should be able to score with frequency at the junior level. If a defenseman can’t score in the CHL, how is he expected to contribute in the NHL?

One of my favorite articles around the draft talks about the methodology that teams should use when trying to draft defensemen. Focusing on drafting offensive defensemen hasn’t been talked about as much but it should be the strategy that teams use moving forward.

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In essence, the Sharks should look to draft players that are good at hockey instead of players that can’t score. Doing so would be a smart idea.

Besides, no fan wants to see the Sharks draft a player that sucks. Drafting a defensive-defenseman can work out for some teams (Vlasic) but this tactic is still risky by all measures. I like to think the Sharks have moved on from players resembling Nick Petrecki, but I cringe at that nightmare becoming a reality.

By now the message should be clear. The Sharks are lacking defensemen that excel in their own zone. That doesn’t mean they should focus on that area of the ice though. Instead, focus on drafting players that have a shot at becoming a full-time NHL player.