The Sharks focused on adding depth to their thin group of center prospects in the 2016 NHL Draft.
Following their long, successful 2015-16 NHL campaign, the San Jose Sharks were relatively quiet at the 2016 NHL Draft. However, the Sharks added must-needed depth to their organization’s group of center prospects.
Entering the draft, San Jose was ranked 23rd in the league in terms of prospect talent by hockeysfuture.com. Most of that talent is stacked on the wings, where the team’s 2015 first-round pick, Timo Meier, and 2014 first-round pick Nikolay Goldobin are generally considered the team’s two-best prospects, followed by defensemen Mirco Mueller and Jeremy Roy.
The front office made it apparent Saturday that they were looking to improve at the center position, and they did at pick No. 60 by drafting Washington native and current Denver Pioneer, Dylan Gambrell.
Gambrell is just over two months away from turning 20 years-old and scored 47 points in his freshman season at Denver, T-14th most in all of college hockey. In three years in the USHL playing for the Dubuque Fighting Saints he scored 108 points, not an overly impressive total.
It seems the Sharks reached a bit for Gambrell, who wasn’t touted as a second-round pick, however he is closer to being NHL-ready than many other second-or-third-round picks as he nears the age of 20. At 6’0″, 179 lbs, Gambrell has decent size, is a versatile player according to SBNation College Hockey, and seems to have a good shot at making an NHL roster in the next two or three years.
The Sharks continued the center trend by selecting Noah Gregor from the WHL in round four and German prospect Manuel Wiederer in the fifth-round.
Gregor was projected by experts to be a second to third round pick, so he fell in the Sharks lap at No. 111. His 73 points for the Moose Jaw Warriors in 2015-16 was good for T-24th best in the WHL. Size wise, he is almost identical to Gambrell at 6’0″ 178, and he had the most assists by a rookie in the WHL last year with 45.
At just 17 years of age, Gregor won’t be an NHL’er for at least a few years, so this pick likely won’t affect the Sharks in the near-future. On the other hand, he does have a higher ceiling and more offensive firepower than Gambrell, so Sharks GM Doug Wilson and company took more of a risk with their second selection of the day.
The 19 year-old Wiederer became the first German drafted by the Sharks since Konrad Abeltshauser in 2010, who has yet to make an impact for a team. Oddly, he also is a similar size to the previous two drafted centers at 6’0″, 174 lbs.
He finished with a solid 64 points in his first year playing hockey in North America for the Moncton Wildcats of the QMJHL. He did thoroughly run through opponents at the youth level back home in Germany, scoring 126 points in 22 games for Deggendorfer SC U18 only two years ago, albeit in a not so great hockey country.
According to draftsite.com’s Bill Placzek, Wiederer was one of the top forwards in the competitive QMJHL last season, is a solid skater and showed flashes of being a shutdown forward.
San Jose capped off their 2016 draft by selecting their first defenseman of the day in the sixth round, Mark Shoemaker, and their first winger in the seventh in Joachim Blichfield of Denmark.
Shoemaker, the 18 year-old Mississauga, ON native is raw and hasn’t shown the capability of being able to play well in all three zones as a defenseman yet. At 6’2″ 210 lbs, he is a big defenseman who is a one-dimensional, own-zone player at this point. He is still fairly young and figures to return to the OHL’s North Bay Battalion next season, where he scored 13 points in 67 contests in 2015-16.
Finally, Blichfield is an interesting, off the radar selection at the very back end of the draft. The Sharks have no history drafting Danish players and after a little digging, this looks to be the first Denmark born player drafted by the Sharks.
He only scored 28 points in 45 games last year in the Swedish junior league for the Malmo Redhawks, yet has racked up 24 goals in 22 games playing for Denmark’s U20 squad. Besides being a tall winger at 6’2″ and a very capable goal-scorer so far in his career, Blichfield is a question mark.
The Sharks front office most likely is not expecting too much out of this draft class, with only one top-100 selection, however there is some talent.
Shoemaker and Blichfield haven’t shown enough yet where they can be counted on to rise up the ranks, yet Gregor and Gambrell have a strong opportunity to make the leap to the NHL in the future if they keep up solid play from this past year, and Wiederer played well in one of the top junior leagues in the world.