The San Jose Sharks already hold one of the best defensive corps in the league with Brent Burns, Erik Karlsson, and Marc-Edouard Vlasic standing in as high-caliber defenseman. The depth expands when you look farther down the blue line as the seventh defensive spot is up for grabs with an abundance of hopeful prospects.
There are so many names to choose from – Tim Heed, Ryan Merkley, Jeremy Roy are a few. As it stands, Heed, who primarily locked down the position in his first year with 11 points in 29 games, looks to be the favorite. However, that may not be the case.
Radim Simek shows signs he’s ready to fulfill the role as the seventh man on the blue line. The Czech defenseman notched seven goals and 20 assists in 67 games, after competing for his home country in the World Championships from 2015-2017.
Representing one of the older prospects on the blue line, the 26-year-old left-handed defenseman unleashes a heavy howitzer from the point and amps up his physicality with checking forwards into the boards. Simek is ready to make the jump to the NHL, but a minor setback with his age and short stature gives him a less-likely shot to become an elite NHL defenseman.
Ryan Merkley, the Sharks 2018 first-round draft pick has hopes of gaining a spot on the team later in the year, after some seasoning in either the AHL or back with Guelph in the Canadian Junior Leagues. Although quiet on the stat sheet, Merkley has been an aggressive defender rushing out of position to create quality scoring chances at the other end of the ice. A member of the Sharks young power play unit, the 18-year-old native of Oakville, Ontario bestows a deceptive shot and looks for the no-look pass to his off-wing.
The only trouble with Merkley is his disruptive actions and lack of maturity. The Sharks don’t want their seventh defenseman to take costly penalties in important games come the final months of the regular season. If Merkley can prove he can grow up and show more discipline to his style of play, only time can tell when his name will be of need.
Look out for these young defensemen on the blue line tonight as they all look to bring a spark to their prominence as they battle against the Flames.