2014 NHL Draft: 5 First-Round Prospects San Jose Sharks Should Have an Eye On
When the average hockey fan thinks of the San Jose Sharks, they tend to think high-profile trades. But while Joe Thornton, Brent Burns, Antti Niemi, Dan Boyle and Martin Havlat were all acquired via headlining trade deals, on an average game night, the other 75 percent of San Jose players all arrived in San Jose courtesy of the NHL draft.
That’s a pretty impressive statistic when you stop and think about it.
Patrick Marleau, Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski, Tomas Hertl, Tommy Wingels, Matt Nieto, Andrew Desjardins, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Justin Braun, Brad Stuart, Jason Demers, Scott Hannan and Alex Stalock are all San Jose Sharks draft picks.
The 2014 NHL draft doesn’t have the excitement and anticipation of the elite talent eligible for the 2015 draft, when teams will inevitably be falling all over themselves (and down the standings) for the opportunity to select the latest wunderkind, Connor McDavid. But the lack of obvious standout talent means that teams lower in the draft have legitimate opportunities to draft players whose value is still yet to be realized but may eventually blossom into quality NHL players.
When analyzing prospects for San Jose in the upcoming 2014 NHL draft, it’s important to consider their position in the draft. The Sharks are not going to make the first pick, so there’s no sense is touting Sam Reinhart or Aaron Ekblad, the two players at the top of nearly every draft rankings thus far.
Instead, San Jose will likely be down in the bottom third of the first round, in the early to mid-20s, if things continue the way they have thus far for San Jose. So rather than fantasizing about unattainable talent, this article will examine more realistic candidates for the Sharks.
Sonny Milano: LW, 5’11”, 183 Pounds
As mentioned in my previous article, the Sharks lack organizational depth on the wings, so the U.S. Under-18 Team’s Sonny Milano would be a start toward filling that need.
The left-handed Milano currently ranks as the top forward for USA Hockey’s U-18 National Team Development Program, both in the rankings and on the stat sheet, despite lacking dynamic offensive attack skills. His 24 points in 12 games already eclipsed last season’s numbers, with less than half the season completed.
The only problem with Milano is that he’s currently flying up the rankings and may not be around for San Jose. Per the International Scouting Services December rankings, Milano jumped from 33rd overall to 16th.
Adrian Kempe: C, 6’2”, 190 Pounds
Sweden’s Adrian Kempe fits the San Jose mold perfectly—a big forward with a nose for the net, a strong shot and good physical presence. Kempe plays a hard-nosed north-south game and likes to use his body when the opportunity presents itself.
According to The Scouting Report, Kempe could be a great pick for a team that can afford to be patient while Kempe continues to develop his game. The Sharks are one of very few teams to have the luxury of no real pressing personnel issues or holes, which would give Kempe plenty of time to arrive in the NHL when he’s ready.
Kempe projects anywhere from mid-first round to early second round, making him a great option for San Jose if he’s available.
David Pastrnak: RW, 6’0”, 167 Pounds
The Sharks could opt to go back to a European country they’ve found success in recently and choose David Pastrnak, a Czech-born forward currently playing in Sweden.
Pastrnak offers tremendous offensive skills with elite hands, dynamic finishing ability and quick feet to match. Despite falling off International Scouting Systems rankings for December, NHL Central Scouting rated Pastrnak’s skills an “A,” one of only five international players to receive the elite status.
Playing for Sweden’s second-highest league, among players in their early to mid-20s (and older), Pastranak has 15 points in 25 games, one shy of a share of the team lead.
To further put his skills into perspective, compare him to current Sharks phenom and fellow countryman Tomas Hertl. While playing in the same under-18 league as 14-year-olds, Pastrnak posted 19 points in 16 games, shattering Hertl’s 13 points in 22 games.
Pastrnak’s game could still use some polish as he continues to work on his play in his own end, but he will more than likely be around for San Jose to grab in the late first round.
Jack Glover: D, 6’3”, 190 Pounds
The folks at MyNHLDraft.com have San Jose drafting Jack Glover, a defenseman for the U.S. Under-18 team with good size and solid defensive positioning.
He doesn’t put up gaudy offensive stats, but according to The Scouting Report, the Minnesota native possesses high hockey IQ, is defensively responsible and moves the puck exceptionally well, particularly under pressure.
International Scouting Systems has Glover ranked 27th in its most recent rankings, a realistic slot for San Jose to project into.
The Sharks selected Mirco Mueller with their first pick in the 2013 draft, so it’s possible that San Jose may opt for a forward, but nonetheless, Glover could be a great addition to a hearty crop of young, talented Sharks defensemen.
Nick Schmaltz: C, 5’11”, 170 Pounds
The only USHL player not playing for the U.S. Under-18 team to receive an “A” rating from the NHL Central Scouting is Nick Schmaltz of the Green Bay Gamblers.
A dynamic offensive talent, Schmaltz is a gifted playmaker with tremendous vision and an equally potent shot. Through 21 games, Schmaltz leads the team with 23 points, nine of which came on the power play.
His experience on the international stage is nothing short of impressive. Schmaltz set a tournament record of 12 points in four games at the World Junior A Challenge and nine points in five games as a member of the USA Under-18 team at the renowned Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament in August.
Green Bay Gamblers head coach Derek Lalonde told NHL.com, “Nick has that knack of elevating his game when it's on the line. He's able to elevate at the most opportune time and that's a special ability."
Schmaltz’s strong play has caused his draft stock to climb to mid-first round status, which may be out of reach for a team with Stanley Cup aspirations, such as San Jose.