Part of the reason the San Jose Sharks were considered 2013 trade deadline winners was general manager Doug Wilson’s ability to stockpile draft picks while making his team better in the process. Ryane Clowe and Douglas Murray were traded to New York and Pittsburgh, respectively, and each brought back multiple draft picks, including a second round pick in this year’s draft.
On Sunday at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ, the Sharks will have eight picks at their disposal, including four in the first two rounds. Here are five draft-related topics regarding the annual event, which will take place in one long, seven-round day beginning at noon PST (NBCSN).
1 – What position will the Sharks target with their first round pick?
In recent years the Sharks have focused on drafting forwards throughout the draft, and there’s no reason to think they won’t aim for another with the 20th overall choice. Their first four picks in 2012 were forwards; in 2011, four of their six picks were centers or wingers; and in 2010 each of their first four choices was a forward.
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Why? Start with Joe Thornton and Partick Marleau, who will both turn 34 before the beginning of next season, and whose best years are almost certainly behind them. While San Jose still has Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski (assuming they sign him to an extension) to help lead the offense for the next several years, the organization is thin on blue chip prospects up front other than last year’s first rounder, Tomas Hertl. Finding another player with top end offensive potential should be the Sharks’ biggest goal in Newark.
Process of elimination seems to suggest a forward will be the target, too, as the Sharks have a young defense corps at the NHL level and some decent prospects in the AHL. Goaltending is not a priority with Antti Niemi, Alex Stalock, Harri Sateri and Troy Grosenick all expected back next season.
2 – Will the Sharks look to move up in the first round?
It’s certainly possible. The Sharks have moved up in the first round twice in the last 10 years, including in 2007 when they chose Logan Couture. Here’s how Doug Wilson answered that very question earlier this week:
“It depends on who we specifically want. We have the extra second round picks to jump up if we want. If things fall the way that they have, we might not need to. If you can get quality and quantity, that’s the ultimate goal. We’re in a really good position for that.”
There are reports that the Carolina Hurricanes are listening to offers for the fifth overall choice. Could the Sharks make a play for that pick?
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3 – Will the Sharks trade anyone on their current roster?
No one can predict whether the Sharks will make a major move, although it seems unlikely after the team finished the regular season strong and had a fairly impressive playoff run. In fact, not even Wilson or his staff can fully anticipate what offers may arise on draft day.
Still, the team might benefit from clearing some salary cap space with a minor move or two. According to CapGeek.com, the Sharks are just $3.57 million under the cap with several players left to sign, and that doesn’t even include Hertl’s salary of $1.35 million should he make the team.
Why clear space? The Sharks could be in the market to find another scoring winger, now that Marty Havlat’s status is uncertain (as is the status of his $5 million salary cap hit). The ineffective winger could very well have played his last game with the Sharks, either due to injury, organizational decision, or a combination of both.
So, who’s the best bet to be wearing a different sweater next season? I'd start with Jason Demers. The 25-year-old defenseman just agreed to a one-year extension with San Jose for $1.5 million – a relatively steep price for what Demers has done the past two seasons. The defenseman has battled the injury bug, but has had trouble maintaining a place in the lineup even when healthy as other young defensemen like Justin Braun and Matt Irwin have surpassed him on the depth chart. Matt Tennyson is also waiting in the wings.
NHL teams typically overpay for blueliners with NHL experience (see Murray, Douglas), and Demers still has the potential to develop into an everyday puck-moving defenseman, which can be hard to come by. The Sharks could listen to offers for Demers if they are looking to move up in the draft or pocket another pick, while concurrently giving themselves more salary cap flexibility.
4 – Will Tomas Hertl make the team next year?
The 17th overall pick in last year’s draft will be at the Sharks’ prospect camp in July, and fans will get a chance to see him in action on July 11 when the club hosts a scrimmage at Sharks Ice. The 19-year-old just completed his second full season in the Czech League with 18 goals and 12 assists for 30 points in 43 games.
Indications are that Hertl will challenge for a roster spot in the fall. If he does make the team he’ll be given a chance to succeed right away, as he’ll have to play in a top nine role, probably as a winger on the Couture or Pavelski line.
The Sharks are fortunate in that they have the option to have him begin his North American pro career in AHL Worcester. Still, the guess here – and, yes, this is a bit early – is that Hertl makes team out of camp.
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5 – Is this a strong draft year?
Most draft experts are saying that, yes, this is a very strong draft year. Players like Nathan MacKinnon, Seth Jones and Jonathan Drouin are expected to develop into future NHL stars.
Wilson, in fact, compared the upcoming draft to the 2003 class, generally assumed to be the strongest draft in the past couple decades.
“People feel that way, yeah. I think that’s a common feeling,” Wilson said. “It’s a deep draft, and that’s the key. There’s certainly good players at the top, and I think there’s good players a lot deeper than normal.”
“There’s always the elite of the elite, but this one just goes really deep. You’ll be getting into the second and third rounds, and teams will still be looking to move up and get picks.”