San Jose Sharks’ First-Round Draft Focus Should Be a 2-Way Centerman

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Now that the San Jose Sharks group know the place they’ll be slotted for the 2021 Draft, it’s time to contemplate who the membership can feasibly decide up on the seventh total decide. There’s lots of expertise within the draft pool this 12 months, and it’s going to require a good bit of deliberation from the higher brass earlier than a agency determination is made. With that being mentioned, I don’t assume there’s any query that the Sharks ought to be nearly solely looking for a high quality centerman.

However the chance that Brent Burns could also be going to the Seattle Kraken within the enlargement draft, the membership can’t get sidetracked in regarding themselves with one other defenseman. The membership wants extra objective manufacturing. San Jose was outscored 146 to 196 this previous season. Whereas it’s apparent that the defensive corps must step up, video games don’t get received on the backs of defensemen alone. The Sharks have an opportunity to worm their method out of this precarious place by specializing in high-end expertise that may put the puck at the back of the online.

There are a selection of gamers to regulate, however it’d be helpful to take a look at the gamers conceivably out there to the Sharks on the seventh total decide.

William Eklund (C)

Some have put William Eklund a bit past the attain of the seventh total decide, however I nonetheless assume there’s an opportunity the Sharks can decide him up this 12 months. Eklund has been one of many few gamers I’ve stored a watch on for whereas now, and my thoughts hasn’t actually modified on this promising expertise. Having performed with the Djugårdens of the Swedish Hockey League (SHL) through the 2020-2021 season, he put up 11 objectives and 12 assists for a complete of 23 factors over the course of 40 video games.

Granted, these numbers usually are not mind-blowing on their very own. However there’s extra to the younger participant than what the stats reveal. There’s a motive why Eklund received the SHL’s Rookie of the Yr award.

Eklund is at all times a menace when within the offensive zone. His puckhandling abilities are superior for gamers his age, and he has nice imaginative and prescient. His skating and puck management enable him to maneuver up ice in a rush, however he tends to go the puck greater than he in all probability ought to. If the Sharks handle to select up Eklund, there should be an emphasis on getting him to shoot the puck extra. His shot is just too deadly to go unused.

One other dimension to Eklund’s play is that he’s not afraid to get alongside the boards and battle it out with the opposition. His steadiness and power on the puck are nice for a participant who appears to be a pure, two-way ahead.

What impresses me essentially the most about Eklund’s recreation is the truth that he’s at all times giving it his all when he’s out on the ice. Whether or not the puck is on his stick or on an opponent’s stick heading the opposite method, he’s at all times transferring his toes and reads the sport rather well. He performs with an energetic stick and averages about 0.80 takeaways within the defensive zone each recreation.

Eklund’s main promoting level as a centerman is his potential to play strong protection. He has good eyes and may minimize off the opposition’s cycle recreation alongside the boards. He’s additionally alert and fast sufficient to stifle or intercept seam passes, getting again up ice within the different course for high quality scoring possibilities. This model of play will turn out to be useful ought to San Jose lose one in every of their top-four defensemen to the enlargement draft.

Total, the Swede can play each side of the puck with talent and precision—a high quality that might be important if the Sharks plan to get again to the playoffs subsequent season.

Kent Johnson (C)

Kent Johnson is one other participant the Sharks ought to be maintaining a detailed eye on. In accordance with latest mock drafts, it seems that Johnson could possibly be a extra lifelike decide for the membership. One of many apparent dimensions to his play that ought to be stored in thoughts is that he’s been taking part in alongside Matty Beniers on the College of Michigan. Whereas it’s very attainable he goes again to Michigan for one more 12 months, it’s useful to see how he performs with different high-end gamers—one thing not out there to all prospects.

Kent Johnson, Michigan Wolverines
Kent Johnson Michigan Wolverines (Jonathan Knight, Jonathan Knight Pictures)

Johnson put up some high quality numbers in Michigan this 12 months, raking in 9 objectives and 18 assists for 27 whole factors in 26 video games. A part of that is undoubtedly as a result of nice gamers he’s taking part in subsequent to, however there’s additionally a ton to be mentioned for Johnson’s particular person contributions on the ice. Within the 2019-20 season with Path Smoke Eaters of the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL), he chalked up 101 factors in simply 52 video games—41 of which have been objectives. If nothing else, he has a nostril for the online, and I anticipate this to solely proceed as he transitions into the NHL.

With the puck on his stick, Johnson is a really harmful participant. He’s an excellent skater and may decide up pace within the impartial zone and assault open lanes with ease. He has nice imaginative and prescient and has shaped a dynamic duo with fellow freshman Matty Beniers. He is ready to open up passing lanes together with his puck dealing with potential in tight and may discover teammates within the shot with ease. 

Whereas Johnson is ready to get again on protection and minimize off passing lanes with the identical function and talent as Eklund, I don’t think about Johnson goes to be the type of participant to take a beating whereas digging for pucks across the boards. That’s to not say he’s incapable of doing so, however he’s normally leaving this job as much as others on his line. He appears to have all of the elite talent the Sharks might be searching for to enhance their roster within the coming years, however the challenge is that the younger participant will probably be staying in Michigan for one more 12 months. Whether or not this throws a wrench in San Jose’s plan for a ready-made participant is anybody’s guess.

But when the Sharks don’t thoughts having to attend this extra 12 months to see their funding come to fruition, Johnson has the highlight-reel expertise and improvisational abilities to make him a mainstay on the San Jose roster. It’s even attainable that Johnson sneaks into the top-six of the membership’s roster, permitting a much less productive centerman to fill the position on the third line. Solely time will inform.

“Johnson is as artistic as they arrive. Whether or not it’s passing and taking pictures between his legs, lacrosse strikes, or anything you’d discover on a spotlight reel, if you happen to can dream it, he can in all probability do it. Michigan coach Mel Pearson has a longstanding philosophy of permitting his expert gamers freedom to train their creativity, and Johnson has undoubtedly benefited from that up to now. Extra of a playmaker than a goal-scorer, Johnson’s passing stands out on nearly each shift, whether or not he’s sending a spin go to a teammate extensive open within the slot or discovering a lane between three defenders.” Bailey Johnson/Smaht Scouting

Mason McTavish (C)

Mason McTavish could very properly be the largest steal this draft season. With the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) not permitting gamers to return to the ice, McTavish has fallen within the draft rankings. The Sharks may capitalize on a participant who would probably be sitting within the prime ten if it hadn’t been for circumstances past his management.

Because of this, McTavish took his elite recreation to Switzerland, the place he performed with Olten HC for the 2020-21 season, placing up 9 objectives and two assists over the span of 13 video games. Granted, this can be a very small window to precisely assess simply how good he’s. However it might be useful to try what he’s accomplished prior to now. Through the 2019-20 season, McTavish pulled in 29 objectives and 13 assists for a complete of 42 factors over the course of 57 video games with the Peterborough Petes.

Mason McTavish Peterborough Petes
Mason McTavish of the Peterborough Petes (Terry Wilson / OHL Pictures)

However once more, stats and scoresheets don’t inform the entire story of McTavish. He has a excessive hockey IQ and may modulate between playmaker and sniper. One of many challenges with the Sharks proper now could be that they don’t have depth in the case of gamers who can take high quality photographs whereas creating performs for linemates. McTavish is an effective candidate to fill this hole. He’s additionally sturdy on the puck. Steadiness and energy are simply a few dimensions to his elite model of play.

Which brings me to his defensive play. He’s an absolute demon to play towards in his personal finish. His energy, aggression, and unwillingness to fold to the opposition is his greatest promoting level in the case of a two-way centerman. He doesn’t give up, and plainly his legs are at all times in movement. And the way in which San Jose’s protection carried out this previous season, they’d be fortunate to have somebody like McTavish protecting for them in tight dangerous conditions.

“Violence and aggression are simply two of a number of commonplaces in your typical McTavish shift. He’s a throwback who doesn’t appear involved with what opponents consider him or what an opposing star participant’s fame is, all whereas showcasing his personal spectacular abilities within the course of. There’s merely no give up in his recreation.” Steven Kournianos/The Draft Analyst





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