Welcome to the 2017 edition of “Top Shelf Prospects”. During the summer, I will feature a team-by-team look at the top prospects in the NHL. I will follow the order of the first round of the NHL draft (as if there were no trades). You can find all the articles here. Since we had an extensive NHL Draft preview, I will not be reviewing the players who were drafted this year. There have been no games since then, and my reports on them will not have changed.
I will link you to those articles; as well as taking a look at prospects that were acquired before this year’s draft; their progress, and their chances of making the 2017-18 roster. I will also bring you one sleeper pick – a player who was either drafted in the 4th-round or later; or an undrafted free agent signing who I pick as a dark horse to make the NHL. 50 NHL games played or being 25 years old is the cut-off for prospects. These are not hard or fast rules though, and I may make some exceptions depending on the circumstances.
TSP: San Jose Sharks Prospects
Coming off an appearance in the Stanley Cup Final in 2016, the San Jose Sharks were looking to get back to the dance and earn the franchise’s first Stanley Cup. It was not meant to be. The Sharks finished third in the Pacific Division, and fell in the first round to the Edmonton Oilers.
The loss was the end of an era for the Sharks, as the holder of most of the team records, Patrick Marleau, signed with Toronto Maple Leafs this summer. The team re-signed Joe Thornton, Martin Jones and Marc-Edouard Vlasic, but has not made any major off-season additions. It is time for the Sharks prospects to make the jump.
Top Prospect: Timo Meier
Right Wing — shoots Left
Born October 8th, 1996 — Herisau, Switzerland
Height 6’0″ — Weight 210 lbs [183 cm / 95 kg]
Drafted by the San Jose Sharks in the 1st round, #9 overall at the 2015 NHL Draft
Timo Meier graduated to the pro ranks last season. He had decent results in the AHL, putting up 14 goals and 23 points in 33 games, earning some NHL time. Things didn’t go quite as well in the big leagues as he had just three goals and six points in 34 games, and no points in five playoff games. He returned to the AHL for the Barracuda’s playoff run, putting up seven points in 14 games.
Meier continues to work on improving his skating stride and generating more speed. He’s still not a speedster, but while he entered the QMJHL as a poor skater, he’s now well above average in this regard. His acceleration and first step quickness are also decent and getting better. There is still room to improve in these areas, but with the great steps that Meier has already taken, it looks likely that the improvements in his stride will continue. Meier’s agility is decent. He also has very good balance on his skates, and excellent power. This allows him to protect the puck down low, and work the cycle game extremely effectively.
Meier has great hockey sense and gets to the open areas of the ice. He sets up to finish chances with an excellent shot and release. He has a very good arsenal of shots. Meier has an excellent snap shot, strong wrist shot, and very good one-timer. He is very effective off the half-boards on the power play.
Meier is also a physical player, establishing his position in the slot and winning board battles to create offence. He has the good hand-eye co-ordination to tip in pucks as well as pounce on rebounds. He gets in quickly on the fore check and can punish opposing defencemen with hits behind the net. There were some adjustments as he does not have the size advantages he had in junior. Meier also has good vision and passing skills, and the smarts to make a good pass when he is working the cycle. He has finesse in his game with good stick handling skills, and the ability to finish plays in tight.
Meier is already an effective two-way player. He is a willing back checker who provides excellent back pressure in support of his defencemen. Meier is also not afraid to get physical in his own end, containing his man down low, and working to win battles on the boards. He is more than willing to block shots as well, if necessary. He has not been used on the penalty kill in the pros yet, but did spend time there in junior.
Meier heads to training camp looking for a spot on the main roster. With Marleau gone, there is an open spot in the Sharks top six. He will battle with some of the other forward prospects on this list. Even if he does not win the spot, he should be an injury call-up and a full-timer by 2018-19.
#2 Prospect: Danny O’Reagan
Center/Right Wing — shoots Right
Born January 30th, 1994 — Berlin, Germany
Height 5’10” — Weight 180 lbs [178 cm / 82 kg]
Drafted by the San Jose Sharks in the 5th round, #138 overall at the 2012 NHL Draft
O’Reagan also had his first pro season last year, following a four-year career at Boston University. He won the AHL Rookie of the Year award after putting up 23 goals and 58 points in 63 games. He was not quite as good in the playoffs as he added just seven points in 15 games. The Sharks called up O’Reagan for a short stint. He played three games and also scored his first NHL goal.
A pint-sized scorer, this 5’10″ centre has very good speed and skating ability. He also has the ability to make plays with the puck while skating at top speed. He’s got outstanding edge work and agility, which combines with his great stick handling to make him extremely dangerous off the rush. A low centre of gravity helps him to maintain his balance and fight through checks.
O’Regan has great vision, and has excellent passing ability. He is able to thread passes tape-to-tape through the smallest of openings. He can score goals, as O’Regan has good hands, and a good release on his shot, but will need to improve its power to become a big-time goal scoring threat. O’Regan also must improve his strength in order to be a better player on the boards and in front of the net.
O’Regan is a willing and able back checker. He plays a responsible game and supports the defence down low. More strength would be a real help in his game. He is sometimes overpowered when trying to contain against a big forward in the cycle game.
O’Reagan’s future may be on the wing, where his size will be less of a factor due to the reduced defensive responsibilities. He will come to camp looking to make the jump to the NHL full-time. While his upside is not as high as Meier, he is more NHL ready. A strong camp would get O’Reagan a full-time spot in the Sharks line-up.
#3 Prospect: Joakim Ryan
Defense — shoots Left
Born June 17th, 1993 — Rumson, New Jersey
Height 5’11” — Weight 185 lbs [180 cm / 84 kg]
Drafted by the San Jose Sharks in the 7th round, #198 overall at the 2012 NHL Draft
After four years with Cornell, Ryan has spent two seasons in the AHL. He was a huge part of a strong Barracuda team, leading the offence from the blue line last season. He scored 10 goals and 49 points in 65 games. Ryan added 4 goals and 11 points in 15 playoff games.
Ryan is a very good skater. He has good speed and acceleration in both directions, allowing him to retrieve dump ins, keep attackers in front of him, and rush up the ice with the puck. Excellent agility, edge work and pivots allow him to transition quickly from offence to defence and vice-versa. He has good lateral movement, keeping attackers in front of him and funneling them to the outside. He also walks the line to open up shooting and passing lanes on the power play. Ryan has decent balance and his low centre of gravity helps him to be strong on the puck, despite his size.
Ryan has excellent hockey sense and awareness. He has the poise to control pucks at the blue line, and quarterback the play. He also has the vision to spot open teammates and the play making skills to set up goals. Ryan also makes a very good first pass to start the transition game. He combines good stick handling ability with his strong skating to move the puck out of danger and avoid forecheckers. Ryan also has a good shot. He keeps it low and on net, allowing teammates to get tip-ins and rebounds.
Ryan is undersized, and that is always going to cause him some problems in the defensive zone. However, he uses the assets he has to still be a solid defensive player. He has very good positioning. His quick stick cuts down passing lanes, and knocks the puck away from attacking players. He also retrieves pucks quickly, starting the transition game and limiting the time spent in his own end. Ryan is willing to battle in the corners and his low centre of gravity helps him to get loose pucks. However he can be overpowered in front of the net, or in trying to contain a cycling forward.
Ryan’s strong season made it easier for the Sharks to trade Mirco Mueller to the New Jersey Devils. The Sharks also lost David Schlemko in the expansion draft. The depth chart has opened up for Ryan to earn a spot on the Sharks in 2017-18.
#4 Prospect: Josh Norris
The Sharks drafted Norris with the 19th overall pick in this year’s NHL draft. Prior to the draft, we did an in-depth scouting report on Norris. As no games have been played since that report; we will not repeat it. You can check out the report here.
#5 Prospect: Rourke Chartier
Center — shoots Left
Born April 3rd, 1996 — Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Height 5’11” — Weight 190 lbs [180 cm / 86 kg]
Drafted by the San Jose Sharks in the 5th round, #149 overall at the 2014 NHL Draft
Chartier is another one of the Sharks prospects who had their first pro season with the Barracuda last season. He scored 17 goals and 35 points in 67 games, as well as six assists in seven playoff games. It was a successful transition year.
Chartier is a very quick skater who never seems to stop moving his feet. He has very good top end speed and excellent acceleration. He is always first in on the forecheck and creating turnovers in the offensive zone. A quick first step helps him to win races to loose pucks all over the ice. Chartier also has good agility and edge work. He might be a little undersized, but he is very strong on his skates and has excellent balance.
Chartier is a pure goal scorer. When his teammates get the puck he seems to find the soft spots in the defence and is always open to bury a feed in the back of the net with a strong, hard shot and good release. He has the soft hands to finish in tight and the coordination and quickness to get tip-ins and pounce on rebounds. Through sheer hard work down low he is also able to create chances for teammates and picks up assists that way. He protects the puck well on the cycle, and makes smart passes to keep it moving.
Chartier uses that effort level on the back check as well. He is willing to do whatever it takes to win, blocking shots, cutting down passing lanes, and taking a hit to make sure the puck gets out at the defensive blue line.
Chartier heads back to the AHL for more seasoning this year. He must continue to round out his defensive game, as well as grow his offense at the pro level. He could be NHL ready in one or two years, depending on how things go.
#6 Prospect: Noah Gregor
Center — shoots Left
Born July 28th, 1998 — Beaumont, Alberta
Height 6’0″ — Weight 180 lbs [183 cm / 82 kg]
Drafted by the San Jose Sharks in the 4th round, #111 overall at the 2016 NHL Entry Draft
Gregor had an excellent season with Moose Jaw, despite some injuries. He put up 27 goals and 61 points in 52 games. Gregor slowed down in the playoffs, with just two goals in seven games.
Noah Gregor has decent size and plays a strong all-around game. He shows ability in all three zones. He is a good skater. Gregor has very good speed and acceleration. He also shows good agility and edge work, allowing him to maneuver in and out of traffic, both with and without the puck. Gregor could stand to improve his core strength, and his lower body strength in order to generate a more powerful stride, improve his balance and be stronger on the puck. It will also help him when battling in the corners.
Gregor shows good skill in the offensive zone. He has a heavy wrist shot, with good accuracy and a quick release. He also shows a good arsenal of shots, with a strong snap shot, and one-timer. Gregor has excellent vision and sees openings to thread the needle to create a scoring chance for a teammate. He has a knack for throwing a saucer pass over an opponents stick and landing it in time to hit his teammate’s blade. His hockey sense is high, as he often makes the right play, and does not turn the puck over a lot. Gregor is tenacious and willing to battle along the boards, but needs to improve his overall muscle mass to avoid being pushed around at higher levels.
Gregor is a hard worker in the defensive end of the ice. He is willing to bring back pressure, and work to help contain the cycle. However he can be overpowered by bigger and stronger forwards. His positioning is good for his age, and he has some understanding of how to cut down passing and shooting lanes. It could be improved with more time and coaching to be more consistent though.
Gregor heads back to Moose Jaw for what will likely be his final junior season. If the Warriors are not contending come December, he will be a very attractive piece at the WHL trade deadline. He likely needs a year or two in the AHL even after finishing his junior career, but could be worth the wait.
#7 Prospect: Jeremy Roy
Defense — shoots Right
Born May 14th, 1997 — Richelieu, Quebec
Height 6’0 — Weight 199 lbs [183 cm / 90 kg]
Drafted by the San Jose Sharks in the 2nd round, #31 overall at the 2015 NHL Draft
Injuries cut Roy’s season short for the third straight year. Knee surgery limited Roy to just 10 games for the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada. All of this lost development time has had a significant effect on Roy’s status as a prospect. He takes a big tumble from last year’s ranking, despite the number of Sharks prospects who graduated last year.
Roy is a good, but not great skater. He has a bit of a choppy stride and is slow in his first few steps and in his acceleration, but when going full out his decent speed moving both forwards and backwards. Roy has the strong edge work, pivots and agility though to cover all areas in the defensive zone, and walk the line to create chances in the offensive zone. He takes good angles and maintains good gap control, and is very difficult to get around on the rush. Roy also has the balance necessary to battle along the boards and in front of the net, though he could add a little bit more lower body strength as he matures. He already has some decent strength on his skates and is tough to knock off the puck, but will need more for the pro game.
Roy is an extremely smart player, who almost always makes the right pass out of his own end, or on the point at the power play. Roy is developing a hard one-timer, and understands that by keeping it low and on net, he creates second chance opportunities for forwards. He is poised with the puck on his stick whether it be at the point, in his own end skating it out of danger, or leading the rush. He uses his good stick handling ability to generate offense off the rush, and is a threat to go end to end any time he touches the puck. Roy also has a very accurate wrist shot, which he can utilize off the rush, or from the point when he doesn’t have time to let go of the big wind-up. He has a good release that can fool goaltenders.
Defensively, Roy’s hockey sense and positioning are extremely good, and he battles hard in the corners and in his own end. He played all situations and against top competition in junior. As mentionned, he is willing to battle in the corners or in front of the net. The best part of Roy’s defensive game is how quickly he can take the puck and transition to offence though. This will aid his team in puck possession and ensure they don’t spend much time in their own end of the rink when he is on the ice. While he doesn’t get himself out of position to throw big hits, he can be physical, and has even fought on a few occassions.
Roy has high-end potential but must stay healthy. His game also has rough edges that must be smoothed out. He will need at least a full season in the AHL, and possibly more given the fact that he has missed so much time in the last three years. There is potential here, but it must be polished.
Sleeper Prospect: Adam Helewka
Left Wing — shoots Left
Born July 21st, 1995 — Burnaby, British Columbia
Height 6’2″ — Weight 200 lbs [188 cm / 91 kg]
Drafted by the San Jose Sharks in the 4th round, #106 overall at the 2015 NHL Draft
Helewka is another member of the large group of Sharks prospects who had their first pro season with the Barracuda last year. He up up 14 goals and 29 points in 58 games. Helewka struggled in the playoffs with just three goals in 12 games.
Helewka is a decent skater. He has decent speed and acceleration. While he’s not a speedster, he keeps up with the play. He also has good agility and edge work. The best part about his skating, is his lower body strength and balance. This allows Helewka to win battles in front of the net, and along the boards.
Helewka is an extremely hard-working forward. He digs hard in the corners, winning loose pucks and getting them to teammates. He is quick on the forecheck, pressuring defenders and creating turnovers. Helewka is willing to battle in front of the net, and can score goals with tip-ins and with the quick hands to bury rebounds. He also has a hard wrist shot and good release to score from further out. Helewka plays a simple, north-sough game, but one that is effective.
Helewka brings his hard work to the defensive end. He supports the defence with back pressure and support. He is almost always in the right position, and cuts down passing and shooting lanes. Helewka is an excellent shot blocker. He is the type of player that coaches love, as he does all the little things right.
Helewka will head back to the Barracuda for another season in the AHL. He will likely be given a bigger role, and this should lead to more points. He could be NHL ready by next year. The upside here is likley limited to a third liner, but he can be an effective NHLer in that role.
The Sharks added a number of quality forwards in the 2017 Draft. They started with Norris. San Jose also added Scott Reedy, Jacob McGrew, Sasha Chmelevski, and Ivan Chekhovic. They join a group that includes Dylan Gambrell, Maxim Letunov, Manuel Wiederer, Rudolfs Balcers, Noah Rod, Joachim Blichfeld and Nikita Jevpalovs. Mario Ferraro was the only blue line addition. He joins Julius Bergman, and Cavan Fitzgerald. The Sharks have Mike Robinson, Josef Korenar and Jake Kupsky as goaltending prospects. San Jose needs a real infusion of high-end talent into the system. There is depth here, but the system shows signs of almost always drafting late in the first round.
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