Isn't it amazing how things can change for a young man with as promising a career as James Sheppard? The kid went from being a stud with the Dartmouth Subways in the Nova Scotia League to being picked first overall in the QMJHL by the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles to being the 9th overall selection in the 2006 NHL draft. Of course, the team that took him was our frequent trade partner over the last offseason, the Minnesota Wild.
When Sheppard was selected by the Wild, though, the kid was thought to be a sure thing. He could skate, he could pass, and, more importantly he could shoot. In his 3 years of Junior Hockey, Sheppard scored 77 goals and had a combined points total of 225 points for Cape Breton. So, it begs the question: How has he ended up with a mere 11 goals and points total of 49 over 3 NHL season. It just doesn't add up.
Now, I'm not making excuses for him, but Sheppard's ATV accident must be taken into account as far as an injuries go. He lost the entire 2010-2011 season due to this accdent where he essentially broke his kneecap; which obviously hampered his skating ability. Worse yet for him was the fact that he appeared to be in the Lemaire's doghouse for most of his tenure in Minnesota. While this doesn't excuse his major drop in his points total from juniors to the NHL, it helps shed some light as to why this was the case.
This last offseason, our beloved Sharks traded for Sheppard's services and it costed a 3rd round pick for a former 9th overall pick. What's intriguing is how little he's talked about and, really, a casual fan doesn't hear his name unless it's linked with Antero Niittymaki as they are 2 Sharks currently on the roster but are recovering from their injuries. So, what are we to think of the former Junior star? What should we expect out of him? What role will he serve, and, more importantly, when will we see him lace up and play with the Sharks?
To answer the first question, I would just refer to the topic of this article: "The Animoly of James Sheppard". I can't say we can really know what to think of him. What we know is that he's a young, 23 year-old center who hasn't lived up to the expectations his former team had for him so they shipped him off to a frequent trading partner to get some value for him. For the Sharks, I think it's very easy to guess what they were looking for with Sheppard: a player who might be able to add some scoring pop to the bottom 2 lines.
I'm aware the lines have been shuffled slightly (and, by the way, I'm a big fan of them), but, for argument's sake, let's say the Sharks' lines are as follows:
Really, with how the Sharks have been playing lately, I can't pick any one spot and say that there's a perfect spot for Sheppard to slide into and go immediately to work. Especially with how well Jamie McGinn has played lately and his solidification of a spot on the 3rd line, it'd be tough, in my opinion, for him to go anywhere and be able to build immediate chemistry. However, of all the spots on the roster, I would say Sheppard might be swapping time with Murray. Although Murray is a very solid penalty killer (and I'm well aware of the major asset that has on this team), these players are far too similar. Both are currently bottom line players with speed and a little bit of scoring pop. I'm not suggesting Sheppard comes back initially with the speed he displayed when he played for the Wild but, over time, it may also develop as well as the hope for Sheppard to at some point reach back and find the scorer within that's been absent for the past few years.
Looking back through the archives, I did read Matt Taylor has done a small analysis on Sheppard when he was intially dealt. I'm basically just adding to that as a fan's perspective.