After trading the 58th overall pick to Detroit to move from 20th to 18th, the Sharks have selected defenseman Mirco Mueller of the Western Hockey League's Everett Silvertips in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. A native of Switzerland, Mueller scored 6 goals and 31 points over 63 games in his first season on North American ice while facing the toughest quality of competition of any Everett defenseman. Here's what scout Corey Pronman, who had Mueller going to the Sharks at 20th overall in his mock draft earlier this week, has to say about the 6'3", 176-pound blueliner:
Mueller had a quality season in his draft year after coming to the WHL from Switzerland. He took on more responsibility for the Silvertips in light of Columbus draftee Ryan Murray's significant injury. He was also impressive as a 17-year-old defenseman at the World Juniors. The most impressive aspect of his game is his hockey sense. He is a top-end thinker with and without the puck. He slows down the game on breakouts, making good decisions with the puck. He also makes a lot of defensive stops due to his good positioning and reads. He displays above-average mobility, both closing gaps well and rushing the puck up ice with solid speed. Mueller has fine size, with a sense of quality physicality about his game. He has only average overall puck skills, and he projects as a second unit power play defenseman. He will deliver very good value to his team from his work in his own zone.
Mueller was ranked 16th in Bob McKenzie's final draft rankings. Here's TSN scout Craig Button's take:
A very athletic and talented rearguard that is getting better with each passing game. Skates very well and is solid in his positioning and very difficult to beat one-on-one. Good puck skills and passes very well from a defensive zone standpoint and effective on the offensive side with potential to improve. He uses his body effectively and will assert and compete very well in this area. Has good overall sense for the game and has shown the capability of taking on more challenges in his role.
Anything I have to say about this pick comes with the "I'm not a scout" caveat as well as the disclaimer that I have never seen Mueller skate a shift in the WHL or any other league. But it's hard to say this isn't a questionable pick, especially after factoring in the decision to part with the second of what were once three second round picks just to move up two spots. When the trade was announced, it seemed likely the Sharks would target either Hunter Shinkaruk or Anthony Mantha, two highly-skilled forwards who had fallen a bit from their projected rankings and would have injected some much needed offense into a pipeline largely devoid of that element. Instead the Sharks went with a defenseman who not only stood a chance at being available at 20th (granted, it's entirely possible Doug Wilson knew something about the way Jarmo Kekalainen was leaning at 19th) but doesn't necessarily fill a position of need for a franchise stocked with young defensemen both on the big club and the farm.
By all accounts, it sounds like Mueller has a decent shot of developing into a second-pairing two-way defenseman at the NHL level if a lot goes his way but it's also important to note that the track record of defensemen picked in the top three rounds who score at less than a 0.6 point-per-game clip at the CHL level in their draft year isn't great. Mueller's scoring rate was 0.49, which admittedly lacks a lot of context and was most likely at least in part depressed by the tough minutes he was playing and was perhaps also impacted by the fact that this was his first season on North American ice. But defensemen who don't excel at both ends of the ice in junior prior to being drafted generally don't turn into blueline staples in the big leagues. It's entirely possible Mueller bucks the trend and is one of the 10% who make it but I wouldn't necessarily bet on it and I can't see how he was worth giving up a second round pick in a deep draft to acquire. Anyway, now that I've thoroughly pissed on the parade, here's video of Mueller doing some good hockey things: