For the second straight summer, Fear the Fin is counting down the top 25 San Jose Sharks under 25, as voted on by our readers. The start of the list will be unveiled tomorrow, but in the meantime, let’s take a look at the players that made the cut last year and did not crack the top 25 this season. Some players aged out, some left the organization entirely, and some got passed up entirely.
Patrick McNally (2016 rank: 25)
The Sharks did not tender a qualifying offer to the 25-year-old defenseman, after the former Vancouver Canucks fourth round pick scored just 18 points in 94 games with the San Jose Barracuda over the last two seasons. McNally joined the organization with an offensive pedigree from his days at Harvard University, but that offense simply has not translated to the professional level. By the end of the season, other blueliners had passed McNally, who only played in one playoff game with the Barracuda. He remains an unsigned unrestricted free agent.
Michael Brodzinski (2016 rank: 24)
The 22-year-old defenseman spent most of his first professional season with San Jose’s ECHL affiliate, the Allen Americans. In Allen, the University of Minnesota product scored 10 points in 23 regular season games, and added another three in six postseason games, as Allen’s consecutive championships streak ended. Brodzinski’s still on his entry level contract for another two seasons including this one, but the 2013 fifth round pick faces an uphill battle cracking the Barracuda’s crowded blueline this year.
Nikita Jevpalovs (2016 rank: 22)
Jevpalovs showed improvement with the Barracuda last season, and scored seven more points (21) than he did in his first professional season (14). As Zachary Devine noted over at Dobber Prospects in January, the 22-year-old Latvian winger was a much-improved skater this season, and a player that Barracuda Head Coach Roy Sommer relied upon defensively. But, his offensive game (1.04 points per game in the QMJHL) did not translate well to the professional ranks, and the Sharks did not extend Jevpalovs a qualifying offer this summer. He signed a try-out deal with hometown club Dinamo Riga, but is not currently listed on their roster.
Mirco Mueller (2016 rank: 18)
San Jose traded the 2013 first round pick to the New Jersey Devils before the Expansion Draft this summer, ending the 22-year-old Swiss defenseman’s up-and-down teal tenure. Like the other defensemen on this list, Mueller was simply passed up on the organization’s depth chart, as he failed to find consistency. Starting his career with the Sharks when he was too ripe for the NHL in 2014-15 certainly didn’t help his development, but Mueller’s flashes of NHL ability were few and far between at times. Mueller signed a two-year, one-way deal with the Devils this summer, and will have a legitimate chance to establish himself as an NHL regular this season, which he likely would not have gotten in San Jose.
Mantas Armalis (2016 rank: 14)
In more ways than one, 24-year-old Lithuanian goaltender and male model Mantas Armalis was a sexy signing last summer. He was expected to challenge Troy Grosenick for the starting job with the Barracuda, but failed to live up to the initial hype. Armalis posted an un-sexy .895 save percentage in his first professional season in North America, and wasn’t even San Jose’s backup during the Calder Cup playoffs. The Sharks signed former Toronto Marlies goaltender Antoine Bibeau to fill Armalis’ spot behind Grosenick, after the team did not tender a qualifying offer to Armalis. He remains an unrestricted free agent.
Marcus Sorensen (2016 rank: 10)
Sorensen is one of two players that made the cut last year and didn’t this year that remains with the organization. In his first professional season in North America, the speedy Swedish winger scored 34 points in 43 games with the Barracuda, and another 4 in 19 with the Sharks. Sorensen earned Peter DeBoer’s trust by the end of the season, and suited up for every game in San Jose’s six game, first round loss to the Edmonton Oilers. If the 25-year-old hadn’t aged out, he almost certainly would have made the cut again this year. He should be a near-lock for the roster in training camp, but will need to produce more offensively than in his first Sharks stint as the team looks to replace Patrick Marleau’s scoring output.
Matt Nieto (2016 rank: 9)
The Sharks waived the Long Beach native in January, as Papi Le Batard’s favorite player failed to earn DeBoer’s trust for a regular spot in the bottom six. The Colorado Avalanche claimed the aspiring MC, and playing time was much easier to find. In 43 games with Colorado, Nieto’s game didn’t change significantly, as he was still a decent if unspectacular depth scorer (11 points in 43 games) with strong underlying numbers as the Avalanche’s leader (min. 150 minutes played) in corsi-for and fenwick-for percentages, according to Natural Stat Trick. The 24-year-old winger would have been eligible for the list again if he was still in San Jose, but likely would not have been ranked nearly as high.
Nikolay Goldobin (2016 rank: 5)
San Jose traded the 21-year-old Russian winger and 2014 first round pick to Vancouver in the Jannik Hansen deal in March. Goldobin played 12 games with the Canucks, scoring three goals, but did not earn a regular spot under then-Head Coach Willie Desjardins. The Canucks sent Goldobin down to Utica, where he scored four goals in three games. There, Goldobin played under current Vancouver bench boss Travis Green, but it remains to be seen if he did enough to start the year with the Canucks. Goldobin never quite earned DeBoer’s trust, but was in the midst of his best season as a professional when the Sharks traded him (41 points in 46 games with the Barracuda). He hasn’t quite figured it out yet, but his offensive upside alone would have had him in the top ten again if he was still a Shark, and could haunt San Jose moving forward.
Joonas Donskoi (2016 rank: 2)
Like Sorensen, the 25-year-old Donskoi is too old for this year’s edition of the top 25 under 25, but he too would have been back if he wasn’t. The Finnish winger struggled during an injury-riddled 2016-17 season, and scored just 17 points in 61 regular season games. A clean bill of health, better puck luck (97.9 PDO last season, per Hockey Reference), and continued development should allow Donskoi to easily surpass that total. Substantially improving on his rookie production may be out of the question, but a return to his rookie form is not. Donskoi signed a two-year deal this offseason, which will look like even more of a bargain if he re-gains his rookie year scoring touch.
Up next: We unveil #25 on our list on Tuesday.