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Sharks sign Ryan Merkley, Alexander True to entry-level contracts

The Sharks keep getting younger.

DALLAS, TX - JUNE 22: Ryan Merkley poses after being selected twenty-first overall by the San Jose Sharks during the first round of the 2018 NHL Draft at American Airlines Center on June 22, 2018 in Dallas, Texas. Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The Sharks have signed defenseman Ryan Merkley and forward Alexander True to entry-level contracts. Both players are on three-year, $925,000 deals.

The 17-year-old Merkley was the Sharks’ first-round pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. Though he fell to the Sharks at 21 overall, he was generally viewed as a top-10 talent. The Sharks were looking for a player to impact the organization with that pick and Doug Wilson believes they’ve found it in Merkley.

“Ryan was one of the most talented players at his position in this year’s draft and we were very excited to add him to our organization,” said Wilson. “We were impressed with the way he handled himself as the youngest player at our summer development camp and feel that he has a whole new level he has yet to tap into. Ryan has the potential to be a difference maker at the NHL level and we are looking forward to watching his development this season.”

The first overall pick in the 2016 OHL Priority Selection, Merkley has been a stand-out defenseman for the Guelph Storm, having earned the Emms Family Award as OHL Rookie of the Year and having been named to the OHL First All-Rookie Team after leading all first-year players in assists (43) and points (55) in 62 games his rookie season. He continued leading Guelph’s defense in points (67) and ranking second in shots on goal (144) over 63 games in 2017-18. His 67 points (13 goals, 54 assists) were good for third overall in OHL defenseman. Merkley added one goal and five assists in six playoff games.

The Oakville, Ontario native still has room to grow, both literally (standing at 5-foot-11, 170 pounds) and figuratively, as his attitude is what caused him to drop out of the top-10 in the draft. But a contract now indicates that the organization is looking to add him sooner rather than later.

The 21-year-old True is coming off his first professional season with the San Jose Barracuda, where he recorded 28 points. His point total and 15 goals ranked second among Barracuda rookies and his 13 assists ranked third.

The 6-foot-5, 201 pound Dane spent three seasons with the Seattle Thunderbirds of the Western Hockey League before signing a two-year contract with the San Jose Barracuda last year. He totaled 84 points (45 goals, 39 assists) and 78 penalty minutes in 169 WHL games, winning one championship in 2016-17. He has also played internationally for Denmark.

”Alex really made an impression on us with his skill-set this past season for the San Jose Barracuda,” said Sharks Assistant General Manager and San Jose Barracuda General Manager Joe Will. “He chose to sign a contract with the Barracuda last season even though he still had junior eligibility, and his development significantly improved under Head Coach Roy Sommer and his staff. His offensive abilities are an asset to the organization and we’re excited to see him take the next step. Alex is another prime example of the tireless effort that our scouting staff puts in, especially in regards to amateur free agents, and we’re proud of the success they have been able to achieve in that market.”

The biggest concern for True is his skating. Though his scoring is encouraging, Zachary DeVine has noted that he has “better hands than feet and a good shot with accuracy. He plays a responsible overall game but lateral movement and first steps are areas requiring work, although once he gets going he has decent speed.”

It seems unlikely that True will make the team out of camp, but there’s certainly a chance we’ll see him at some point over the course of the season.