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Top 25 Sharks Under 25: Recaps and Reactions

Next year is gonna look pretty different.

DALLAS, TX - JUNE 22: (l-r) Doug Wilson of the San Jose Sharks and Lou Lamoriello of the New York Islanders chat prior to 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

We wrapped up the third year of ranking the top of the San Jose Sharks youth by crowning our three-time champion Tomas Hertl yesterday. But with nearly 50 players and prospects under 25 (at the time of the ranking, in the long-ago pre-Karlsson era), there are certainly going to be a difference of opinions. To refresh, here’s the top 30 in this year’s rankings:


Player 2018 Ranking Staff Ranking 2017 Ranking
Player 2018 Ranking Staff Ranking 2017 Ranking
Tomas Hertl 1 1 1
Timo Meier 2 2 2
Chris Tierney 3 4 4
Kevin Labanc 4 3 3
Ryan Merkley 5 5 N/A
Dylan Gambrell 6 8 14
Rudolfs Balcers 7 6 9
Annti Suomela 8 12 N/A
Joshua Norris 9 7 11
Jérémy Roy 10 16 7
Alexander Chmelevski 11 9 12
Mario Ferraro 12 15 15
Ivan Chekhovich 13 10 21
Linus Karlsson 14 11 N/A
Jayden Halbgewachs 15 20 N/A
Noah Gregor 16 17 16
Maxim Letunov 17 14 22
Antoine Bibeau 18 18 29
Rourke Chartier 19 22 10
Alexander True 20 21 N/A
Joachim Blichfeld 21 13 26
Jacob Middleton 22 19 N/A
Filip Sandberg 23 24 25
Nick DeSimone 24 26 24
Scott Reedy 25 27 20
Vladislav Kotkov 26 23 N/A
Kyle Wood 27 25 N/A
Vincent Praplan 28 31 N/A
Josef Korenar 29 32 32
Jake McGrew 30 29 39

Two players outside of the top 30 ranked in the staff ranking: Jasper Weatherby at 30 (thanks Erik J.) and Karlis Cukste at 28. The rest received no staff votes.

Here’s how the staff reacted to how this year’s list panned out:

Who missed the reader ranking that you thought should or would have made the cut?

efowle15: Karlis Cukste is someone who I had written off until a reader asked about him in the comments of an article. This is more an indictment of the rest of the Sharks’ defense prospects than it is a promising sign from him, but Cukste is at least a year younger than all the AHL regulars and is more likely than most of them to make the NHL, at least based on his statistical profile.

cat_hong: The person that I think should have made the cut but didn’t is Kyle Wood, in the 25 spot. He has some experience playing the AHL with the minor league team of Arizona, he seems like he has a lot of chance to move up higher on the rankings.

Lakshya Jain: Kotkov. He’s got strikingly great underlying stats and numbers that compare favorably to much more highly-touted players like Svechnikov — his betweenness measures show a player quite capable of driving play on his own, irrespective of his linemates — and also make him much more likely to make the NHL as an impact player over prospects like Letunov and Halbgewachs. All he needs to do is to improve his skating, which the Sharks have a good track record of doing with their prospects (see Tomas Hertl and Joe Pavelski for proof).

Rob Nolan: Jake McGrew. I expect big things from the SoCal kid this year, who will be suiting up for another season with the Spokane Chiefs of the WHL. He looked very good in the Prospects Scrimmage. Kotkov also looked good in the scrimmage, and definitely earned his ELC.

Haley Van Horn: Barely missing it, I thought Vincent Praplan would have made the cut. After receiving high praise from Doug Wilson, I thought there would be more hype around his potential. Netting 15 goals and 24 assists in the Swiss National League, I think the 23-year-old is one to watch.

Erik Johnsgard: He only just missed, but I would like to see Vladislav Kotkov a little more well-regarded. His first season in North America wasn’t crazy, but he put up strong rate stats with a large role on our tiny rinks and he could surprise if he continues to develop at the rate he has over the last few years.

East Bay Ry: Maybe Korenar. I feel like the Shark T25U25 thins out pretty quickly after the top few guys, so I don’t feel too strongly about the guys who were on the fringe of these rankings.

G.Dub: Jake McGrew. Reminds me of a faster, better skating Joe Pavelski. Hard-nosed and goes to the tough areas. Will be shocked if he misses the list next year.

delfava57: I thought Josef Korenar missing the cut was pretty surprising. I know he bounced around the Czech leagues a lot in league play, but he had a good World Junior tournament with the Czechs, being named one of the top three players for them.

eddie91razo: One of the players that I thought would’ve made the cut was Russian forward Vladislav Kotkov. In our staff ranking, he finished 23rd, but in the final ranks Kotkov topped out at 27. Looking at his production in year one with Chicoutimi Saguenéens in the QMJHL, he put together and 21 goals and 22 primary assists while averaging 13 minutes. In his first year of North American hockey, the production he put together should’ve warranted a spot in the top 25.

LachInTheCrease: Vladislav Kotkov made a good impression on Sharks management at their summer prospects camp, which earned him an entry-level deal with the Sharks on the final day of camp. Considering he picked up 49 points with the Chicoutimi Sagueneens as a 17/18 year old, I’m surprised he didn’t find his way onto the list.

Which player ranked higher than you expected?

efowle15: Speaking of defensemen, Jeremy Roy is way up there for someone who has played a total of 20 professional games. It’s unfortunate that he’s run into back-to-back knee injuries, and it’s not as if his skill has suddenly dissipated. But at some point we’ve got to realize that he’s fallen behind the prospect progression curve, and the organization is only adding more defensemen to the pool of players.

cat_hong: Scott Reedy is a player that was ranked higher than I thought he would. In my first list of prospects I kind of forgot about him. His upside is not as high as some other prospects in the organization.

Lakshya Jain: Halbgewachs. There’s no doubting that he’s an incredibly skilled scoring talent, and I think the question about his size is overblown; look at how good Kailer Yamamoto looks and how Johnny Gaudreau panned out. However, a 21-year-old scoring 70 goals in Junior is not nearly as impressive, especially when considering that he played on an offensive juggernaut like Moose Jaw. Even more surprising is how he made it over players like Blichfield and Chartier. I like Halbgewachs and think he has a solid chance of bucking aging trends to make the NHL, given that this is what he’s been doing his whole career, but it’s a bit of a stretch to put him at this level.

Rob Nolan: Ryan Merkley. Not because he’s not talented, but because he was ranked above NHL-ready guys like Balcers and Suomela. Don’t get me wrong here: I am firmly aboard the Merkley train. Believe me.

Haley Van Horn: I was slightly surprised to see Antoine Bibeau in the 18th spot. I think he has great potential, without a doubt. But with the Barracuda last season, he played a total of 43 games and allowed 95 goals. I’m excited to watch him grow as a player in the Sharks organization, but I was a bit surprised.

Erik Johnsgard: I will be surprised if Filip Sandberg ever plays in the NHL. It’s kind of a long shot that he even gets another offer from the Barracuda after this season, and 24 is both probably too old to meaningfully change his game the way he would need to, and too high on a list of prospects that includes someone named Jasper Weatherby. He should be top five for name value alone.

East Bay Ry: Probably Suomela. I am surprised that he is ahead of guys like Norris, Roy, Chemelevski, and Karlsson. I don’t think he has nearly the upside that those guys do.

G.Dub: Surprised to see Merkley and Gambrell higher than Balcers. Balcers looked great for the Barracuda and in international play. I need to see more from maturity from Merkley before I’m willing to buy in on his potential.

delfava57: I really like Jeremy Roy, but I don’t think he should’ve been 10. We haven’t seen that much of him.

eddie91razo: Alexander True was ranked a bit higher than I expected, as I saw him fighting for the 25th spot, but our final ranking had him at 21. True averaged ten minutes of ice time, so he was limited to what he could do on the ice, but as I mentioned with Kotkov, he made the most out of his limited playing time, while True didn’t — granted, one was playing junior hockey while the other played in the American Hockey League.

LachInTheCrease: Jeremy Roy took a couple steps back last season thanks to his second ACL tear in two seasons, but still managed to land a spot in the ranking’s top 10. When he’s healthy Roy is definitely a difference maker, but unless his knee is able to hold up long term he might fall a lot farther down the list.

Who could be the biggest surprise in next year’s ranking?

efowle15: I think Linus Karlsson might be. I don’t think he’s the next Elias Pettersson or anything, but I think he could put together a season that makes us blink a few times in the Allsvenskan this year and jump right in there behind the current NHLers, especially because there are a few players I expect to fall down the rankings a bit.

cat_hong: Depending on how his season goes, Jeremy Roy could either be a lot higher or lower next year. He hasn’t played a lot of games in both the Q or in the AHL over the past two years, so his value at this level is a little bit unknown.

Lakshya Jain: My money is on Kotkov, if only because I think a player with his ability really just needs a boost to his skating to really explode onto the scene. He’s got all the tools needed to come good, and it’ll be exciting to see what he can do with a little bit more ice time and speed in his game. Other than that, I think it’d be Blichfield, who’s seemingly come out of nowhere to become the next late-round pick on the cusp of making the NHL, like Kevin Labanc.

Rob Nolan: Josef Korenar has a lot of people excited. Huge potential upside guy who might get a legitimate shot in the AHL this year. Even if he never suits up for the mother club, he could be a great potential trade piece at some point.

Haley Van Horn: I’m going to go out on a limb and say Cavan Fitzgerald may surprise us next year. Prior to joining the ‘Cuda, Fitzgerald wore the C for his QMJHL team, Shawinigan Cataractes, where he had a total of 40 points. Last season was his first in the AHL, where he had 13 points. I think with some time, Fitzgerald’s talent will grow.

Erik Johnsgard: I’m looking for Mario Ferraro to take the next step this year. He was excellent in the USHL two seasons ago and was the top scoring defenseman at Amherst last season. If he really obliterates the college ranks, he could make some waves at camp in 2019 and maybe put some pressure on Dylan DeMelo Brenden Dillon (hey, a man can dream).

East Bay Ry: Linus Karlsson. I think he could wind up in the top five of next year’s T25U25. Also, Blichfield could make a huge jump from his current position.

G.Dub: I think Suomela is Jonas Donskoi 2.0. If he proves that to be true and just gets a little more game-to-game consistency than Jonas, he could make a big jump. If Roy can stay healthy, he might remind everyone how good he is, as well.

delfava57: I would certainly watch out for Vladislav Kotkov — finishing second on your team in points at only 18 years old is no small feat. I really liked what I saw from him at the Prospect Scrimmage.

eddie91razo: Call me the President of the Kotkov fan club, but I see him in the teens next year. As he enters his second year of QMJHL hockey, he should be looking to exceed his production from last season. Also, the opportunity to play for the Russian National Team at the World Juniors should serve as motivation for the 18-year-old to put up production that could help him get a look.

LachInTheCrease: Goaltender Zacharie Emond is going to be worth keeping an eye on this season with the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies. While he’s entering 2018-19 as the backup behind overager Samuel Harvey, I’d expect the 18-year-old to take on a bigger role after getting selected by the Sharks in the sixth round of the summer’s draft.

What did you think of this year’s ranking? Are we now entering the reign of Timo Meier? How will things change after losing Norris, Tierney and Balcers?

Thanks for voting!