The San Jose Sharks announced today that they have signed their 2017 sixth-round draft pick, forward Jake McGrew to a standard entry-level contract. McGrew, a 19-year-old right-winger for the Spokane Chiefs of the Western Hockey League garnered recent attention for his play during the Vegas Rookie Faceoff where he lead all rookies with 4 points.
McGrew is undoubtedly a wildcard in the San Jose prospect pool. After blowing out his knee in a practice-drill collision that cost him the entirety of his draft year, the Sharks picked the California native sight unseen on potential alone. But an eye-catching U16 campaign and another strong showing at the USA Hockey Select Development camp later that year meant the Sharks thought McGrew was well worth the flyer at No. 159 overall.
McGrew’s comeback (or more aptly, his delayed entry) to the WHL came last season, where he posted 38 points (19 goals, 19 assists) in 65 games before finishing the year with nearly a point-per-game playoff showing. Through the year, he showed he could play with top end talent, including the likes of Edmonton’s first-round draft pick Kailer Yamamoto and Kings’ second rounder Jaret Anderson-Dolan. His performance earned him an invite to Team USA for the World Junior Showcase.
At 5-foot-10 and 190 pounds, McGrew has a reasonably solid hockey frame for a 19-year-old. He is known for strong skating, good acceleration and a willingness to go to the tough areas. During the WHL’s Delta Hotels Preseason Classic in Everett, Washington earlier in September, McGrew evoked play of a young, better-skating Joe Pavelski. He showcased his quick release and a solid hockey IQ, two skills to build from in this critical development year where Spokane is expecting big things from him.
It may be a singular observation, but for those concerned about his long term viability from a health standpoint, McGrew absorbed by far the biggest hit in that preseason tournament, getting squared up and completely laid out near the center-line after receiving a “buddy pass” from a teammate. McGrew shook it off, skated to the bench, and didn’t miss a shift thereafter. To underscore his current positive health situation, the Athletic pointed out earlier this month that McGrew had “posted some of the highest marks in the Sharks’ athletic testing at development camp in early July.”
With such a small sample size to date, this year will tell us an awful lot about McGrew’s potential and his ceiling. His skating and hockey IQ bode well for his development and his youth makes it possible to put his knee injury in the past and keep it there. With an increased role on a good Spokane team and an almost certain long look as a possible addition to Team USA’s World Junior roster, McGrew should get in plenty of quality hockey with top talent this year. If he can continue to improve, he may well be another late round draft gem for Doug Wilson and the Sharks.