“I don’t speak to Doug Wilson. He seems to think they have a lot coming with the Barracuda. I’m like, what f****** movie is he watching?”
That’s one scout’s opinion of the San Jose Sharks’ AHL prospects and their ceilings.
That’s the bad news. But there’s good news.
Even this scout agreed that what the Barracuda lack in NHL quality, they offer in NHL quantity.
Another scout concurred: “They have a lot of guys who can come up and give you games. But they lack high-end talent.”
That said, some Barracuda have a legitimate shot at being better than NHL depth. But who? Four NHL scouts shared their thoughts on the future of the Sharks, from Joachim Blichfeld to Thomas Gregoire to Josef Korenar and more.
Scout #1: “He looks like he hit the wall. I really liked him at the beginning of the year. Where did that guy go? Looked like the heaviness of the game, the travel in North America, was taking its toll.
“Another guy who fits, potentially, in a third-line hole. He has some upside.”
Scout #1: “He could be a good third-line right winger. He’s got some skill and speed. But he’s not very heavy.
“He’s got some quickness to him. He’s a smart player. He creates.
“I’m not sure how much higher than a third line. Depends on him, depends on how strong he gets. But he has the ability to get around the ice.”
Scout #2: “His ceiling is probably middle-six winger. He can score, he can shoot. Quick release, knows how to score goals.
“Got some size, needs to get stronger, gain a step. But he’s got some offensive tools that are encouraging.”
Scout #3: “Blichfeld probably has the most talent of all the Barracuda.
“Skates well, but he doesn’t move his feet a whole lot. Some of those kids, they got so many points playing in juniors like that, he’s never pushed himself to do more and more. But he has to be better now away from the puck to get to his spots to get the puck. Also, when the team doesn’t have the puck, he has to go and get it.
“For being a slim guy, he’s got okay strength. But him and Gregor, they’re pretty decent prospects.”
Scout #1: “I really like his short quickness. He’s got good acceleration. Good skill. Shoots the puck well. Pretty smart.
“Hasn’t figured out the pro game. I watched him a couple games, I don’t find him. I got to go and find him. Then he’ll do a couple things and I think that’s pretty good.”
Scout #3: “I haven’t seen anything out of Chekhovich. Very uninvolved. Skates hard, but can’t get on the puck on the forecheck. Can’t disrupt. When he gets the puck, he’s not making really good plays. Not moving his feet really well. I don’t know what to say about him, to be honest.”
Scout #1: “I like him. I really like his skill. He’s a smart player. But every time I see him, he looks 2-3 years away. His game looks young.
“His quickness, his skating is just OK. Some people don’t think he skates well enough.
“I’m not sure if he can get to a second line, but it looks like he can get to a third line.”
Scout #3: “Chmelevski, obviously, the skating is a big issue. That’s going to take a lot of work. It’s not impossible, but it’s one of the hardest things to change, your actual skating style.
“I don’t see him as a big playmaker, but as more of an individual talent. That’s really tough to transition to the NHL if you’re not a great skater. In the NHL, the more you use your teammates, the better you are.
“Guys are too smart, too strong in the NHL for his one-on-one game. So he has to learn to use his teammates.”
Scout #1: “For me, the guy who’s fallen off the map is Gambrell. He hasn’t done anything for me. When I’ve seen him, I haven’t liked him at all.
“He’s going to have to turn his game more, play a little harder.
“What concerns me is he’s playing light. Doesn’t play inside the dots. Gets knocked off pucks. Doesn’t play the inside enough. Can’t get there, not strong enough.
“What concerns me even more is his learning curve. He hasn’t progressed, flattened out. Is this his ceiling? Because if this is his ceiling, this isn’t going to go.
“This is his second year, I would’ve expected him to be quite a bit better, but I haven’t seen that.
“That’s why Gambrell, I’m like, okay? Have you given any thought to your game? What have you done exactly?
“He’s trending the wrong way for me.”
Scout #1: “I like him as a third-line left winger because he can skate. Third line probably being the ceiling.
“He’s got a good toolbox, he just needs to get experience, play the heavier pro game.”
Scout #3: “Gregor has the best chance, I’d say, of being a higher-end guy.
“He’s got NHL speed, that’s his biggest plus. Good hands, can maneuver well in traffic, can make space for himself.
“I don’t know if he’s a high-end playmaker or even a great shooter. Good shooter. In time, he can fill a middle-six wing.
“I think he can be a 20-goal scorer in the NHL, if he develops. Shows that potential for sure.
“I don’t see any particular weakness in his game. For a kid coming out of juniors, playing as a 20-year-old, middle-round draft pick, I didn’t expect a lot out of him. He’s really caught my attention.”
Scout #1: “He’s a dark horse because he’s small. But he’s a really smart player with quickness.
“If you look at a couple guys in the league like Lizotte and Garland, if Lizotte and Garland can play, why can’t Halbgewachs?
“He’s a long-shot for me, but I wouldn’t count him out. He’s a dynamic little player. He creates a lot of stuff.”
Scout #3: “He’s no more than a fourth-line center. I don’t know if there’s anything he can work on, he’s not that young.
“But he’s very typical of the Swedish players, they are what they are, very detail-oriented. Really safe player, which is fine for the fourth line. He’s an okay fourth-liner.”
Scout #1: “He’s improved quite a bit. I like the way he thinks. But he just doesn’t have pace. That’s the problem. When you skate like that, [improving pace] is pretty tough. That’s a lot of work. I don’t know if he can improve a whole ton.
“He doesn’t have short quickness. Problem with not having short quickness, you can’t get position on players. If there’s a race to the puck, the short quickness guy gets position on you, he can shoulder and bump you out of the way for the puck. If you don’t have that, you’re always late to the puck. So the other guy has position on you, you’re battling him, he’s protecting it, he has size, you can’t get the puck.”
Scout #3: “Letunov is a wild card.
“Very off chance, but he’s got good hands, can finish around net.
“Biggest problem with him is his strength. And it’s a big problem.
“It’s gotten a lot better, but it’s almost getting too late for the strength. He’s a ‘96 [birth]. That’s been his biggest knock forever.
“If he’s got no strength, even in college, where they play less games and spend a lot of time in the gym, it’s tough. Especially four years of college. All they do is work out there. What that means is maybe his body isn’t one of those types that can add the strength. Or he’s not working hard enough. Either way, it’s not just going to click at 24.
“I don’t think it’s going to happen for him, but he’s got a bit of skill.”
Scout #2: “He’s a smart player, good head for the game. Skating is above-average. I’d like to see him be a little bit harder at times, play a little more engaged.
“He’s maybe a fourth-liner. When I first saw him last year, I was like wow, this guy, coming from overseas, is a pretty good hockey player. I like him, but he doesn’t do a whole lot for me in terms of being a guy who I really want on my team.”
Scout #3: “Suomela, he’s better in the NHL than the AHL. He’s good with his positioning. Good stick, defends alright. He can check and he can survive and he’s fine.
“If he has time and space, he can make plays. But a lot of people can do that. In any sort of traffic, he gets knocked off his stride. No strength. Can’t beat anyone. Even if he does get by, he needs a little more time.
“When he’s in the NHL, he can focus on just being defensive. Whereas in the AHL, he’s relied on to score, and he kind of gets exposed for not having great skill.
“But in saying that he’s better in the NHL, he’s not an NHL player. He’s up there because of injuries. Ideally, they’d want somebody a lot better. Even now, they’ve got a lot of injuries, he’s not in the line-up regularly.
“I wouldn’t consider him a call-up on a good team.”
Scout #2: “Skating has always been his area of concern, his feet aren’t great. When he gets going, it’s good enough.
“He needs to add a little more bite to his game, more jam, more nasty. He works, but there’s times when I’d like to see him dig a little deeper.
“He’s a smart player, the way he processes the game, the way he sees it. His instincts are really good. Got a good stick.
“If he’s going to make it, it’s in a fourth-line role as a center and on PK.”
Scout #3: “I think True is a solid fourth-line NHL center in time. He’s smart, can skate, has good details, he’s big. He’ll play fourth line for somebody, I bet.”
Scout #1: “He’s tough, he gets around OK. There’s a spot on somebody’s fourth line for him.”
Scout #2: “Sometimes guys don’t get the love they should. Sure, his game isn’t sexy. But those guys are effective role players. You see that in the league, come playoffs. Guys who are in your face, hard to play against, hitting you, not backing down, just relentless on the forecheck. Those guys are valuable. His game has flown under the radar.
“He always plays hard, he knows his role, that’s what I like about him.”
Scout #2: “The skill is there. He’s a little light, he needs to get stronger. You can see that he’s got some ability with the puck.”
Scout #1: “I’m not sold. If you’re a small player, you better have a high upside in something. Skating, skill, hockey sense, you gotta have something.”
Scout #2: “You can see his skill, the way he sees the ice. He’s jumped out when I’ve watched him play. He can do some special things with the puck.
“But I don’t know if he’s a great skater. It’s so hard to be a smaller defenseman in the NHL. You gotta be a pretty dynamic player. I’ll never write anybody off for being too small, but you wonder what his role is going to be at the next level. That’s a tough one for me.”
Scout #3: “He has some offense in the American league, but not enough to translate to the NHL. He won’t be playing PP at the next level. And he’s terrible defensively.
“I thought for a second, maybe this guy’s got something. But he just doesn’t have enough to round it out.”
Scout #1: “He’s had some adjustment issues. Not an offensive player. But I like the way he thinks, he defends well, he’s used to playing man-to-man. I like his positioning. I like his tools.
“Nobody ever mentions him. But I’d have to see more of him in a better role. They play him in the bottom pairing, they protect him. He looks like he’s a ways away. But he’d be a guy who I’d watch for a while.”
Scout #1: “The Meloche kid hasn’t improved for me at all. I thought he’d do a little better in San Jose, but he’s plateaued as well.”
Scout #3: “Not good enough to be an AHL defenseman. There’s a lot that I don’t like.”
Scout #4: “Surprised [he was recalled by the Sharks]. He’s physical. Maybe it’s his turn, thought it would be Carrick.”
Scout #2: “He’s got some snarl to his game. Okay skater. I used to think pretty highly of him, but the knee injuries have taken a toll. Not just physically, but mentally. His development has stalled. But he’s an interesting player because he does have some skill. But I just haven’t seen him drive offense or be that dynamic.”
Scout #1: “I like Korenar, but he’s been inconsistent. Bad team, but sometimes, you have to stand on your own with some saves. I don’t judge him by the numbers. But he hasn’t helped his team in some of the games that I’ve watched.”