Forward Jeffrey Viel will never be a top-six forward in the NHL but he still has the opportunity to turn into a role player.
Unlike some of the other players on this list, Viel was not drafted. He caught the eyes of the San Jose Sharks scouts during the 2017-18 season when he played for the Acadie-Bathurst Titan in the QMJHL. During that campaign, the Titan won the CHL’s Memorial Cup and Viel was named the winner of the Guy Lafleur Trophy as the league’s playoff MVP. He was also named to the tournament’s All-Star team.
Viel’s performance was enough to earn him an AHL contract with the San Jose Barracuda. In his first professional season, Viel played 68 games. He scored 22 points (11 goals, 11 assists) and logged 94 penalty minutes.
Following that season, he signed a two-year, two-way entry-level contract with the Sharks. In the 2019-20 season, Viel improved in all aspects of his game with the Barracuda. He ended the season with 30 points (13 goals, 17 assists) in 54 games. He also served 103 penalty minutes.
The 2020-21 season was interrupted by COVID-19. When it resumed, Viel played 17 games with the Barracuda before he was called up to finish out the season with the Sharks. During his first game on March 29, 2021 against the Minnesota Wild, Viel registered 7:28 of ice time and a scrap with the Wild’s Luke Johnson. In 11 games with the Sharks, Viel failed to register a point. He did, however, drop the gloves three times and logged 23 penalty minutes.
Viel did not start the 2021-22 season with the big club. He was called up in December and played his first game of the season against the Arizona Coyotes on Dec. 28, 2021. He scored his first NHL goal in that game and logged 7:50 of ice time. As of April 22, 2022, Viel has played 34 games with the Sharks and registered 5 points (3 goals, 2 assists). He also has 114 penalty minutes, including eight fights.
The 25-year-old signed a two-year contract extension last June that runs through the 2022-23 season, when he will become a restricted free agent. He has a $750,000 cap hit, per Cap Friendly.
What We Like
On a team that’s middling, Viel adds energy. He’s a fearless player willing to do whatever it takes to get his team going. If you don’t believe me, just consider what he did on Feb. 24 when he dropped the gloves with the New York Islanders’ Zdeno Chara.
Viel challenges Chara on his record-breaking night pic.twitter.com/ptaOvJkEM5— Sharks on NBCS (@NBCSSharks) February 25, 2022
Viel gave up nine inches to Chara, but hung in there against the big man. The Sharks eventually won the game 4-3 in overtime. While Viel is only good for a goal here or there, he plays a smart game. Corey Masisak of The Athletic said that the feisty forward “has found different ways to make an impact.”
Viel makes 17 on our list in part because the Sharks’ prospect pool isn’t especially deep, but also because he’s already proven he has what it takes to play at the NHL level on a fairly consistent basis.
He’s a role player that knows what his role is. Viel goes hard to the net and doesn’t make stupid mistakes that would make a coach scared to deploy his fourth line and that’s a good thing.
Areas of Improvement
Honestly, Viel is what he is. At the age of 25, it’s likely that he’s hit his ceiling. He’s not magically going to become a 20-goal scorer overnight.
However, if there’s a place for him to improve, it’s consistency. Even as a fourth-line player, it’d be nice to see Viel contribute a few more points. If he can be counted on for as many as 10 goals a season in addition to those bone-jarring hits and fights, then he can be an asset to the Sharks for the next few years.
Viel slides into the net and ties it up— Sharks on NBCS (@NBCSSharks) January 12, 2022
What Viel lacks in talent, he sometimes makes up for in sheer determination.
In this goal against the Detroit Red Wings, Viel goes hard at the net and doesn’t give up on the play. The goal tied the game and Logan Couture eventually won it in overtime.