With the free agent frenzy going on, it’s easy to forget that two week ago, nine new prospects joined the San Jose Sharks organization.
They’ve since gone on to development camp, but we gathered a few of the minds at Fear The Fin to evaluate a few key topics from Mike Grier’s first draft as general manager of the Sharks.
What’s your overall reaction to the draft?
MendozaCJB: I’m slightly disappointed in the Sharks’ work at the draft this year — only because I was invested in predicting who the no. 11 pick would be, only to see that pick traded down. As Brad Lambert was still available at 27, that’s a double-down on the disappointment. Still, I’m generally satisfied with the value gained versus what the Sharks had in terms of draft power coming in.
Bryan Del Fava: Interesting, no doubt. Not picking Lambert and going with Bystedt was perplexing, but when your third-line center is Nick Bonino, you really need all the center depth that you can get.
JDYoung: The Sharks left talent on the board with some of their picks (looking at you, Brad Lambert). They spent the 2020 draft trying to add talent to the forward group with Thomas Bordeleau, Tristen Robins, Ozzy Wiesblatt, Daniil Gushchin and Brandon Coe. The 2021 draft looks to have added legitimate talent to all three levels with William Eklund, Gannon Laroque and Benjamin Gaudreau. They used this draft to try to add talent to the defense.
Sie Morley: I don’t know what I expected from a team that named its general manager before hopping on a plane to Montreal for the draft, but this was a disappointing draft, given the Sharks’ history. Given the circumstances, they did fine, but not getting an immediate impact player at 11th overall leaves a sour taste in my mouth about this draft. The team needs helps now, and I’m not sure I felt that urgency, especially with the team drafting multiple project players. It just wasn’t good enough.
What did you think of the first-round trade?
MendozaCJB: I don’t oppose the first-round trade. I wanted to see the Sharks select Matthew Savoie, but he was taken at 9th overall. Beyond that, I couldn’t think of a clear frontrunner candidate, so trading 11th wasn’t all too bad. I agree with most that Filip Bystedt as a result is a bit of a stretch — I didn’t even have him on my radar. But since learning more about him, I’m convinced the Sharks have someone with good odds to at least be a regular NHLer.
Bryan Del Fava: I think it was wise. There wasn’t a lot intriguing at that point, especially after Chicago picked Kevin Korchinski. Honestly, I wonder if he would have been the pick, and they didn’t think it was worth sticking with their pick after he was drafted — might as well stockpile the second-rounders.
JDYoung: I would have liked Jonathan Lekkerimaki or Frank Nazar at 11, but love the trade down. Adding two second-round picks was great and the players that they added seem to have some upside in Cameron Lund and Mattias Havelid. Personally, I would have swung for the fences with Brad Lambert at 27. I can understand the risk of Lambert, but at this point in the draft and with three picks this close together, you can use one on a risk where if it hits you could have a massive steal.
angesmith: I get it. On one hand, I had hoped that the Sharks would have drafted Kevin Korchinski or Jonathan Lekkerimaki, so I was definitely a bit sad to see the team had traded down. On the other hand, I definitely think the team is in a position where more early round picks are for the better, so getting two second-round picks while still being able to pick in the first round wasn’t all that bad.
Sie Morley: I hated it, thanks! Frank Nazar was right there. He was right there!
Who won the Luke Kunin trade?
MendozaCJB: I’m a John Leonard fan. I was gunning for him during the 2021 training camp and was pleasantly surprised to see him make the cut. I still don’t think he got the best opportunity to develop. That being said, with a new GM, changes need to be made. I think the decision shows that though Mike Grier doesn’t have the green light to blow it all up, he’s going to get as close to that blurry line as possible.
As for Kunin, I think he’s still a bit of a wild card. He’s shown he can skate in the top-six, but hasn’t produced much yet. If it turns out he’s a third-line winger, it’s a win.
Bryan Del Fava: Honestly, I think it won’t end up mattering in the end. Kunin’s not really a name that excites me, but I also feel like Leonard is on his way to being a quad-A guy, so to speak. Someone who can tear up the minors, but is pedestrian in the NHL.
JDYoung: The Predators easily won this trade. If John Leonard wasn’t going to be part of the organization in the future, that’s fine. He was worth a flier, showed some flashes, but wasn’t able to stay healthy long enough to put it together. He still is an interesting prospect that has a little bit of time to try and find his NHL game, but giving up a third-round pick in what is supposed to be a deep and loaded 2023 class for a replacement-level player is bad asset management. The Sharks could have waited for free agency and signed a similar player without giving up a draft pick. Remember how fans were all season with the Adin Hill trade? I hope they keep the same energy for the Kunin one.
angesmith: The Sharks. While I like John Leonard and will definitely miss him, the Sharks have gained an everyday player in exchange for a player who spent last season bouncing between the NHL & AHL. Kunin played all 82 regular season games for the Predators, as well as four postseason games, and while he may not be a top goal-scorer and carried a fair amount of penalty minutes during the past season, his skills will help to improve the Sharks now.
Sie Morley: Absolutely the Predators. There’s no way a pick should have been involved in this trade. The salary difference between the two alone should make up for the difference in NHL experience. Kunin is not a good enough player to fetch a middle-six player next season and a third-round pick, but more importantly, his salary is not going to be an effective use of cap space.
Which prospect among this draft class excites you most and why?
MendozaCJB: Eli Barnett, the right-handed, 6-foot-4, seventh-round defenseman. I’m a huge believer in the Sharks being able to pull gems — particularly of the defenseman variety — out of the late rounds. There was Justin Braun, Dylan DeMelo, Joakim Ryan, Jason Demers and Douglas Murray who come to mind. Matt Irwin was undrafted. All of these guys, whether with the Sharks or another team, became NHL regulars. Barnett could possibly join the list and become Doug Wilson Jr.’s signature on his career as Sharks Director of Scouting.
Bryan Del Fava: I’m trying not to let my WHL U.S. Division bias get in the way, but I think Sharks fans are sleeping on the Mason Beaupit pick. Yes, he didn’t have great numbers in Spokane, but that team was dreadful. They gave up nine goals on a few different occasions, that can’t all be blamed on the goalie. The defense routinely left him out to dry. Hopefully in a better system, Beaupit has a better season next year.
JDYoung: The 6-foot-2, 198-pound defenseman Michael Fisher. From Elite Prospects: “Simply put: Fisher may very well be the most dominant high school player we’ve scouted in three years of draft guide work at Elite Prospects. Certainly, he’s the most dynamic and offensively gifted one to cross our paths in this time — no doubt about that. Even Fisher’s most seemingly mundane puck touches often develop into scoring chances. In no phase of the game was this more apparent than the breakout. He would go deep into his zone for a retrieval and in the blink of an eye turn that anodyne play into a highlight-reel goal at the opposite end of the ice.” Sign me up!
angesmith: I am very excited about Reese Laubach. Honestly, it’s because I am a sucker for a hometown kid. I definitely also think he will be a nice addition to the forward depth, especially with a right-hand shot.
Sie Morley: Michael Fisher is the only pick that really impressed me. I think he’s a really intriguing player and while his background makes it hard to determine his trajectory, his skillset and size call to mind reliable NHL defenders. If I had to pick a player from this Sharks draft class that I think will go the distance in the NHL, it’s got to be Fisher. Cameron Lund may be one to watch, as well.
So: what do you think? Who do you agree with most — or least?
Answer all four questions for yourself in the comment section below!