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2023 NHL Draft: The case for Oliver Bonk

San Jose will have a lot of options at 26 in this year’s draft. Read five different mock drafts and odds are, you’ll see five different names pop up.

That said, there are a few names in and around the 26 mark that show up more than others. Since it’s virtually impossible to guess who the Sharks will pick at 26 considering we have no clue what the other teams are doing, Fear the Fin decided to highlight a few of the possibilities.

We kicked things off with Russian forward Daniil But, one of the largest players available in this year’s draft. Today, Fear the Fin takes a look at defenseman Oliver Bonk.

Oliver Bonk, D – London Knights (OHL)

Height: 6-foot-1
Weight: 176 lbs.
Age/DOB: 18, Jan. 9, 2005
Shoots: Right
London Knights (OHL): 67 games, 40 points (10 G, 30 A)

The scouting report

Bonk is one of the most talented defensemen available in the draft so he may go higher than he deserves to based on talent alone. This draft is heavy on forwards and a little thin on defensemen, which makes Bonk more enticing for teams looking to bolster their prospect pool on defense.

Bonk will not wow you with his offensive upside, but he is a capable defensive defenseman who can shut down even the most skilled forwards.

“A confident defenseman who will go as far as his tools develop, Bonk projects best as a defensive defenseman as currently constructed,” wrote Dobber Prospects of Bonk.

Chris Peters of FloHockey also values Bonk’s defense over his offense.  

“Bonk is a solid defender who hounds opposing forwards. He has some two-way value, but is still establishing his offensive game. He has top-four potential and could be a good matchups defenseman, too,” wrote Peters.

Ben Kerr of Last Word on Hockey says Bonk’s ability to play defense can translate into some offense for his team. Bonk will not score the goal but will start the play that ultimately leads to a goal.

“Bonk uses his intelligence to create offence. He is a good passer, finding open teammates and getting them the puck quickly. This is true both in transition and in the offensive zone. He makes a good first pass and starts the rush,” wrote Kerr. “Bonk is willing to join the rush as a trailer and help to create offensive opportunities. However, his lack of speed and agility means that Bonk is not that effective at generating offensive zone entries and doesn’t carry the puck much through the neutral zone. Instead, he finds a teammate who has the time and space to gain the blue line. Bonk has good vision and passing skills in the zone and can quarterback the play from the point.”

Kerr says while Bonk’s shot is not elite, it is “effective” with a “good release.” His slapshot is “powerful” and often seems to find its way through traffic and onto the net. His snapshot is also an asset.

The case against Bonk

All of this screams Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who the Sharks drafted in the second round of the 2005 draft at 35th overall. San Jose has a pick at 36. The team could hold off and hope that Bonk is available there. That’s closer to the range that some evaluators have projected Bonk.

For example, Scott Wheeler of The Athletic has Bonk at 45th overall based on talent alone.

The biggest case against Bonk is that he is picked too high. He is expected to be a solid, middle-pairing defenseman and that’s his floor and his ceiling. A team might overbuy if it is desperate to land an NHL caliber defenseman. The question is, will it be the Sharks that buy too high?

The case for Bonk

Of course, this could also be the thing that tips the scales in favor of Bonk. Some mock drafts have the Sharks picking Matvei Michkov at fourth overall. Michkov is more of a gamble than some of the other top talent available in the draft. If the Sharks take Michkov, then balancing it out with a safer pick such as Bonk would help ensure that the first round is at worst a success, at best a grand slam.

Bonk is not a bad player. In fact, what you see is what you get.

“He’s a pro-built defenceman who plays a firm game, possesses good overall skill, has solid edgework and directional changes, and escapes pressure well. He influences the game through his effectiveness and the consistency of his habits,” wrote The Athletic’s Wheeler. “He just looks like he’s going to be a solid two-way pro defenceman, though I would contend he has a high floor and a relatively low ceiling. He projects as a No. 4/5 defenceman.”

Sportsnet Jason Bukala also had the Sharks choosing Bonk at 26 overall and also had good things to say about the defenseman.

“Right shot defenceman who leans two-way middle pair on projection. Competes and plays a sturdy game. Pushes back and has an edge to his game at times. Doesn’t shy away from confrontation,” wrote Bukala. “Ability to be used in all situations, but his ceiling offensively is likely as a secondary producer at best. Gets in the lane on the PK and fronts the play. Capable with the puck. Outlets responsibly.”

In other words, if the Sharks select Bonk, temper your expectations of getting a superstar and console yourself in the idea that it’s a selection that will firm up the team’s defense for many years to come.

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