The silver lining of not making the playoffs for three straight seasons (soon to be four) is that the organization will trend toward higher draft picks to restock the draft pipeline. Once a month in “Keeping Up With The Pups,” we will check in on San Jose Sharks prospects and how their seasons are going.
The 2023 World Juniors Championship is officially in the books and two Sharks prospects earned medals: goaltender Ben Gaudreau on Team Canada and Filip Bystedt on Team Sweden.
Goaltender, Sarnia Sting (OHL)
2021 third-round pick
Ben Gaudreau made two starts for Team Canada during World Juniors, and while he didn’t have the tournament that he wanted, he did flash some highlights. He posted a shutout against Austria and was part of Team Canada winning gold. While the entity of Hockey Canada needs to be burned to the ground, you can be happy for the kids who worked hard and won.
Center, Linköping HC (SHL)
2022 first-round pick
Filip Bystedt had an eye-opening tournament for most Sharks fans. He lead Team Sweden with 10 points (4 goals, 6 assists) in seven games. While his skill may not be as flashy, he plays a very subtle and nuanced game and isn’t afraid to use his frame to score some goals from right in front of the goal or release a snap shot off from the slot. Bystedt should be able to add some diversity to the Sharks' forward group with his size (once he fills out).
On Locked on Sharks, he discussed his game-tying goal in the Bronze Medal game with 21 seconds left and how it was the biggest goal of his young career so far.
FILIP BYSTEDT TIES IT UP WITH 21 SECONDS LEFT!!!!!! pic.twitter.com/5gFzHIgucQ— JD Young (@MyFryHole) January 5, 2023
Goaltender, Wichita Thunder (ECHL)
Undrafted Free Agent
Strauss Mann has been racking up his frequent flyer miles, with seven transactions between the Thunder and the San Jose Barracuda. He has been stellar in his time in Wichita and was named the ECHL’s goaltender of the week for the first week of January.
Strauss Mann is the Warrior Hockey @ECHL Goaltender of the Week for Jan. 2-8!— Wichita Thunder (@Wichita_Thunder) January 10, 2023
READ MORE→ https://t.co/oD826yI7nl pic.twitter.com/v0thjA4ALE
If/when James Reimer gets traded, Aaron Dell will probably take over as the Sharks’ back-up and allow for Mann to get more time on the Barracuda behind Eetu Makiniemi. As the ‘Cuda blue line starts to get healthier, the goaltenders will probably start to see some better play in front of them and are less likely to be hung out to dry.
Defenseman, Linkoping HC (SHL)
2022 second-round pick
Mattias Havelid has missed most of the season with a back injury, but returned to the ice at the beginning of January. He scored his first career SHL goal in his third game back and ranks seventh in points among rookie defenders, despite only playing six games.
Welcome back Mattias Havelid!pic.twitter.com/jtYaL3MQkb— Locked on Sharks (@LockedOnSharks) January 7, 2023
With Ryan Merkley recently requesting a trade, Havelid could arguably be the most important defender in the prospect pool. The Sharks lack puck-moving mobile defender and Havelid could fill the role if his development goes well. He has all the tools, and his passing and breakout ability should be a huge asset once he makes the jump to North America.
Defenseman, Victoria Royals (WHL)
2021 fourth-round pick
Gannon Laroque underwent off-season surgery (osteoplasty and labral repair) and finally hit the ice for his first game. In his return, he notched two assists. Four nights later, he followed up with two power play goals. Laroque earned the captaincy for Victoria this off-season.
No rust on that shot Gannon Laroque gets his first to tie it!#ReadyToRoar #SJSharks pic.twitter.com/76xIqj4DhD— Victoria Royals (@victoriaroyals) January 8, 2023
Laroque did play three games with the San Jose Barracuda last season and signed an entry-level contract shortly after. General manager Mike Grier will have to decide whether to have Laroque play another year in Juniors or start his AHL career next season. If Laroque can continue to grow his offensive game with sound defense, he could be playing in Tech CU Arena on a full time basis in the fall.