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Flashback Friday: Looking at the 2018 draft

It’s down time in the NHL. The draft is over. The free agency dust has settled. Now players take some much needed time off before they get back to the grind of the NHL season. Us writers also take some downtime (or some prep time in Fear the Fin’s case) before the season starts.

Since Fear the Fin is as much about the history of the Sharks as it is about the present, we’re looking back at the 2018 draft class. Our esteemed former colleague Erik Fowle bravely offered his grades of the 2018 draft class in this article. At the time, it was as good a take as any, and the Fear the Fin staff would say a better take than most.

However, hindsight is 20/20 and it looks like not everything was as good as it looked from the outset. But it’s still fun or in this case painful, to reminisce and look back at what was and what might have been. So, let’s break down the Sharks’ 2018 NHL draft five years later.

Pick 21 – Ryan Merkley

This is the pick that will hurt Sharks’ fans the most. San Jose took a gamble at 21, choosing to see the high ceiling that Merkley offered and allowing that to overshadow the “attitude” problems that many teams cited as they passed on the young defenseman.

Sadly, Merkley’s words never translated into change. The defenseman had brief stints with the Sharks, but never truly produced the way the team wanted. Even at the AHL level, coaches were not pleased with Merkley’s “effort.” Everything came to a head this past season when Merkley requested a trade.

San Jose swapped Merkley and fan favorite Matt Nieto to the Colorado Avalanche for prospect Martin Kaut and Jacob MacDonald. Merkley did not receive a qualifying offer from Colorado. While Kaut received a qualifying offer, he decided to return to his home country.

San Jose still has Kaut’s rights.

If the Sharks had the opportunity to redraft, the team might have selected K’Andre Miller, who went 22 to the New York Rangers, or Rasmus Sandin, who went 29 to the Toronto Maple Leafs. San Jose would still get a defenseman, just one with a better NHL upside.

Again, hindsight is 20/20.

Pick 87, Linus Karlsson

Before San Jose had Erik Karlsson, the team had Linus Karlsson. At that point in the draft, San Jose was looking for a diamond in the rough.

By 2019, the team decided that Karlsson (Linus) wasn’t what it needed. San Jose traded the young forward to the Vancouver Canucks for prospect Jonathan Dahlen, son of former Shark Ulf Dahlen. Dahlen played 62 games for the Sharks in 2021-22 and had 22 points (12 G, 10 A).

When General Manager Mike Grier took over the team that following summer, it was determined that Dahlen was not what Grier wanted for the team moving forward. Dahlen was not tendered a qualifying offer. He returned to Sweden in 2022 to rejoin Timra IK.

Karlsson, meanwhile, signed an entry-level deal with the Vancouver Canucks. He played 72 games for the Abbotsford Canucks in the AHL in 2022-23. Karlsson had 49 points (24 G, 25 A).

Pick 103, Jasper Weatherby

Weatherby was a fan favorite in virtually all 50 games that he played for the Sharks. He had 11 points (5 G, 6 A) with San Jose until he was traded to the Detroit Red Wings earlier this year for Kyle Criscuolo.

Weatherby was not tendered a qualifying offer by the Red Wings this offseason. In free agency, he signed a one-year, two-way deal with the Nashville Predators.

Meanwhile, Criscuolo was brought in to help the San Jose Barracuda push for the playoffs. Sadly, the Barracuda didn’t make it. However, Criscuolo did play one game with the big club and scored his first NHL goal in April.

Criscuolo was not re-signed in the offseason. He signed a one-year, two-way deal with the New Jersey Devils earlier this month.

Pick 176, Zacharie Emond

Emond was the Sharks’ shot at a goaltender for the 2018 draft. San Jose hasn’t had the best of luck picking netminders as they’re developing, so this one wasn’t a horrible choice at the time. After all, sometimes, finding the goaltender of the future is something as simple as getting lucky.

Emond had three years after his draft to develop in the QMJHL before being brought to the AHL. In 2021-22. Emond played 12 games for the Barracuda and had a 4.48 goals against average and an .867 save percentage. He was sent to the ECHL for a little more seasoning.

Emond never made it back to the AHL. Instead, he was packaged with a bunch of other prospects and players in the Timo Meier trade. Emond did not receive a qualifying offer from the New Jersey Devils this offseason and signed a one-year, two-way deal with the Laval Rocket, Montreal’s AHL affiliate, in July.

Pick 182, John Leonard

As depth draft picks go, Leonard wasn’t a bad one. He played 58 games for the Sharks in the 2020-21 and 2021-22 seasons and scored 15 points (4 G, 11 A). He was a prospect with promise.

However, as GM Grier was reshaping the Sharks, he was looking for something a little different. With just a few days on the job, Grier traded Leonard along with a 2023 third round draft pick to the Nashville Predators. The Sharks received Luke Kunin in return.

Kunin looked to be an upgrade over Leonard until he was injured partway into the 2022-23 season. He’s had surgery on his ACL and is expected to be ready to play for the Sharks at the start of this upcoming season.

Meanwhile, Leonard played six games for the Predators last season, scoring just one goal. No word yet on where Leonard lands next.

Players the Sharks’ missed

As you get further down in the draft, it’s like tossing darts at a dartboard. Sometimes you get a bullseye, and sometimes you miss. Below are some of the players picked lower in the draft that have played 50 NHL games or more.

  • Connor Dewar was drafted 92nd overall by the Minnesota Wild. Dewar has played 116 NHL games to date and had 24 points (8 G, 16 A) and 75 penalty minutes.
  • Paul Cotter was drafted 115th overall by the Vegas Golden Knights. Cotter played 62 NHL games to date and has 20 points (15 G, 5 A).
  • Philipp Kurashev was drafted 120th overall by the Chicago Blackhawks. Kurashev has played 191 NHL games and has 62 points (23 G, 39 A).
  • Yegor Sharangovich was drafted 141st overall by New Jersey Devils. Sharangovich has played 205 games and 106 points (53 G, 53 A).
  • Tim Berni was drafted 159th overall by the Columbus Blue Jackets. Berni has played 59 NHL games with 3 points (1 G, 2 A).
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