2021 NHL Draft: Sharks select Ethan Cardwell in fourth round

The OHL winger should’ve been their early fourth-round pick, but what do I know?

The San Jose Sharks picked up an extra fourth-round selection in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft during April’s trade deadline. Playing middleman, as Doug Wilson is wont to do, betwen the Toronto Maple Leafs and Columbus Blue Jackets, he picked up selection 121 in exchange for forward Stefan Noesen and retaining half of forward Nick Foligno’s contract as he moved from Columbus to Toronto.

With their second pick in the fourth round, at 121 overall, the Sharks selected center Ethan Cardwell from the Barrie Colts of the Ontario Hockey League.

Because the OHL was unable to field a season in 2021, Caldwell has the potential to become a sleeper pick. He showed up on just a few rankings — 70 by Elite Prospects, 88 by FC Hockey, 122 by McKeen’s Hockey and 156 by NHL Central Scouting (North American Skaters — but late in the fourth round isn’t a bad spot for him to land going off those rankings.

Cardwell is an over-age pick, turning 19 at the end of next month, and he was passed up in last year’s draft as one of the younger prospects. He’d been traded from the Saginaw Spirit to the Barrie Colts, scoring at a point per game pace following the trade (and not too shabby prior to the trade, with 21 points in 37 games). By all means, he should’ve gone in a late round last year.

Instead, he went undrafted, and with the OHL season cancelled, he was able to get ice time in HockeyEttan, the third-tier Swedish men’s league.

On loan to Surahammars IF, Cardwell played in 18 games, notching 9 goals and 18 assists. His 18 assists and 27 points both ranked third on the team, in half as many games as the two players ranked above him. His +10 ranking was the team’s best.

Not only was he not drafted last year, but Cardwell fell to the fourth round this year. Surprising, because in a year where some prospects never saw ice and there’s a question of development in two pandemic seasons, Cardwell is absolutely certainly on the right track to eventually cracking an NHL lineup.

An OHL general manager told The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler, “No clue why [Cardwell] wasn’t drafted last year. He could have had 100 points this year. Very skilled and smart.”

Though his ceiling is likely bottom-to-middle-six at the NHL level, Cardwell has all of the traits of a strong, versatile forward that can perhaps eventually slide up and down the lineup as needed. Scouts also make note of his defensive play, which could make him a great fit on the third or fourth line.