Grading the last 10 years of Sharks first-round picks

A short, and not terribly sweet, list.

San Jose Sharks general manager Doug Wilson has proven over the last decade and a half that he will do whatever it takes to keep the Sharks’ Stanley Cup window open, which can often involve trading away premium draft capital. This has been especially true over the past decade, with the Sharks having sent away their first-round picks in 2011, 2016, 2019, and 2020 in order to obtain players such as Brent Burns, Martin Jones and Evander Kane.

Fascinatingly, the first-round picks the Sharks have held onto in the previous decade did not yield great returns. Here are the eight players that had the distinction of being selected by the Sharks, how they fared, and if applicable, where they are now.

2010: Charlie Coyle (28th overall)

Coyle was drafted from the South Shore Kings of the Eastern Junior Hockey League with the twenty-eighth overall pick in the 2010 draft. He then committed to the Boston University Terriers of the Hockey East conference, where he scored 7 goals and collected 19 assists in his first season with the Terriers.

However, it would be his last season as a Sharks prospect, as during the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, he, along with Devin Setoguchi and a 2011 first-round pick were traded to the Minnesota Wild in exchange for Brent Burns. Since then, he’s been a solid second/third-line player, but it’s pretty clear at this point who ended up winning the Brent Burns trade. In fairness to Coyle and the Sharks, we’ll call it a wash.

Grade: Wash

2012: Tomas Hertl (17th overall)

There’s no question that Tomas Hertl is the heart of the Sharks. Drafted 17th overall in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft from HC Slavia Praha, Hertl burst onto the scene in the 2013-14 season with an unforgettable four-goal performance against the New York Rangers, before injuring his knee in a collision with Dustin Brown that led him to miss 53 games.

Hertl posted a career-best 74 points in the 2018-19 season, with 35 goals and 39 assists, and continues to be a mainstay in the Sharks’ top-six. For a Sharks core that is at quite the crossroads currently, Hertl remains an extremely valuable player to them.

Grade: A

2013: Mirco Mueller (18th overall)

A cautionary tale of what can happen when you rush a prospect, defender Mirco Mueller was selected with the 18th pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. The season after he was drafted, Mueller had a figurative rocket strapped to his back and began the season with the Sharks, but failed to live up to expectations in 39 games, only tallying 4 points on the season.

From that fateful season, Mueller spent the majority of the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons with the AHL’s San Jose Barracuda, only playing 15 games with the Sharks over those two seasons before being traded to the New Jersey Devils. Mueller is now signed to HC Lugano of Switzerland’s National League. Considering the Sharks traded up with the Detroit Red Wings to get Mueller, and now knowing the draft picks they sent in return turned out to be Anthony Mantha and Tyler Bertuzzi, it’s a pretty ugly pick in what turned out to be an ugly draft class for the Sharks.

Grade: D

2014: Nikolay Goldobin (27th overall)

The Sharks did the opposite of what they did in the previous year’s draft, trading their original 20th pick to the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for the 27th overall pick and the Florida Panthers’ third-round pick that year. The Sharks then selected forward Nikolay Goldobin from the Sarnia Sting with the 27th overall pick.

Learning from their mistakes the previous year, the Sharks kept Goldobin in the AHL to start his first professional season in 2015-16, but the winger performed well enough with the Barracuda to appear in nine games with the Sharks that season, scoring 1 goal and tallying 1 assist. Goldobin once again played the majority of his games with the Barracuda in the 2016-17 season, scoring 41 points in 46 games, before being traded to the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for Jannik Hansen.

Goldobin spent the next three seasons in the Canucks organization, mainly with the AHL’s Utica Comets, before leaving to return to his native Russia, where he now plays for the Kontinental Hockey League’s Metallurg Magnitogorsk. The Goldobin pick was not a bad one, but it certainly does feel like a bit of a disappointing return.

Grade: C-

2015: Timo Meier (8th overall)

In 2015, the Sharks had their first top-ten pick since 2007, where they selected Logan Couture at ninth overall, and they held onto the eighth overall pick. With this pick, they chose a power forward by the name of Timo Meier from the QMJHL’s Halifax Mooseheads. Meier was described by Curtis Joe of Elite Prospects as “a physically dominant winger with the ability to play in a skill or character role” that could “impact the game in a number of different ways, and is very consistent in his efforts.”

Meier made his NHL debut in the 2016-17 season after 33 games with the Barracuda, and has remained on the Sharks ever since, scoring double-digit goals every year, except for his rookie season. Looking back at the 2015 draft class, this was not a bad pick for the Sharks at all — in fact, it was a pretty good one. However, seeing players such as Mikko Rantanen and Mathew Barzal selected after him leaves some wondering what might have been if those two players ended up Sharks.

Grade: B

2017: Josh Norris (19th overall)

After trading their first-round pick in 2016 to the Boston Bruins for Martin Jones, the Sharks selected forward Josh Norris with the 19th overall pick out of the U.S. National Team Development Program. Norris would never appear in a Sharks uniform, though, as he was packaged with Chris Tierney, Dylan Demelo and Rudolfs Balcers in the trade that landed Erik Karlsson on the Sharks.

Since we never got to see Norris play for the Sharks, like Charlie Coyle before him, we will (somewhat generously) rule this pick a wash, but it is worth pointing out that players such as Kailer Yamamoto and Jason Robertson were selected after Norris.

Grade: Wash

2018: Ryan Merkley (21st overall)

Doug Wilson decided to swing for a high risk/high reward player by selecting defender Ryan Merkley with the 21st overall pick in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, a departure from making safe picks in the first round. Merkley was described by Jokke Nevelainen of Dobber Prospects as an elite offensive defenseman “with huge offensive upside,” but noted Merkley’s attitude issues and suspect defensive play.

After a lackluster 2018-19 campaign in the Ontario Hockey League with the Guelph Storm and the Peterborough Petes, Merkley was traded to the London Knights, where he had an offensive explosion the next season, finishing second on the Knights with 76 points in 60 games. However, he couldn’t quite replicate that with the Barracuda this past season, finishing with 11 points in an injury-shortened 31 games. The talent with Merkley is there, and he still has a lot of time, so that’s why it’s too soon to tell with him.

Grade: Too soon to tell

2020: Ozzy Wiesblatt (31st overall)

The Sharks were able to get a first-round pick from the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for Barclay Goodrow during a disastrous 2019-20 campaign, in which their own 2020 first-rounder belonged to the Ottawa Senators, but it wasn’t a very flattering first-rounder at 31st overall. They all count the same, though, and the Sharks selected forward Ozzy Wiesblatt with the final pick in the first round of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the start time of the 2020-21 Western Hockey League season, Wiesblatt began his season with the Barracuda, playing in six games, scoring 2 goals and adding 1 assist. When the WHL season got underway, Wiesblatt returned to his WHL club, the Prince Albert Raiders. There, he only scored 7 goals, but did post 21 assists, good enough to lead the Raiders in points with 28 when the season ended. Like Merkley before him, it’s too soon to tell with Wiesblatt, but it’s entirely possible that he will be atop of the Sharks’ prospect pyramid soon.

Grade: Too soon to tell