Top 25 Under 25 Preview: 2019 Draft Class

The Sharks scouted Russia heavily in 2019.

While voting is open for Fear the Fin’s annual Top 25 San Jose Sharks Under 25 series, we’re going to familiarize you with the young players in the Sharks system. Working from the 2014 NHL Draft through the most recent draft, we’ll fill you in on each player’s history with the organization. They’ll be brief — the deep dive will happen with the top 25 players — but hopefully will assist with your voting process.

Top 25 Under 25: Rank the 2020 edition

The Sharks had another five-selection draft in 2019. Armed without a first-round pick, the team had two selections in both the second and sixth rounds. For the first time in ages, this draft class is largely Russian, with three of the five selections having played in Russian leagues. They once again took a defender with their first pick, and another to close out the draft.

This draft seemed like a bit of a “project draft,” where the prospects might take more time and/or effort to reach their NHL potential — but if they do, there are a couple of potential gems in the mix here.

Artemi Kniazev, D

2019-20 Team: Chicoutimi Saguenéens (QMJHL)
NHL Debut: N/A
Nationality: RUS
Age: 19 | Ht: 5-11 | Wt: 183 | Shoots: L

With their first pick, the Sharks took defender Artemi Kniazev in the second round, 48th overall. Most rankings had Kniazev as a likely early second-round talent, though McKeen’s Hockey had him falling as far as 112th overall. The Russian defender has the clearest path to the NHL thanks to two years of Canadian Juniors under his belt with the Chicoutimi Saguenéens of the QJMHL.

Kniazev has returned to Russia due to the coronavirus pandemic and is currently playing in the MHL, Russia’s junior hockey league. Kniazev has a lot of the tools modern NHL defenders use and his upside could be top-four, but he’ll need time to get there. Still, when looking at the Sharks’ defensive prospects, he’s next in line behind Ryan Merkley.

Dillon Hamaliuk, LW

2019-20 Team: Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
NHL Debut: N/A
Nationality: CAN
Age: 20 | Ht: 6-3 | Wt: 201 | Shoots: L

Dillon Hamaliuk was the lone Canadian of the sharks’ 2019 draft. The 6-foot-3 winger came out of the Seattle Thunderbirds of the WHL, where he put up 66 points over 120 games. A head injury limited him to just 31 games in the 2019 campaign, still putting up 26 points. The following season, he returned, this time with the Kelowna Rockets, for 56 games before the season was eventually cancelled. He tied with New Jersey’s Nolan Foote for third on the team with 15 goals.

Hamaliuk is a player prototype that the Sharks love: a power forward with a big body and a scoring touch. There’s a physical aspect to his game that doesn’t keep him from lighting the lamp and his work ethic is top notch. We’ll get a better sense of his ceiling when he joins the San Jose Barracuda next season.

Yegor Spiridonov, C/LW

2019-20 Team: Stalnye Lisy Magnitogorsk (MHL)
NHL Debut: N/A
Nationality: RUS
Age: 19 | Ht: 6-2 | Wt: 185 | Shoots: R

The Sharks selected Russian forward Yegor Spiridonov in the fourth round at 108th overall, a drop from where the star of Russia’s 2019 WJC U18 team was projected to go. His international play is where most have become familiar with Spiridonov, as he has not made the jump to North America yet, but he’s done well for himself in him home country. This year, the 19-year-old is with SKA-St. Petersburg, where he has already been called up to the men’s leagues of the VHL and KHL.

Spiridonov won’t be able to come abroad this season due to his contract in Russia, which is probably partly responsible for his draft stock falling. But when or if he does come state-side, the Sharks have a strong two-way forward, who may need some work on his skating.

Timur Ibragimov, LW

2019-20 Team: SKA-Neva St. Petersburg (VHL)
NHL Debut: N/A
Nationality: RUS
Age: 20 | Ht: 6-1 | Wt: 183 | Shoots: L

The Sharks went a little off the board with their first sixth-round pick, taking Russian winger Timur Ibragimov (not the Russian fighter of the same name). The now 20-year-old has grown since his draft, now listed at 6-foot-1, two inches taller than his draft height.

The consensus seems to be that he wasn’t a player likely to be drafted and an MHL career high of 41 points (17 goals, 24 assists) in 63 games his draft year doesn’t necessarily spell out stardom for the forward. Promoted to the VHL last season, he put up just five goals and eight assists in 35 games. He was set to join the Barracuda this season, but due to the pandemic, is currently on loan to TPS in the Finnish Liiga, where he’s tallied four goals in 10 games so far.

Santeri Hatakka, D

2019-20 Team: Ilves (Liiga)
NHL Debut: N/A
Nationality: FIN
Age: 19 | Ht: 6-1 | Wt: 183 | Shoots: L

Finnish defender Santeri Hatakka was the Sharks’ final selection in 2019, falling about where he was expected in the back half of the draft. Playing with Jokerit’s struggle Junior A U20 squad, he served as an alternate captain and put up 13 points in 43 games.

In September 2019, he was named the top defender in the U20 Four Nations tournament, where he scored both the opening goal and the game winner against Sweden. As an 18-year-old on an U20 team, that’s encouraging. His multi-year deal with Ilves of the Liiga means it’s unlikely we’ll see Hatakka anytime soon, and his journey to the NHL will likely necessitate a stay in the AHL first.