With uncertainty surrounding Martin Jones' future in goal for the Sharks, the organization indeed ended up selecting a netminder in the 2021 NHL Draft. The Sharks took Ontario Hockey League goaltender Ben Gaudreau with the 81st overall pick, after trading back with the St. Louis Blues from their No. 71 slot and adding a sixth-round selection in the deal.
Gaudreau was ranked among the top 60 prospects available by both The Athletic and Forbes. The 18-year-old hasn't gotten the chance to play much live hockey over the past year, as the Sarnia Sting were unable to play during the 2020-21 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic forcing a cancellation of the league's season.
The Ontario native did make a statement at the 2021 IIHF U-18 World Championships, as he was named the most outstanding goalie in leading Team Canada to a perfect record and a gold medal earlier this year.
Gaudreau saved 91.9 percent of shots against him in the tournament, showing no signs of rust after an extended period without live games.
The 81st overall pick, Gaudreau fell a bit as pre-draft rankings had him anywhere from 31 to 69 among all entry draft prospects.
Gaudreau told reporters after being selected that is he excited for the opportunity and to get a chance to eventually play in a Sharks uniform.
"Great to be in San Jose, it's unreal, I mean such a great place from what I've heard and the team is an awesome team, I can't wait to get down there and start playing, it definitely was a little bit of a surprise, but I did think it was pretty awesome and I couldn't ask for a script to work out any better," Gaudreau said Saturday.
The Sharks left Jones unprotected in the Seattle Kraken expansion draft, but the 31-year-old goalie went unselected. Just hours before the roster freeze deadline, the Sharks acquired 25-year-old Adin Hill from the Arizona Coyotes, a netminder general manager Doug Wilson sounded extremely high on. Given that the Sharks sent a 2022 second-round pick and young goalie Josef Korenar to Arizona for Hill and a seventh-rounder, the organization sees a lot of potential in Hill.
Wilson left the door open when asked what Jones' future holds in goal, saying the team had made no decisions on that front as of Thursday. Now, it appears the Sharks are confident with Hill, Alexei Melnichuk and eventually Gaudreau. Where that leaves Jones and the two years remaining on his contract is unclear. Jones was far from the only issue with the Sharks during the past two seasons, but the front office repeatedly emphasized the need to reset the roster this summer, and goalie was a priority for Wilson.
At 18 years old with such limited experience professionally, it isn't likely we'll see Gaudreau on the ice at SAP Center in the next few years.
However, it does appear the Sharks not only got a player about 20-plus picks later than most had him ranked, and managed to pick up an additional sixth-round draft pick in the process.
Not a bad move for a team looking to climb back into the top-end of the Western Conference.