Sharks select D Ryan Merkley with No. 21 overall pick in 2018 NHL Draft

Sharks select D Ryan Merkley with No. 21 overall pick in 2018 NHL Draft

The Sharks swung for the fences with their first-round pick, selecting high-risk, high-reward defenseman Ryan Merkley with the No. 21 pick in the 2018 NHL Draft on Friday in Dallas. 

Merkley, 17, is a self-described offensive defenseman and the fourth-youngest OHL player eligible for the draft. He scored 67 points (13 goals, 54 assists) in 63 games with the OHL's Guelph Storm this past season, the sixth-highest total of any draft-eligible defenseman that played in Canadian major junior this season, according to EliteProspects, 

NHL Central Scouting ranked Merkley as the No. 21 North American prospect in its midseason rankings, but Merkley fell to No. 45 in its final rankings. That was in large part due to perceived maturity issues and concerns about the defensive side of his game, which didn't stop San Jose from taking a chance on the talented teenager. 

"Well, we came in here looking for difference makers," San Jose general manager Doug Wilson told NBCSN's Kathryn Tappen. "We've replenished our team, we've got a lot of core guys, but the game has changed a little bit. Finding a puck-moving defenseman like this that's got a little risk-reward to him, we think it's a good thing for us."

Merkley was selected as the No. 1 overall pick in the OHL Draft in 2016, and scored 55 points in 62 games in 2016-17. He won the Emms Family Award as the OHL's rookie of the year, and only one other draft-eligible OHL defenseman (Evan Bouchard) scored more points than him this season.

But, he was also benched for a period following a public argument with his coach in a game that season against the Sudbury Wolves, according to the Sudbury Star, and was healthy-scratched at another point. This past season, he was suspended three games in February for an ugly, retaliatory slash in a game against the North Bay Battalion. 

"Scouts say the immaturity comes in many forms – overstaying shifts, cavalier disregard for playing defence, being petulant or ill-tempered when things don’t go his way, being hard on teammates, clashing with coaches and a perceived lack of self-awareness and accountability," TSN's Bob McKenzie wrote in his final draft rankings. 

Merkley is well-aware of his reputation. He told reporters in Dallas that his agent, CAA's J.P. Barry, set him up with a sports psychologist to work on the mental side of his game. He said that he thinks he needs another season in the OHL before he's NHL-ready, in order to "show everybody that I can grow up and I can get better defensively."

"I know what I've done wrong," Merkley said. "I know my my bad habits. I know the areas I've got to work on for sure if I want to get to the next level [and] I've got to fully invest in getting better and showing everyone what I can do and completing my all-around game."

It will probably be a while before Merkley plays a meaningful game in San Jose. He'll need to put on more muscle and will likely require some seasoning before suiting up with the Sharks, but Wilson said that the blueliner was simply too good of a player to pass up on.

"He's got high-end talent," Wilson said. "We think he's a difference maker. We spent quite a bit of time with him, and we believe in him."

Merkley is the first defenseman the Sharks picked in the first round since 2013, when San Jose selected Mirco Mueller No. 18 overall. His selection fills a hole in the organization's pool of defenseman, after the Sharks traded prospect Julius Bergman on Tuesday and placed veteran Paul Martin on unconditional waivers in order to buy out his contract on Friday.

Correction: A previous version of this article said Merkley was the second-youngest player eligible for the draft. He is not, but is the fourth-youngest OHL player, and the youngest OHL defenseman. We regret this error. 

Sharks reflect on six-game winning streak coming to end vs. Oilers

Sharks reflect on six-game winning streak coming to end vs. Oilers

SAN JOSE - The funny thing about a winning streak is that, at the end of the day, the only thing that gets remembered is the win. But when a team loses, the performance tends to get picked apart.

But as the Sharks pointed out after the Edmonton Oilers snapped the team's six-game winning streak, San Jose consistently has had things to work on. Tuesday's loss showed they can't take advantage of a streak -- there's still a lot of work to do.

"I think it's a wakeup call for us right now," captain Logan Couture said. "You win six in a row and winning kind of masks when you're not playing your best if you find a way to win. I think the last couple of games that's the way the games have gone. We haven't played our game and we found a way to win, but tonight we got what we deserved."

This isn't to say that the Sharks didn't deserve to win any of the games during their last streak. Heck, their 2-1 shootout win over the Nashville Predators two weekends ago was easily the team's best game of the season. But through some of the other games during that stretch, a particular player or play is what kept them in the fight even when the opposition tried to make a comeback. 

After going into a 2-0 hole against the Oilers on Tuesday, those different ways to win weren't coming into play.

"In the last couple of games here that we were winning, we were finding ways to win all over the map," Brenden Dillon discussed. "Sometimes, we thought we deserved to win. Other nights we found a way whether we were good on special teams or we got some big saves from Jones, whatever it might have been."

It didn't help that the Oilers came for revenge after the Sharks defeated them 6-3 exactly one week before. Not only did Edmonton get scoring from throughout their forward lines, but Mikko Koskinen was on his A-game between the pipes.

"We knew after we beat them last week they were going to come hard today," Dillon said. "We were expecting a push from them. But it just seemed like they elevated their game and we kind of stayed the same.."

Head coach Peter DeBoer agreed. "I thought they came out heavier and harder than last time," he said of Edmonton. "So they obviously wanted to fix what went wrong last time for them. I thought they were much more engaged all night."

[RELATED: What we learned in Sharks' streak-snapping loss to Oilers]

Perhaps the Sharks should take a page out of the Oilers' book and rebound from a loss in their upcoming contest. The loss to Edmonton comes as San Jose gears up to face the Golden Knights for the first time since the Vegas squad put them in a 0-2-0 hole to start the season. 

If there is a time for the Sharks to rebound from a loss and get back to finding those different ways of winning, that time is now.

"We'd better play a lot better than we did tonight," Couture said, looking to the next game. "Or it could get ugly."

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in streak-ending 5-2 loss vs. Oilers


Sharks takeaways: What we learned in streak-ending 5-2 loss vs. Oilers


SAN JOSE -- All good things must come to an end, as the Sharks learned firsthand when their six-game winning streak ended Tuesday night.

San Jose bested the Edmonton Oilers a week ago, but the Sharks were clearly outmatched in the second meeting between the two teams. Connor McDavid and the Oilers took an early lead and never looked back, winning 5-2 and ending Team Teal's streak.

Here are three takeaways from Tuesday's game.

Struggling to play from behind

To be honest, the Sharks have done a better job lately playing without the lead. They rallied from two deficits in a 5-3 win over the Anaheim Ducks last week, and it looked as though they might do something similar Tuesday when Kevin Labanc's first-period goal cut the Oilers' lead to 2-1.

But after that, the Sharks had trouble adding to their tally.

Oilers goaltender Mikko Koskinen deserves some credit here. The Sharks continued to dominate the shot clock and keep him working, but the Edmonton netminder was in fine form as he froze 33 San Jose shots.

Where did the special teams go?

The Sharks' special-teams play was one of the few things they had going for them through the first month of the season. Heck, even when the power play went a little cold, the Sharks' penalty kill never stopped dominating.

Tuesday was a different story, though, as the Sharks failed to convert on the man-advantage and then gave up a power-play goal to the Oilers in the second stanza.

While the kill undoubtedly will recover after only giving up its second power-play goal on home ice this season, the Sharks' power play needs to get its mojo back. Some power-play success could have even helped the Sharks come back Tuesday night.

[RELATED: Sharks winger Kane pushes hockey at Oakland middle school]

Fourth line's inconsistency

The Sharks have had a problem finding good chemistry on their fourth line for a while now. There was a period where it looked like Dylan Gambrell had settled into his role at center and that maybe they could start generating some offense as a line, but they have yet to make anything happen lately. In fact, the shuffle of skaters has only continued continues.

Although coach Peter DeBoer said a few weeks back that he would like to not have to rotate players in and out of the lineup constantly, his fourth line still hasn't truly established itself or had any big impact on a game. The Sharks can’t expect to make any significant climb up the Pacific Division standings with a fourth line that can’t produce.