NHL

Sharks suddenly in better position with draft picks, college signings

Sharks suddenly in better position with draft picks, college signings

Given the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, we could all use a bit of a pick-me-up right now. It's understandably difficult, but focusing on what bright spots there are will help us get through this unprecedented time.

Taking the glass-half-full approach shouldn't be new to Sharks fans. They had a few months head start before the team's disappointing season was indefinitely paused.

Yes, it was clear early on that it was going to be a tough season in San Jose. The Sharks dropped their first four games of the season, and turned to former captain Patrick Marleau to get back on track. After a strong November, San Jose undid it all with a putrid December, and at that point, it became easy to focus on all of the things the franchise didn't have. The most notable absence was that of hope.

One by one, the Sharks' best players went down with severe season-ending injuries. One of them -- Erik Karlsson -- was like a double punch to the gut. Not only would San Jose not have the benefit of having the former Norris Trophy winner in the lineup, but the cost it took to acquire him -- including the Sharks' unprotected 2020 first-round draft pick -- looked disproportionally painful. Every team in the league would have made that trade for Karlsson -- and signed him to the same eight-year contract extension -- but nearly everything that occurred from that point on was a string of bad luck for San Jose.

There was an upside to losing all of those top players, though. Whatever lingering hopes of a playoff run existed soon went out the window. The Sharks and general manager Doug Wilson could turn their attention to the future, and that's exactly what they did.

In sending Brenden Dillon to the Washington Capitals, Marleau to the Pittsburgh Penguins and Barclay Goodrow to the Tampa Bay Lightning at the trade deadline, Wilson overhauled the Sharks' cupboard of draft picks in both quality and quantity. He acquired four picks -- including a 2020 first-rounder -- that will fall within the first three rounds, and San Jose now has seven selections in each of the next three drafts.

Those will come in very handy as the Sharks try to get back into contention -- and stay there. Sustained success is built through young, controllable assets, and the draft is the best way to acquire them.

That said, there are always some prospects that fall between the cracks. Brinson Pasichnuk was one such prospect who was never drafted, yet became one of the best players throughout all of NCAA Division I hockey. The Arizona State standout agreed to join the Sharks organization, Wilson announced Tuesday, adding to San Jose's collection of promising young defensemen, including Mario Ferraro and Ryan Merkley.

[RELATED: Sharks' Ferraro moved in with parents during NHL pause]

Shortly after Pasichnuck agreed to join the Sharks, Hobey Baker Award finalist John Leonard did the same. Leonard, San Jose's sixth-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, tallied 105 points over 106 career games at UMass Amherst. He had the option of returning to school for his senior season, but had little left to prove at the collegiate level. While he isn't a new prospect to the Sharks' system, it's nonetheless a positive development for San Jose.

Two months ago, the Sharks' future appeared as bleak as it had in nearly two decades. Since then, however, they've taken several steps in the right direction, and there is considerably more reason for hope.

We can all use a little of that right now.

Sharks' Mario Ferraro moved in with parents for NHL coronavirus pause

Sharks' Mario Ferraro moved in with parents for NHL coronavirus pause

Sharks defenseman Mario Ferraro normally would be spending recent nights in five-star hotels around the NHL. But he's back at home these days because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
 
As in, living with his parents in Toronto.
 
“Different vibes now, I don’t run the household anymore,” Ferraro joked Monday in a 1-on-1 interview with NBC Sports California. “I told them already, 'If I’m in my room filming a YouTube video, limit the noise, and don’t come knocking on the door.' ”
 
Ferraro is becoming more well known for the side hustle of producing his YouTube channel, "Youngest of Plugs."
 
One of his latest uploads turned out to be among his most popular: A specific workout for staying at home, like so many of his fans are right now while social distancing.
 
“I like making videos, and I like working out,” Ferraro said. “So kind of just put the two and two together. I guess because of what’s going on now in the world, a lot of people are at home and need that entertainment.”
 
As for his day job, it was quite the bizarre rookie season in San Jose. Ferraro's first pro season included personal success, team struggles, a coaching change and, now, the unthinkable: A suspended NHL season, due to a pandemic.
 
“I don’t even know if bizarre would cut it,” Ferraro said. “Things that are happening right now are much more important than hockey, or sports in general. But when you do circle back since the beginning of the season and what’s happened, it was tough ups and downs.”

[RELATED: Promising D-man prospect Pasichnuk agrees to join Sharks]
 
Ferraro ended up playing in 61 of the Sharks' 70 games, and he was one of the few consistent bright spots of their season. There’s high optimism he’ll end up as a top-four defenseman in the near future.
 
But as for now, he’s like all of us. At home, and a bit scared of what the coronavirus pandemic is about to become around the globe.
 
“It’s hard to deny that,” Ferarro said. “It’s a scary time. When you think about how it affects not just you, or your family, it affects the whole world. Everybody is going through this.”

Arizona State star Brinson Pasichnuk agrees to join Sharks, team says

brinsonap.jpg
AP

Arizona State star Brinson Pasichnuk agrees to join Sharks, team says

The Sharks added some promising defensive depth to their organization.

Arizona State defenseman Brinson Pasichnuk agreed to join the organization, general manager Doug Wilson said in a statement Tuesday.

"Brinson is an excellent puck-moving defenseman with a physical brand of hockey," Wilson said. "As captain for the Sun Devils program for two seasons under Arizona State head coach Greg Powers, he is a great teammate and proven leader. We are happy to have him join our organization."

The Athletic's Kevin Kurz first reported, then The Hockey News' Ken Campbell and Bay Area News Group's Curtis Pashelka later confirmed Monday that Pasichnuk was nearing a contract agreement with the Sharks.

San Jose did not say the prospect signed a contract, and Campbell reported Monday that Pasichnuk's "intention is to sign" for this season if the NHL season resumes amid the coronavirus pandemic. Campbell wrote that Pasichnuk will sign for next season if the current season doesn't resume.

Pasichnuk, 22, scored 107 points (39 goals, 68 assists) in 136 games over four seasons with the Sun Devils. The 6-foot, 200-pound defenseman ranked third among blueliners with 37 points this season, tying for second in goals (11) behind only Hobey Baker Memorial Award finalist David Farrance of Boston University.

Campbell reported Monday that Pasichnuk narrowed down his 20 suitors to the Sharks and Arizona Coyotes. Pasichnuk told The Hockey News that he knows where he is signing, but is "just waiting to see what (the NHL is doing)" for the remainder of the season during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Sharks got a glimpse at Pasichnuk last summer when he skated in the team's development camp, along with his brother, Steen. The NHL's Central Scouting Bureau ranked the younger Pasichnuk 115th out of all draft-eligible skaters in 2016, but the defenseman was not drafted.

[RELATED: Sharks' Burns says teachers are legends amid pandemic]

A standout collegiate career got him on to NHL scouts' radar, and Pasichnuk conceivably could be in line for playing time this season -- assuming the Sharks play if the season resumes -- or next. Nikolai Knyzhov and Jacob Middleton have played on San Jose's third defense pairing since Brenden Dillon was traded to the Washington Capitals last month, and Pasichnuk -- a left-shooting defenseman like those three -- could then slot in behind Radim Simek and Mario Ferraro.

Ferraro, 21, and top prospect Ryan Merkley, 19, are the Sharks' most promising young defensemen. Pasichnuk's time at Arizona State indicates he'll warrant consideration, too.