Sasha Chmelevski

Sharks' future looking bleak with No. 25 ranked prospect pool in NHL

ryanmerkleyusatsi.jpg
USATSI

Sharks' future looking bleak with No. 25 ranked prospect pool in NHL

It wasn't that long ago that the Sharks had a talent advantage over just about every other team in the NHL. However, due to a combination of departures, injuries and the general passage of time, that advantage has been significantly diminished, if not evaporated altogether.

And, barring some one-sided trades, it's unlikely to be built up again in short order.

In addition to the fact that San Jose has an aging roster, it doesn't have many obvious solutions waiting on deck. The Sharks don't have a first-round pick in the upcoming 2020 draft, and their minor-league system lacks a stable of sure-fire future NHLers. If that wasn't frightening enough, their prospect pool pales in comparison to almost all of their current division rivals, according to The Athletic's Scott Wheeler.

Wheeler has been unveiling his 2020 NHL prospect pool rankings over the last month, and while he is generally higher on the Sharks' prospects than most other evaluators, that assessment is relative. Of the 31 teams in the league, Wheeler ranked San Jose's prospect pool No. 25 overall. Of all the Pacific Division teams, only the Calgary Flames' prospect pool was ranked worse (No. 26).

Now for the scary part.

The Los Angeles Kings were ranked No. 1 overall, while the Anaheim Ducks (No. 6) and Vegas Golden Knights (No. 10) also fell in the top 10. The Vancouver Canucks came in at No. 13, and the Edmonton Oilers and Dallas Stars were ranked No. 15 and No. 18, respectively. 

Yikes.

Most other teams in the division have caught up to San Jose this season, and based on the prospect pool rankings, they're well situated to shoot right on past the Sharks in the near future. Wheeler's rankings are based on both volume and quality, but projected skill level is paramount. That's where San Jose gets dinged.

[RELATED: Sharks' Burns advises Ferraro how to better protect himself]

To be eligible for Wheeler's prospect pool rankings, a player must meet three criteria:

  • Be younger than 23 years old (for goalies, under 24)
  • Not currently in the NHL (with rare exceptions)
  • Either signed to an NHL contract or selected in the entry draft, without the expiration of either of those rights

For each team, Wheeler ranked a minimum of 15 prospects and a maximum of 20, all of which he believes have "even a remote chance at the NHL." Starting at the bottom with the No. 31-ranked Columbus Blue Jackets and moving upward, the Sharks were the first team listed with more than the minimum 15 prospects (they have 18). Wheeler is impressed by the depth in San Jose's system, but admits he's "not in love with many of the guys near the top."

"The result is a lot of interest, without a ton of fascination," Wheeler summarized. "A lot of players who have tools that might help them into depth roles but overall very few I’d bank on as top-of-the-lineup options."

In addition to ranking the prospect pools across the league, Wheeler also broke down each team's respective prospect pool into tiers. San Jose was split into four, with a description of each:

Tier 1: Ryan Merkley

"On talent and upside alone, Merkley is the clear No. 1, with the ability to play higher in the lineup and make more of an impact offensively than any other prospect in the organization." 

Tier 2: Joachim Blichfeld, Jonathan Dahlen, Sash Chmelevski, Artemi Knyazev and Noah Gregor 

"A really strong group of five prospects who I think have a chance at being middle six contributors."

Tier 3: Alexander True, Lean Bergmann, Jeremy Roy, Ivan Chekhovich, Yegor Spiridonov and John Leonard 

"Another group of six players with legitimate NHL hopes."

Tier 4: Nicolas Meloche, Jayden Halbgewachs, Vladislav Kotkov, Karlis Cukste, Timur Ibragimov and Dillon Hamaliuk

"A final group of prospects that all have intriguing NHL qualities and an outside chance."

While Wheeler's prospect pool rankings paint a somewhat bleak picture for the Sharks, it could get considerably brighter soon, depending on what happens at the upcoming trade deadline and in the 2020 entry draft. With the playoffs all but out of the picture, San Jose has every reason to see what it can get in return for anyone who could provide more value to the organization elsewhere than if they remained with it.

The Sharks don't have a first-round pick right now, but there's a decent chance they could acquire one, or at least add some more selections or prospects to their arsenal. If the near future is going to be brighter for San Jose than the present, the Sharks will not only need some of their current prospects to quickly take steps forward but also acquire new ones that will raise the overall talent level in the system.

Sharks prospects getting final opportunity to audition for NHL roster

chekhovichusatsi.jpg
USATSI

Sharks prospects getting final opportunity to audition for NHL roster

SAN JOSE -- This year's training camp has served as one big audition for several new faces in the Sharks organization. And Tuesday evening signals the final stage of that tryout process.

One day after several players were reassigned to the AHL for the start of Barracuda training camp, San Jose recalled eight players for what will be a prospect-heavy lineup for Tuesday's game against the Ducks down in Anaheim. This game will likely serve as a final opportunity for these players to show if they can handle competing at the NHL level on a nightly basis -- or if they're better off starting the season with the 'Cuda.

"We're getting close, we have to start getting our group together and start to get ready," Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer told the media over the weekend. "The guys, I think, between the training camp, scrimmages, and the exhibition games, have had more than enough opportunity to show us what they can do -- or can't."

This isn't to say that highly-touted prospects such as Joachim Blichfeld, Alex True and Sasha Chmelevski don't have the chops to eventually crack the Sharks' roster later in the season. But now, after roughly a week and a half of practices and preseason contests, it's more likely the eight players who were recalled for Tuesday's game in Anaheim will still start the season at the AHL level. 

Unless, of course, one of them plays off-the-charts against the Ducks and earns another look in one of the Sharks' final two preseason games. Even so, Tuesday's game shows that the tryout window is closing.

It isn't just the newest faces from this year's camp who have something to prove on Tuesday evening. Two players who need to have good showings were rookies a year ago: Dylan Gambrell and Antti Suomela. The Sharks signed both centers to deals over the summer -- Gambrell to a two-year contract, Suomela to a one-year deal -- and the expectation was that both would be top candidates to fill in roles for the NHL club this season. Gambrell, in particular, entered the preseason with a strong chance of snagging a roster spot after he split time between the NHL and AHL last season. He was penciled into the lineup for San Jose's final playoff game against the St. Louis Blues, and scored the Sharks' only goal in that game, no less.

With just one goal between them so far this preseason -- which Suomela scored Saturday against the Vegas Golden Knights -- it's crucial they take advantage of their opportunities against Anaheim.

Two players who won't be on the roster for Tuesday's game in Anaheim are forward Lean Bergmann and defenseman Mario Ferraro. Both skaters have had impressive camps and were standouts in last Saturday's preseason game against Vegas. DeBoer is expected to put two NHL-heavy lineups on the ice in the final two preseason games, so it will be interesting to see what opportunities those two players get toward the end of the week.

[RELATED: Why Ferraro's chances of being on Sharks roster are growing]

San Jose's preseason schedule concludes later this week with a Thursday night home game against the Calgary Flames and a Sunday evening tilt in Sin City against the Golden Knights.

Sharks send trio of high-scoring forward prospects to Barracuda camp

chekhovichusatsi.jpg
USATSI

Sharks send trio of high-scoring forward prospects to Barracuda camp

Sharks prospects Joachim Blichfeld, Ivan Chekhovich and Sasha Chmelevski will start the season in San Jose. They just won't do it in the NHL. 

The trio of promising forwards were among the 25 players named to the AHL Barracuda's training-camp roster Monday, ahead of all three prospects' first full professional seasons. 

All but four of the Barracuda players were in camp with the Sharks, and the team cut two more players to reduce their training-camp roster to 32. Blichfeld, Chekhovich and Chmelevski were among a group of forwards competing for roster spots following the Sharks' litany of offseason departures, but waivers-exempt forwards with AHL experience Dylan Gambrell, Antti Suomela and Alexander True remained with the Sharks on Monday, as did German rookie Lean Bergmann and former Kings winger Jonny Brodzinski. 

Blichfeld scored scored 114 points with the WHL's Portland Winterhawks last season, while Chmelevski (75 points with the OHL's Ottawa 67s) and Chekhovich (105 points with the QMJHL's Baie-Comeau Drakkar) also enjoyed successful final seasons in Canadian major junior. Chmelevski starred for the United States at the IIHF World Junior Championships, winning a silver medal and tying for second on the team with seven points at the tournament. They each played in one of the Sharks' preseason games, with Blichfeld (goal) and Chekhovich (goal, assist) getting on the score sheet. 

[RELATED: Watch Coyne Schofield steal show against Sharks alumni]

None of Blichfeld, Chekhovich and Chmelevski are older than 21, and each likely will be relied upon to play big roles in the AHL. That doesn't necessarily mean you won't see them make their NHL debuts this season. 

"I think the good thing is that we’ve seen over the years that regardless of where you start, we need bodies, we need depth," Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said last week (H/T The Athletic). "Guys are going to get opportunities throughout the season regardless of where they end up starting.”