Wednesday, November 16, 2011

San Jose Sharks: Top Prospects in Their System

The San Jose Sharks have made their mark in the NHL as a Western Conference powerhouse that is inches away from getting over that hurdle and into the Stanley Cup Finals.

While we can attribute that to GM Doug Wilson's relentless mission to make this club better with trades and acquisitions, we can equally attribute the team's success to the constant home-grown talent or players have been drafted into the team's system. Most recently, that has involved Devin Setoguchi, Logan Couture, Ryan Clowe and Torrey Mitchell.

Because of that constant amount of talent coming through this franchise, the Sharks remain a contender year after year.

The prospects they have now are no exception.

Here are the top prospects of the San Jose Sharks.

5. Matt Nieto

The 19-year-old kid from Southern California got the chance to stay close to home when he was drafted by the Sharks in the 2nd round of the 2011 NHL Draft.

San Jose drafted him for several reasons, with the first being that he is flat-out quick on the ice. Compare him to a lesser version of Patrick Marleau, if you want to get crazy.

There is still much to learn for Nieto, who has yet to display good offensive awareness, but is sure to develop that in the Sharks' system in the coming years.

We can expect him to be play on a second or third line for San Jose in two to three years.

4. Tommy Wingels

It is hard to argue with what we saw from Wingels in training camp this past preseason. He was a player that looked like he belonged on the ice with the best the Sharks had to offer, and earned that chance when he was named to the opening night roster.

However, we may have witnessed a more realistic version of the 23-year-old in the first few games of the 2011 NHL season, as he looked out of place many times on the ice in his short time in the NHL.

There is no doubting what Wingels has, but it may just be too raw as of yet.

We can expect Wingels to be a second-line player for the Sharks down the road, and a part of this team next season.

3. Alex Stalock

Stalock is at No. 3 on this list because he plays the position of goalie, and may be the most crucial part of the Sharks organization of any of these players when it is all said and done.

For those who do not know about Stalock, he will soon become a household name in the NHL.

His college career and even minor league stats have been through the roof, which is why so many knowledgeable people are raving about the 24-year-old.

He did have a setback when he had surgery to repair a sliced nerve behind his knee, but he will be back, and the Sharks have not flinched when thinking about who will be the future in net, although Thomas Greiss has proven to be good competition for that spot as well.

We can expect Stalock to battle for the starting spot with Greiss in the near future, or whenever the Sharks decide the two are ready to overtake Antti Niemi.

2. Nick Petrecki

Petrecki is a no-doubter when it comes to playing the NHL and being a stable force.

The 22-year-old is as defensive a defenseman as they come, and the Sharks may not have it any other way.

He is a 6'3" hard-hitter. Petrecki hits like Douglas Murray, positions himself like Colin White and has a shot like Brent Burns. Unfortunately, that shot is not accurate and there is still minor work to be done when thinking about Petrecki as an NHL defenseman.

He will end up being one, though. There is zero doubt about that, and the Sharks will welcome a legitimate defenseman for their future.

We can expect to see Petrecki in San Jose in 1-2 years.

1. Taylor Doherty

Doherty is a 20-year-old, 6'7", 235-pound defenseman.

Have I said enough?

Taylor Doherty resembles a fresh version of Brent Burns, with the use of his big body and booming shot from the point. Doherty just has to learn how to use those assets.

He skates well and has learned how to use his body to his advantage of late, which is why San Jose is so high on the kid.

There is still some more maturing to do if he wants to play at the next level in the near future, but we can expect Doherty to be a key player in the Sharks' future.

Expect the big boy in San Jose in 1-2 years.

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