Where Sharks' deadline acquisitions rank on top prospects list


During the 2023 NHL trade deadline, the Sharks reimagined their defensive corps of the future.

They acquired three defensemen -- Shakir Mukhamadullin and Nikita Okhotiuk from the New Jersey Devils, and Henry Thrun from the Anaheim Ducks -- all, arguably, immediate top-10 Sharks prospects.
Both Mukhamadullin and Thrun have a case for top five.
At mid-season, San Jose Hockey Now, with the help of multiple NHL scouts and executives, ranked the Sharks’ top 10 prospects
They were, counting down, defenseman Artemi Kniazev, defenseman Gannon Laroque, defenseman Jake Furlong, winger Danil Gushchin, center-winger Tristen Robins, winger Cam Lund, defenseman Mattias Havelid, center Filip Bystedt, center-winger Thomas Bordeleau and, No. 1, winger William Eklund. 
So, with help from the same sources, where do Mukhamadullin, Okhotiuk, and Thrun slot in SJHN’s post-deadline top 10?

Nikita Okhotiuk

“I don’t think Nikita got talked about too much about being part of the deal, but he was a huge part for us,” Sharks general manager Mike Grier said after the trade deadline of the 6-foot-1 Russian’s inclusion in the Timo Meier trade. “Our scouts love him and he’s a throwback player. We think he’s going to be a big part of the future.”
And yet, Okhotiuk sits just outside SJHN’s top 10, no discredit to him, but a testament to the Sharks’ deeper-than-ever prospects pool.
Also outside the top 10 now? Kniazev.
So the question that I asked my sources: Okhotiuk or Kniazev?
Okhotiuk and Kniazev are both left-handed Russian defensemen, selected in the second round of the 2019 NHL Draft.
That’s about where the similarities end.
“It is close,” scout No. 1 said. “It’s a preference pick.”
“I like Okhotiuk,” scout No. 2 offered. “More bite, grit and physicality, which I hear is what Grier is coveting.” 
Scout No. 1 countered: “Still like Kniazev. Okhotiuk is really unpredictable in terms of play. Really strong physically, hits like a bulldozer, but doesn’t really think. Just goes. 
“Kniazev has a much more smooth, controlled game. Think it has a better upside.”
So if Kniazev and Okhotiuk are out, who’s in SJHN’s top 10?

Henry Thrun

At No. 10, we have Furlong. Counting down from there, Gushchin, Robins, and, at No. 7, Thrun.
The Sharks traded a 2024 third-round pick to the Ducks for the rights to the unsigned Harvard senior captain. San Jose appears confident that it will ink Thrun, and I share that confidence.
“Big drop-off after Thrun,” scout No. 1 opined about SJHN’s list. “Thrun might even be over [Cam] Lund and [Mattias] Havelid.”
Those are my Nos. 6 and 5 Sharks prospects, respectively.
There appear to be four layers of Sharks’ top 10 prospects. No. 1 is clear – spoiler, it’s William Eklund. Nos. 2-4, well, there’s more debate than you might think. Havelid, Lund, and Thrun represent the next class. Then Gushchin, Robins, Furlong, and while on the outside looking in, Okhotiuk, Kniazev and Laroque are right there, too.
“He’s a very solid all-around defenseman,” scout No. 1 said of the 21-year-old Thrun. “Physical, harder. Plays well on both sides of the puck. Think the defensive game comes more natural to him. Offensive, he’s simple but efficient and effective.”

Shakir Mukhamadullin

Three NHL scouts and execs didn’t push back when I ranked Mukhamadullin over Bordeleau as the Sharks’ No. 2 prospect.
So it’s, from bottom to top, Bystedt, Bordeleau, Mukhamadullin and Eklund as SJHN’s top four Sharks prospects right now.
While AHL All-Star Bordeleau has been undeniably productive with the San Jose Barracuda – he’s tied for third in rookie goals with 20 – I don’t think his defensive game has evolved enough from last year.
“He’s a really good prospect,” scout No. 2 gushed about the 6-foot-3 Mukhamadullin. “Length. Skating. Awareness. Can defend, move pucks, and provide secondary offense. Potential top-four D, potential on both sides of the puck and special teams. High ceiling.”
Besides being new Sharks defensemen, Mukhamadullin, Thrun and Okhotiuk have this in common. All 2019 or 2020 draft picks, they’re all considered pretty close to being NHL-ready.
Okhotiuk already has 15 NHL games to his name, while Mukhamadullin has been an everyday defenseman for playoff KHL side Salavat Yulaev Ufa.

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Acquiring more NHL-ready prospects appears to be by design.
“There were some scenarios out there where I could have just gotten all picks back,” Grier shared after dealing Timo Meier. “But we think that the players we got back are moving far along enough on the development path that they'll be able to help us soon.”
This defensive group, along with more NHL-ready prospects up front like Eklund and Bordeleau, appear to form the backbone of Grier’s hope “to flip this thing as quickly as I can, but also making sure we get the right people in and make the right moves here to not rush it.”
Sharks fans, four years and running out of the playoffs, can only hope.

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