- Editor's note: Sheng Peng will be a regular contributor to NBC Sports California's Sharks coverage for the 2021-22 season. You can read more of his coverage on San Jose Hockey Now, listen to him on the San Jose Hockey Now Podcast, and follow him on Twitter at @Sheng_Peng.
MONTREAL – Who will the Sharks select with the No. 11 pick of the 2022 NHL Draft? We’re about to find out – the first round begins at 4 PM PT/7 PM ET Thursday night at the Bell Centre.
While the Sharks could go off the board, San Jose Hockey Now spoke with two NHL scouts from outside organizations just days before the Draft, and they generally agree on the pool of prospects that the Sharks likely will be choosing from at No. 11.
Industry consensus is that top prospects Shane Wright, Juraj Slavkofsky, Logan Cooley, Simon Nemec, David Jiricek, and Cutter Gauthier will not drop to the Sharks.
“It'll be Joakim Kemell, Jonathan Lekkerimaki, Matthew Savoie, Kevin Korchinski, or Marco Kasper. My guess is that's the pool they'll be picking from,” Scout #1 told SJHN.
Forwards Conor Geekie, Brad Lambert, Frank Nazar, and Danila Yurov, and defenseman Pavel Mintyukov are also sensible selections in this range, but these scouts weren’t as high on them for a variety of reasons.
Scout #1 gave his pick for No. 11: “I would go with Kemell. He’s been a dominant, dynamic scorer at multiple international events. And in league play, above his age level too. He’s an elite shooter and scorer, has some heaviness and compete that Lekkerimaki doesn’t.”
Kemell is a five-foot-10 winger who scored 15 goals in 39 games for JYP in the top men’s league in Finland. Lekkerimaki is a 5-foot-10 winger who scored 7 goals in 26 games for Djurgarden in the top men’s league in Sweden.
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Scout #2 interjected: “Korchinski has gone up a lot because of how Seattle did in the playoffs. We really, really liked him. He’s probably a great fit for you guys.”
Korchinski notched 61 assists in 67 games for the Seattle Thunderbirds in the WHL. The six-foot-two defenseman, who has been compared favorably to Shea Theodore, followed that regular season performance by leading the Thunderbirds into the WHL Finals.
Scout #1 prefers Kemell but thinks the Sharks will lean toward 6-foot-1 center Kasper, if available: “Has a Sam Bennett-type game. A lot of grit and pretty good offense in the middle.”
Kasper also is considered to have the character of a future captain and flashed his athleticism at NHL Combine testing – character (Mario Ferraro in the second round of the 2017 Draft) and athleticism (Josh Norris with the 19th pick of the 2017 Draft) are two areas that I think the Sharks have reached on in recent years.
Kasper acquitted himself well in men’s hockey this past year too, holding his own in a limited role (11:44 per game) for top SHL side Rogle BK. His minutes increased substantially in the playoffs (14:16).
Meanwhile, Savoie has gone from potential top-five pick – and he still might get tabbed there – to maybe out of the top 10.
The 5-foot-9 center was seventh in the WHL this past season with 90 points.
“I guess if there’s a concern with him, obviously, he’s undersized. And he’s been on the radar for a couple years now. There hasn’t been a lot of growth [physically and in his game],” Scout #1 told SJHN in May. “That was the knock on Zach Parise. And remember, the Sharks traded up to get Steve Bernier ahead of Zach Parise. I see a little bit of that. But at the same time, I’ve also seen guys like Zach Hamill [who plateau], they don’t pan out.”
Parise, the 17th overall pick of the 2003 Draft, is still playing and has just passed 400 goals for his career, while Bernier scored just 105 goals over a 12-year NHL career. Hamill, the eighth pick of the 2007 Draft, appeared in just 20 NHL games.
Scout #2 thinks that Savoie’s teammate Conor Geekie could also be in the picture for the Sharks. Geekie is a 6-foot-4 two-way center who scored 70 points for the Winnipeg ICE: “Geekie is a good player, but just his skating [is a problem].”
As for the best of the rest, Lambert, Nazar, Yurov, and Mintyukov?
Lambert endured a tough season, scoring just 10 points in 49 Liiga games between JYP and Pelicans. The six-foot center is considered very skilled and once was a threat for first-overall, but there’s some thought now, unlikely as it is, that he could actually fall out of the first round because of concerns over his coachability.
Did Lambert allay any of those concerns during his interviews at the recent Draft Combine?
“I don't think so. I think it's the same thing. He's an okay kid with a lot of baggage. So if you're willing to take that on, good for you, he's very talented,” Scout #2 offered. “He doesn't always listen, he's a little bit stubborn.”
Five-foot-10 center Nazar seems to also have fallen down the board too as we near the Draft, despite 70 points in 56 USNTDP games.
“I don't buy into a lot of the character, personality things, but I guess he doesn't give you the warm fuzzies as much as other guys,” Scout #2 intimated. “And he still has all the same problems being undersized and doesn't always compete super hard and kind of goes in and out of the game. You have to look for him a little bit.”
Six-foot-one right winger Yurov has a whole different problem than Lambert or Nazar: His passport. Despite consensus top-10 talent, there’s a lot of concern with picking Russian prospects now, and whether or not these players will be allowed to leave Russia.
“I've heard his agents making quite a few calls to teams, like hey, you should pick my guy,” Scout #2 shared. “So they’re obviously a little bit worried.”
San Jose Sharks
The Sharks haven’t been afraid to draft Russian prospects in recent years, but it’s hard to see them risking such a high pick on Yurov.
Mintyukov also is Russian, though, unlike Yurov, he’s not bound to a KHL organization. The six-foot-two blueliner was the rare defenseman to lead his team in scoring, pacing the OHL’s Saginaw Spirit with 62 points. However, his defensive game is of significant concern.
For that reason, he's considered a little bit of a boom-or-bust pick.
“The risk of Mintyukov is fun,” Scout #2 said, “but [other players are] more of a sure thing.”
We’ll see how the Sharks see it in a few hours!