SAN JOSE -- At last year's NHL Draft, the Sharks grabbed a few headlines when they used the 21st overall pick to select Ryan Merkley -- an offensively-minded defenseman with a couple of questionable acts on his resume.
Things will probably be a little different this time around since San Jose doesn't have a pick in the first or second round -- and coverage of the draft tends to simmer as the latter rounds move along. But just because the Sharks aren't picking until later in the draft doesn't mean they won't find a key player for the future.
Exactly who the Sharks take with their picks is hard to pinpoint. Really, once big fish like Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko are selected, the draft can take any number of twists and turns.
We can say pretty confidently, though, that the Sharks are going to do their homework before selecting anyone. High-risk picks aren't off the table but in-depth discussions with players and careful consideration remain a premium, as the team demonstrated this last year when they selected Merkley with their first-round pick. Making picks in the third, fifth, sixth, and seventh rounds will take the same level of precision as they continue to build and evolve the team.
The Sharks have gotten plenty of production from young prospects taken in later rounds of the draft. Heck, both Joe Pavelski and Kevin Labanc were late-round picks for Team Teal who are not only on the current roster but had an impact on this year's playoff run. More recently, 2017 sixth-round pick Alexander Chmelevski has been making a name for himself during his junior hockey campaign, tallying 75 points in 56 games for the Ottawa 67s and seven points for Team USA in this past year's World Juniors competition.
Chmelevski will, of course, be one of many prospects fans will get to see at San Jose's prospect scrimmage a week after the draft.
San Jose has even gone so far as to sign some of their late-round picks from the past couple of years to entry-level contracts. They signed three late-round picks including Chmelevski to deals in recent history -- with the other two players were forward Ivan Chekhovich (seventh round of the 2017 draft) and goaltender Zachary Emond (sixth round of the 2018 draft.)
What positions the Sharks choose to draft for is a bit of a mystery. Since none of their picks are going to be competing for an NHL spot right off the bat -- heck, this year's picks are all but guaranteed to spend time developing at the junior level before even getting a shot with the Barracuda -- San Jose can select for just about any position as they build for future seasons.
Given the high number of forwards they've selected over the last couple of years, San Jose may be looking to go after a few more blueliners, or perhaps follow up the Emond signing by adding another goalie into the mix.
Sure, the Sharks aren't going to be a team making splashy picks on the first day of this year's NHL Draft. But given their recent history of making good late-round picks, their selections over the weekend will be worth keeping an eye on.
The 2019 NHL Entry Draft will begin June 21 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia.