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SAN JOSE, CA – San Jose Sharks (@SanJoseSharks) general manager Doug Wilson announced today that the club has recalled defenseman Nick DeSimone (@njdes) from the San Jose Barracuda (@sjbarracuda), the team’s top development affiliate in the American Hockey League (@TheAHL).
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DeSimone, 25, has recorded 17 points (three goals, 14 assists) and 21 penalty minutes in 46 games played with the Barracuda. He ranked third in points and second in assists amongst team defensemen at the time of his recall. In 174 career AHL games, all with San Jose, DeSimone has posted 84 points (24 goals, 60 assists).
The six-foot-two, 185-pound native of East Amherst, NY originally signed with the Sharks as an unrestricted free agent on March 30, 2017.
Spiridonov was drafted by the Sharks in 2019, fourth round (108th overall). He split the 2019-20 season in Russia between the MHL (analogous to junior) and the VHL (analogous to the AHL). The Sharks saw him slipping in the draft as many outlets saw him as a second rounder — they gave the Montreal Canadiens their 2020 fourth-round pick in order to snag him. He is a strong two-way player that excels at puck possession. He has several aspects of his game to work on like his skating and his shot. According to Hockey Prospecting, Spiridonov looks analogous to former Colorado Avalanche star Milan Hejduk. He will have to continue to show he can produce at both the VHL and KHL level before Sharks fans can start to get too excited, but that is obviously a very exciting comparison.
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After serving as Captain for the Arizona State University Sun Devils for two seasons, the highly coveted undrafted 22-year-old Pasichnuk signed a two-year, entry-level deal with the Sharks. He finished his final collegiate season with 47 points in 36 games. He’s a good skater with above-average hockey IQ and hopes to follow the path of Torey Krug as an undrafted college star to make an impact in the NHL. No doubt the allure of playing alongside either Burns or Karlsson, as well as the relative paucity of talent on the left attracted him to sign with the Sharks instead of elsewhere. I doubt he has high points upside, but he has a fairly high floor to be a serviceable NHL defenseman.
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The undrafted Korenar appeared prime to compete for an NHL roster spot in 2020-21 after an excellent 2018-19 campaign that saw him go 23-8-3 for the Barracuda along with a .911 SV% and 2.54 GAA. Unfortunately, he regressed in 2019-20 and his record fell to 12-16-7, .891 SV%, and 3.11 GAA. Perhaps returning to HC Ocelari Trinec of the Tipsport Extraliga in the Czech Republic will help him return to his form of two seasons ago. He is probably the goalie closest to being NHL ready that the Sharks have if the team doesn’t sign a veteran backup. Despite his readiness, I’m not sure his upside is all that high, perhaps a split starter or 1A at best.
The goalie with perhaps the greatest upside for the Sharks is also the one who is furthest from being NHL ready. Emond was taken in the sixth round in 2018 (176th overall) and the 6-foot-3, 20-year-old just finished his third full season in the QMJHL. After a rocky 2017-18 where he posted a .897 SV% with a 2.36 GAA for Rouyn-Noranda Huskies in 24 games, he had a dazzling 1.73 GAA with a .932 SV% in 2018-19. His numbers in 2019-20 were slightly worse as the team around him graduated several key players from the program.
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Tier 4: Chekhovich, True, Letunov, Meloche & Hamaliuk
The Sharks currently have five players who could make the NHL roster but in more of a role-player position. These players include Ivan Chekhovich, Alexander True, Nicolas Meloche, Nick DeSimone and Dillon Hamaliuk.
Chekhovich was taken in the 2017 seventh round (212th overall), the same year the Sharks took Chmelevski. The fact that he’s even this high in the pyramid is a testament to the scouting, drafting, and development of the Sharks. It’s understandable why he slipped so far as he put up just under a point per game for the Baie-Comeau Drakkar of the QMJHL in his draft year. He followed that up with a disappointing 60 points in 65 games in his draft plus-one year, though his stellar nine points in six games for the Barracuda were eye popping. In 2018-19, his draft plus-two season, he popped 105 points in 66 games and another seven points in nine games for the Barracuda, including the playoffs.
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His transition as a full-time AHL player was a little rough as he only managed 12 points in 42 games. As an undersized player measuring 5-foot-10, he will need to work much harder against bigger and stronger competition. With the delay in the AHL season, Chekhovich has been loaned to Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod of the KHL. Unlike many player loans that are temporary, this one is for the entire season. Increasing his ice time from around 11 minutes for the Barracuda to over 18 minutes in the KHL should help him regain his confidence. I still have my reservations about him becoming a full-time NHL player.
Nikolaj Ehlers’ cousin True is an undrafted center who was never a big point producer in the WHL when the Sharks signed him in summer 2018. He was a bit of a disappointment in 2019-20 for the Barracuda after an impressive 2018-19 campaign that saw him garner 55 points in 68 points. The great Dane standing at 6-foot-5 and 200 pounds has the tools to become an NHL regular and his 12 games for the Sharks in 2019-20 enforces this assertion.
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Forward Shot Rates Sharks 2019-20 (courtesy of @seantierney, chartinghockey.ca)
Though 12 NHL games is an extremely small sample size, True definitely held his own in player shot rates, a combination of Corsi for per 60 minutes and Corsi against per 60 minutes. Many other young players on this list did not fare so well, including Noah Gregor, Antti Suomela, and Lean Bergmann. This makes me think True would make a good third-line center, though second-line upside is still there.
Letunov is a 24-year-old Russian prospect that the Sharks coveted back in 2014, but was originally drafted by the St. Louis Blues 52nd overall. They eventually acquired him through the Arizona Coyotes from the Blues. After three seasons at the University of Connecticut, he finished with 95 points in 105 games, though his freshman season was his best leading to some disappointment as he endured the dreaded downward trend. His transition to the AHL was okay in 2018-19, but 2019-20 showed him lead the Barracuda with 40 points in 50 games. As a large-framed (6-foot-4), two-way center, Letunov could certainly make an impact for the Sharks as a middle-six pivot, but the points upside seems a bit limited.
Meloche was originally drafted in 2015 by the Colorado Avalanche in the second round (40th overall). The Sharks acquired him for Antoine Bibeau in September 2019. A puck-moving, right-handed defenseman, Meloche had high expectations when he was drafted, but has been trending downward, both in his final seasons in the QMJHL and recently in the AHL. There is still hope — about a 28% chance according to Hockey Prospecting — of him becoming an NHL player, but the upside seems to be bottom pairing at this point.
Dillon Hamaliuk is a 2019 second-round pick by the Sharks (55th overall). His draft year was shortened to 31 games by injury, but he still put up 26 points for the Seattle Thunderbirds of the WHL. In his draft plus-1 season, he played for the Kelowna Rockets of the WHL and saw a regression of only 31 points in 56 games. You never want to see regression like that from your prospects, but hopefully he can turn the tide and compete for a roster spot on the Barracuda in 2020-21. He still has a lot of upside as a left winger with a good combination of size and skill. The Sharks certainly hope he can become a power forward utilizing his strength to win battles in the corner and beat goalies with his above-average shot.
Tier 5: Halbgewachs, Viel, Yurtaikin, Middleton, Knyzhov, DeSimone, Kotkov, Carrick, & Ibragimov
Jayden Halbgewachs, Jeffrey Viel, Danil Yurtaikin, Jacob Middleton, Nikolai Knyzhov, Nick DeSmione, Trevor Carrick, and Timur Ibragimov fill out Tier 5, all players who could make the NHL, but at this point, it looks like a long-shot for them to become regulars with the Sharks.
Jayden Halbgewachs is an undersized (5-foot-8), undrafted left winger who the Sharks signed in December 2017. At that time, he was in the midst of his fourth and best season for the Moose Jaw Warriors of the WHL that concluded totaling 129 points in 64 games. The 23-year-old has now played two seasons for the Barracuda going from .55 to .64 points per game in those campaigns. He is currently a restricted free agent (RFA), so it remains to be seen what the Sharks will do with him; his size remains a key limitation to his NHL success. The Sharks certainly hope the player nicknamed the “magic man” can end up being more like Johnny Gaudreau or Marin St. Louis, though the time to pull this rabbit out of his hat is running out.
Viel (or Truchon-Viel) is a 23-year-old, undrafted winger that the Sharks signed after an impressive QMJHL career for the Acadie-Bathurst Titan. He was captain of the team his final two seasons and in his final year they won both the QMJHL title and the Memorial Cup. He also took home CHL Memorial Cup All-Star honors and QMJHL Playoffs MVP along the way. Though never a big point producer, topping out at 62 points in 59 games, he clearly has some intangible leadership and championship qualities that the Sharks covet. In two seasons with the Barracuda he has increased his P/G pace from .32 to .56. He was also assigned the assistant captain “A” in 2019-20, hinting that he has both the trust of the coaching staff and a voice they want to amplify. He definitely seems like he might be able to carve out a bottom-six role with the Sharks in the future.
Yurtaikin (or Yurtaykin) is a slightly undersized (5-foot-11) Russian player who was not drafted by any NHL team. After putting up 19 points in 40 KHL games as a 22-year-old, the Sharks signed him to a two-year, entry-level deal in April 2019. Surprisingly, and almost entirely due to the Sharks’ lack of forward depth, Yurtaikin made the team out of training camp. He did not look great in his four-game audition with the Sharks and was sent to the Barracuda where he posted 17 points in 37 games. A creative player with the ability to hold on to the puck and draw players to him, he will need to make quicker and better decisions if he wants to stick in the NHL.
Middleton was originally drafted by the Los Angeles Kings back in 2014 in the seventh round (210th overall). After three years with the Ottawa 67’s, the final one in which he was named captain, he was not offered a contract by the Kings so the Sharks signed him. He was never a big point producer, not even reaching .5 P/G in junior, but he was an assistant captain for the Barracuda for two seasons. This year he got a 10-game stint for the Sharks after their defensive core was depleted.