The San Jose Sharks are set to make their highest pick in the draft since they drafted Brad Stuart third overall in the 1998 draft. The raging debate between Sharks fans about drafting Will Smith, Leo Carlsson, or Matvei Michkov has been the center of discourse since the season ended. No matter who Mike Grier picks, the Sharks are setting themselves up for their future.
The Case for Will Smith
Will Smith is an offensive dynamo. Putting up 127 points in 60 games on the USNTDP program isn’t something to sneeze at. While he isn’t the prototypical center size, coming in a touch below six foot, he is more than creative and skilled enough to make up for it.
“He may not be one of the best players in this draft (he’s not far off), but he’s undoubtedly one of its most entertaining. The way that Smith blends dangles into passes, chains play together, and processes the game at speed – it’s just special. There’s no other way to describe it.”Elite Prospects
While there are concerns about Smith’s game in his own zone, he is aware of this and has stated that working on those flaws during his time at Boston College is his top priority. If Smith can be competent in his own zone and an elite offensive threat, the Sharks will be laying the foundation of a team that can score with anyone.
The Case for Leo Carlsson
The 6’3″ Swedish center has been playing against grown men for two seasons now and is doing things that are borderline unprecedented. Carlsson put up 25 points in 44 regular season games and added 9 points in 13 playoff games. He capped off the season with another 5 points in 8 games playing for Team Sweden in the World Championships.
Outside of Filip Bystedt, most of the other Sharks prospects lean toward the short size. William Eklund is 5’10”, Tristen Robins is 5’11”, Danill Gushchin is 5’10” (he’s not), and Thomas Bordeleau is 5’9″. While the Sharks need to add elite prospects, adding more size would not hurt, and Carlsson is both elite skill and size. After the Timo Meier trade, the Sharks lack a true power forward in their system and Carlsson can add that dimension.
“Thing is, there’s no such thing as a perfect prospect, but Carlsson is pretty damn close. In most years, he’s an uncontested 1st overall pick. This year, he’s more likely to go at two or three.”Elite Prospects
Will Smith’s offensive ceiling might be a touch higher than Leo Carlsson, but Carlsson is a full 200-foot player. Leo Carlsson is going to be a first-line center who makes the players around him better and can be trusted in any situation every time he gets thrown over the boards.
The Case for Matvei Michkov
The buzz in Nashville has been Michkov. Everyone is trying to figure out who will take the swing on him. Since most General Managers have not been able to talk with Michkov other than on Zoom, this has been an important week for him to try and dispel some of the narratives around him, such as he’s arrogant and a borderline jerk.
The Sharks lack upper-crust talent in their prospect pool. While William Eklund is well on his way to being a first-line player, Michkov is just a different dude that can transform your franchise. He has Hall of Fame potential, but there is a lot of trust that will need to happen. With Michkov not being scheduled to come to the NHL until the 2026-27 season, teams must watch from afar and hope his development goes as planned. But, if he hits… you are looking at a 100-point player and a potential yearly Rocket Richard contender.
“Michkov creates plays on the ice that we can’t even fathom with the benefit of a bird’s eye view. Naturally, this otherworldly skill as a handler makes him a pretty lethal finishing talent, too. Michkov doesn’t just dangle for the sake of dangling; it’s always with a set purpose in mind, often allowing him to gain the middle of the ice, increasing the quality of each look as a shooter.”Elite Prospects
Matvei Michkov will change the franchise he goes to. It’s about if the General Manager and owner can make that leap of faith.
Mike Grier and the Sharks will have a choice at four overall that will alter the direction of the franchise, but no matter what, they should walk away winners tonight.