San Jose Sharks sign coveted college prospects to deals

San Jose Sharks (Photo by Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images)
San Jose Sharks (Photo by Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images) /

The San Jose Sharks added two college players to the organization, inking Brinson Pasichnuk and John Leonard to entry-level deals.

Hockey is on hold for the foreseeable future with the likelihood of the San Jose Sharks and the rest of the NHL done for the year with no playoffs. The Sharks’ season came to an end before the league went on hiatus after failing to play consistent hockey from the start of the campaign.

Undoubtedly, a glaring issue immediately came to the forefront after the Erik Karlsson extension in the lack of forward depth. Doug Wilson emphasized the importance of allowing younger players to earn roster spots to fill the void due to the salary cap and every club facing the same dilemma.

Unfortunately, except for the quality depth of defensemen in the system, forward depth is hard to come by for the Sharks who rank near the bottom of development teams.

In their defense, the San Jose Barracuda are the youngest of AHL squads as the Sharks opted to rebuild the Barracuda in giving players prominent roles on the top lines in hopes the experience will translate in the NHL.

Uncertainty is in the air as to when hockey will resume, including next season, with events already postponed, such as the 2020 NHL Draft. No matter the decisions forthcoming, the Sharks got a head start in adding organizational depth in two promising college youngsters.

Captain on the Arizona State Sun Devils the last two seasons, Brinson Pasichnuk led all college defensemen in shots in 36 games. His 11 goals and 26 assists ranked him second and third in the nation, respectively.

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Originally from Bonnyville, Alberta, the courtship for Pasichnuk began after he received an invite to the Sharks’ development camp. In previous years, he attended camps from different organizations, but the Sharks showed serious interest in adding him to the franchise.

A left-handed shot, Pasichnuk began to round into form after becoming the captain for the Sun Devils.

He can handle the puck well, vital quality for an offensive-minded defenseman who could potentially quarterback a power-play unit. At six feet, his size is one concern but he has been shown to battle in tight areas and physical to make strong plays.

One of the top college free agents this year, Pasichnuk, is believed to have been sought by multiple NHL teams. Similarly, the same notion came after the Sharks signed Antti Suolmela out of Europe, with half the league wanting his services.

Suomela chose San Jose because of Wilson’s desire to have younger players come to training camp to compete for open spots. The adjustments from European ice to North American ice took some time for Suomela, but his recent outings before the league shut down saw a positive trend.

With the Sharks going to miss out on the postseason, seeing Pasichnuk in teal this season (if not canceled) is not out of the question. The 22-year-old could get a taste of the NHL and allow him to work on mechanics during the offseason to be ready for the following season, which will likely be with the Barracuda.

Arizona State scored a significant victory with Pasichnuk’s signing with the hockey program only four years into existence.

The Sun Devils began D-I hockey in the 2016-17 season, with Pasichnuk being one of the first commitments. He had offers from more prominent programs for college hockey but opted to join the Sun Devils.

As a result, Pasichnuk’s development helped Arizona State gain prominence as the team was set to earn a berth in the tournament before the NCAA and conferences put a halt to sporting events. If the Sun Devils stay relevant, seeing more teams on the West Coast with NHL teams backing the notion could become a reality.

To have an abundance of blue-liners is never wrong as the Sharks typically produce sturdy defensemen becoming mainstays for numerous years. Mario Ferraro is the most recent example after claiming the sixth spot outright before the season.

Ferraro may likely get to play with his former teammate in John Leonard, both college comrades at UMass. After a breakout junior season, Leonard will hopefully bring his offensive skills to San Jose and develop into a solid contributor offensively.

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Selected in the 2018 NHL Draft in the sixth round, Leonard led the NCAA in goals and set a school record at UMass with 27 goals. Both Leonard and Ferraro played for UMass last year when they reached the final of the men’s Frozen Four falling to Minnesota Duluth.

Leonard is a finalist for the 2020 Hobey Baker Award, given to the best NCAA men’s ice hockey player. San Jose did have a Hobey Baker Award winner in former Shark Matt Carle, who ultimately played better seasons with his time in Philadelphia and Tampa Bay.

Opportunity is abundant for the 21-year-old Leonard, who could pan out to be the next Joe Pavelski as both are late-round picks.

Forward depth is going to be the sticking point for the Sharks to become contenders again. No matter if the solution comes from within or outside via signing or trade, improvements must be addressed.

Details of the contracts are unknown with the NHL not operating and if the deals go into effect for this year or become official next year. Overall, both will likely begin their professional careers in the AHL and possibly see the two with the Sharks soon.

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Hockey will make a triumphant return along with all other sports. As disappointing this year was for the San Jose Sharks, hopefully a brighter outlook shines with the two new additions to the organization.