The San Jose Sharks had quite a few unfamiliar names listed when they released their training camp rosters. All in all, the Sharks have invited five unsigned junior prospects to camp: goalie Max Paddock, defenseman Keaton Middleton, and forwards Kyle Topping, Jake Gricius, and Justin Brazeau. Paddock is the youngest of the group at just 18 and has only one junior season under his belt with the WHL’s Regina Pats. The Sharks may be looking at Paddock, who still has draft eligibility remaining, as a potential long-term project signing, but will have to work quickly to get him signed within a limited window or else will have to hope they can select him in next year’s draft. Middleton, a fourth-round pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs back in 2016, has been the captain of the OHL’s Saginaw Spirit for the past two years and has proven to be a reliable two-way defender. Middleton has played significant minutes in 60+ games in each of his four junior seasons and is likely ready to make the jump to the pro level. Up front, Brazeau highlights the forward invites. The 6’6″ power forward registered 75 points in 68 games last season for the OHL’s North Bay Battalion and, if given the opportunity, the 20-year-old Brazeau could possibly be a difference-maker in the minor leagues with an NHL ceiling. Gricius, of the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks, is another big forward, but younger than Brazeu at 18 and more raw. He has yet to show the same offensive upside and may have limited potential, but the Sharks will judge that for themselves in camp. Finally, Topping is coming off a strong point-per-game season with the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets, but the 18-year-old has more developing to do. Both he and Gricius remain draft-eligible and San Jose could simply be thinking ahead to next June.
- The Minnesota Wild have decided to add another goaltender to the mix in camp, listing minor league keeper C.J. Motte on their training camp roster. Motte, the older brother of Vancouver Canucks forward Tyler Motte, is a former college standout at Ferris State University and has been playing in the minor leagues for the past three seasons. Motte was under contract with the Quad City Mallards, ECHL affiliate of the Wild, for the past two years, although his play earned him several AHL loans as well, including to the Iowa Wild. Minnesota’s coaches and front office may want a closer look at what they have in the organization, as Motte could potentially be fighting for a two-way AHL deal in camp.
- The Vancouver Canucks have invited defenseman Ben Betker to camp. A former sixth-round pick and project prospect of the rival Edmonton Oilers, Betker did not receive a qualifying offer this off-season and has been unable to land an NHL contract. Although the 6’6″, 230-lb. defenseman has great size and physical ability, as well as some modest puck-moving ability, his PTO with Vancouver doesn’t necessarily imply that he is fighting for a contract with the team. Betker has struggle to produce in the minors and could use some more seasoning. However, the 23-year-old could definitely land with the team’s AHL affiliate, the Utica Comets.
- Although the Boston Bruins are already bursting with pro-ready prospects, including Calder hopeful Ryan Donato, three centers fighting for a job in Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Trent Frederic, and Jack Studnicka, Anders Bjork and Peter Cehlarik returning from injuries, and recent high picks on the blue line in Urho Vaakanainen, Jakub Zboril, and Jeremy Lauzon, The Athletic’s Fluto Shinzawa suggests that a first-year pro free agent addition could actually end up having an impact this year. Karson Kuhlman, the captain of the reigning NCAA Champion Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs, has impressed in camp so far. Shinzawa spoke with Providence Bruins head coach Jay Leach and watched Kuhlman dominate with two goals in the Bruins’ rookie game on Saturday and has formed the opinion that the young winger could be one of the first players called up by Boston this season. Although smaller and less skilled than some of his competition, Shinzawa states that his effort and two-way intelligence is evident and the team loves his hard-nosed style and natural leadership. Kuhlman seems like a nice fit as a bottom-six forward in the NHL and could realize that ceiling sooner rather than later. The embarrassment of riches in the Boston pipeline continues as another name to watch is added to the list.