The San Jose Sharks have made quick work of their negotiations with first-round pick Ryan Merkley, today signing him to a three-year entry-level contract. Not to be outdone, undrafted forward Alex True who spent last season with the San Jose Barracuda of the AHL, has also signed his three-year entry-level deal.
Merkley is one of the most interesting prospects from the most recent draft, as reports had surfaced that he was on some teams’ “do not draft” lists but still went 21st-overall to the Sharks. The dynamic defenseman has been labelled with attitude problems and a lack of effort for the past few seasons but remained one of the most talented players available. The San Jose front office felt differently after meeting him in person during the scouting combine, and GM Doug Wilson had this to say about him in today’s press release:
Ryan was one of the most talented players at his position in this year’s draft and we were very excited to add him to our organization. We were impressed with the way he handled himself as the youngest player at our summer development camp and feel that he has a whole new level he has yet to tap into. Ryan has the potential to be a difference maker at the NHL level and we are looking forward to watching his development this season.
There’s no doubt that Merkley should make an impact at the professional level. His offensive instincts are arguably the best out of any defense prospect in the 2018 draft, and he possesses an elite playmaking ability. He can take advantage of almost any situation while on the powerplay, and should only continue to improve in his own end if he’s willing to put in the work. That was the question many had with him as the draft approached, and now San Jose is starting to find out the answer after getting him into the hands of their coaching and development staff. If everything breaks right for the 17-year old, he could have a long NHL career ahead of him. For now he’ll return to the OHL where he has a chance to lead all defensemen in scoring.
For True, it is almost the opposite story. A 6’5″ center out of Denmark, the 21-year old True went undrafted despite his stint in the WHL with the Seattle Thunderbirds and experience on the international stage. He appeared three times for his country at the World Juniors, including captaining the squad in 2017. In 68 games for the Barracuda last season while playing on a minor league contract, True recorded 15 goals—good for second on the team—and 28 points. His hard work has finally earned him an NHL contract, and could eventually get him to the next level. He’ll be expected to suit up for the Barracuda again next season, but the Sharks have a real prospect in True if he can continue to develop as a power forward in the minor leagues and take another step forward offensively.