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31 in 31

Top prospects for San Jose Sharks

Gambrell, Suomela expected to add forward depth this season

by Eric Gilmore / NHL.com Correspondent

NHL.com is providing in-depth prospect analysis for each of its 31 teams throughout August. Today, the top five prospects for the San Jose Sharks, according to NHL.com.

 

[Sharks 31 IN 31: Season preview3 Questions | Fantasy breakdown | Behind the Numbers]

 

1. Joshua Norris, F

How acquired: Selected with No. 19 pick in 2017 NHL Draft

Last season: University of Michigan (NCAA): 37 GP, 8-15-23

Norris will return to Michigan after a solid but at times up-and-down freshman season. The 19-year-old was the second-line center for Michigan, which lost to Notre Dame in the Frozen Four semifinals.

Norris (6-foot-1, 190 pounds), who ranked first in five of 14 fitness tests at the 2017 NHL Scouting Combine, led Michigan winning face-offs at 56.4 percent and was first among forwards with 43 blocked shots.

"I think with the year of experience, it's a huge difference," Norris said. "I had the opportunity to learn from older guys and kind of see what they did and picked up on that. I think mentally, that's the difference once you get to the higher levels, once you can lock in and use your strengths to your advantage. That's going to put you over the top."

Projected NHL arrival: Next season

Video: Sharks draft F Joshua Norris No. 19

 

2. Ryan Merkley, D

How acquired: Selected with No. 21 pick in 2018 NHL Draft

Last season: Guelph (OHL): 63 GP, 13-54-67

Merkley, who turned 18 on Aug. 14, was considered to be one of the biggest risk-reward picks in the 2018 draft. He has elite offensive skills but needs work in the defensive zone and had trouble controlling his frustration at times, which hurt his draft position. Merkley (5-11, 170) will play another season in the Ontario Hockey League, which will give him time to add strength.

Projected NHL arrival: 2020-21

Video: Merkley on how his offensive strengths suit Sharks

 

3. Dylan Gambrell, F

How acquired: Selected with No. 60 pick in 2016 NHL Draft

Last season: San Jose: 3 GP, 0-0-0; University of Denver (NCAA): 41 GP, 13-30-43

Gambrell was the Sharks' fourth-line center for the final three regular-season games after signing an entry-level contract March 26 and held his own against NHL competition. He's a smooth skater with speed and offensive skill and should compete in training camp for a job as the fourth-line center, which opened when Eric Fehr signed with the Minnesota Wild on July 1 as a free agent. Gambrell (6-0, 195), who turns 22 on Aug. 26, had 132 points (43 goals, 89 assists) in 120 games for Denver and won the NCAA Division I championship in 2017.

Projected NHL arrival: This season

 

4. Mario Ferraro, D

How acquired: Selected with No. 49 pick in 2017 NHL Draft

Last season: University of Massachusetts Amherst (NCAA): 39 GP, 4-19-23

Ferraro, a high-energy player with more than enough speed and skill to join the rush, set a school record for points by a freshman defenseman, and the 19-year-old will return for his sophomore year at UMass Amherst. One of his goals this season is to get more shots through from the point.

"I am an offensive-defenseman," Ferraro said. "I take pride in the [defensive zone], but when I do find those open areas to skate up the ice, definitely like to do that, whether I have the puck on my stick or I'm coming in as a late guy at the top of the circle."

Ferraro (5-11, 185), had 41 points (eight goals, 33 assists) in 60 games for Des Moines of the United States Hockey League two seasons ago.

Projected NHL arrival: Next season

 

5. Antti Suomela, F

How acquired: Signed as free agent from Finland on June 6, 2018 

Last season: JYP (Liiga): 59 GP, 21-39-60

Suomela led the Finnish Elite League in points last season. In 169 Liiga games, he had 131 points (56 goals, 75 assists) and a plus-34 rating. Suomela (6-0, 175) is expected to compete for the fourth-line center opening in training camp but the 24-year-old could need some time in the American Hockey League with the San Jose Barracuda to adjust to hockey in North America.

"Antti's a very skilled center who has improved his development and production in each of his three seasons in Finland's top league," Sharks general manager Doug Wilson said. "We like his combination of skill, speed and defensive awareness and think his style of pay fits with the way we play as a team."

Projected NHL arrival: This season

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