San Jose Sharks prospects thriving in the OHL this season.
By: Brandon Caputo
Photo Credit: OHL Images
The Ontario Hockey League is widely regarded as one of the most comprised group of junior players that NHL teams can choose from when selecting prospects that will hopefully help their organization in the future.
The San Jose Sharks have had their fair share of success from this league over the years with notable current stars Logan Couture (Ottawa 67's) and Kevin Labanc (Barrie Colts), along with former playoff hero Barclay Goodrow (North Bay *formally Brampton* Battalion) all drafted by the Sharks from the Ontario Hockey League.
Photo Credit: ticketmaster.com via Sharks.com
In the latest crop of OHL standouts drafted by the Bay Area team, a few new names may be coming through the OHL pipeline with a 1-way ticket to "Turn Up In Teal" sooner rather than later. That list is headlined by forwards Ethan Cardwell & Danil Gushchin. The Sharks currently have 7 OHL Prospects developing their game in junior hockey.
To put that into perspective, according to EliteProspects.com the Sharks draft selections from the
Ontario Hockey League currently rank as their 1st (Brandon Coe), 3rd (Danil Gushchin), 5th (Max McCue) ,
& 6th (Ethan Cardwell) best prospects overall in the organization's pipeline.
Courtesy of eliteprospects.com
I recently spoke to Danil Gushchin & Ethan Cardwell on their progress and being named Assistant Captains this season, as the OHL returns to play after being shutdown for 2020-21 due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
When their Junior Hockey careers turn into Pro Hockey Careers, what do they hope to bring to the big club down the line?
These 2 prospects (and perhaps future Shark teammates) most likely have quite the scouting report on each other, as their teams have already squared off 4 times (5th matchup upcoming) early this season.
Danil's Niagara IceDogs and Ethan's Barrie Colts happen to be be Central Division foes within the OHL's
Eastern Conference. Here's to hoping these baby Sharks can play nice with one another, as best they can...
Courtesy of barriecolts.com
Q1: Here with San Jose Sharks 4th round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft, taken 141st overall: Ethan Cardwell.
Ethan, it was a great game for your group against the Niagara IceDogs (7-3 victory), what were your thoughts on the effort and how the team is playing this year?
Your team has definitely shown that they can be a serious contender this season.
“It's been a bit of a roller coaster ride so far this year, there's been ups and downs.
I think we're starting to find a little bit of consistency in our game which is key, you have to bring it night in and night out while not taking any shifts off or else that will come back to bite you.
We're happy with the progress we're making and continuing to get better as a group.
As for the game tonight; we were resilient, we took a ton of penalties which we don't want to do but the PK stepped up big with every man putting their body on the line and that's what got us the win tonight. Along with great goaltending by (Mack) Guzda in his first game with our team (acquired from Owen Sound last week).”
Photo Credit: twitter.com/SanJoseSharks
Q2: You were recently named an Assistant Captain (as of Nov.18) of the Colts organization, just how excited are you for that opportunity and what are you looking to bring to the (Barrie) Colts after being given that A on your jersey? Does anything really change with your game or are you just going to bring it the same way every night, regardless of if you have a letter on your chest or not?
“I don't think much changes, I’m the same person and player I have been for the past four years and that has gotten me to where I am today. I think it's just creating good habits while being a pro on and off the ice,
being a great teammate everyday.”
Photo Credit: barriecolts,.com
Q3: You were acquired from Saginaw (Spirit), you’ve had a great run here with the Colts (a point per game player), how has that transition been and what have you thought of your time so far in Barrie?
“Barrie is an amazing city. I was fortunate enough to be drafted into the league by Saginaw and it was a pleasure to play there, but coming to Barrie there were high expectations and it has definitely lived up to the hype. It is a great group of teammates, an amazing arena, and one of the best fanbases in all of the OHL.”
Video Credit: Very Barrie Colts via Ontario Hockey League
Q4: You played in Sweden last year due to the OHL Shutdown during the pandemic, what was your experience like playing over there?
What did you gain or learn that you’ve taken and implemented into your game being back in North America, playing in the OHL again?
“It's a lot different over there. The ice is a lot bigger, you have time and space.
Coming back here was a little bit of a transition, but it was good.
I worked on being patient with pucks, holding onto pucks, making good plays in certain areas, and I think it's helped widen my game. I can make a lot more passes now and more-less I was just a shooter before going over there, but now I think I'm a dual threat to pass and/or shoot.”
Statistics provided by: eliteprospects.com
Q5: Who were some players growing up that you really idolized or that you wanted to mold your game around, who are currently playing in the NHL?
Was there somebody that you really watched growing up that has helped influence the way that you play the game of hockey?
“You can watch the (Sidney) Crosby's and (Alexander) Ovechkin's but obviously not everyone can be them.
I enjoy watching guys like Travis Konecny (Philadelphia Flyers) or even a current San Jose Shark
(and Barrie Colt alumni): Kevin Labanc. Those guys are not the biggest, (like I describe myself) but they work hard and show up with a good work ethic ready to do their job, every game.”
Photo Credit: Josie Lepe / San Jose Mercury News
Cardwell has yet to sign his Entry-Level NHL Contract with the Sharks but knows that he must prove his worth this season and beyond, by continuing to make strides in all aspects of his game.
Bringing a high level of compete and effort every night is not something that is foreign for Ethan, he expects it out of himself above anyone else's expectations.
Q6: What have the Sharks wanted to see from you as a 4th Round Pick? In talking with them, what do they want to see from you as far as improvements to hopefully make that transition to the NHL someday? What does that look like for you?
“They're so positive. They’re always trying to improve me as a player, which you definitely need when you’re trying to make that transition to Pro Hockey.
I think they simply want me to be a Pro everyday and to just work on good habits. As long as I can continue to do that, they want to see me make the jump to the NHL one day.
That's definitely my goal and I'm looking forward to that challenge in the near future (after we finish taking care of business in Barrie this season).”
Cardwell is someone who has done nothing but produce at an elite level since going over to the Barrie Colts. Playing with fellow top NHL prospects in Brandt Clarke (LA Kings) and Oskar Olausson (COL Avalanche) definitely will help him continue to build that confidence as an impact player, game-in and game-out.
If Barrie are to make a deep playoff run in the OHL's Eastern Conference table, you can bet that #11 will be a major contributor to that success on and off the ice. A's on your jerseys aren't just given, they are well earned.
Courtesy of niagaraicedogs.net
Gushchin has signed his Entry-Level NHL Contract with the Sharks, but knows that he must continue to grow and not let the contract keep him complacent in junior hockey this season. He spoke about needing to continue building his 2-way game, if he wants to be an impact player at the NHL level.
Q1: Here with the 76th pick in the 2020 NHL draft from San Jose Sharks 3rd rounder: Danil Gushchin.
Danil, you were at Camp with the San Jose Sharks. What did you think from that experience there and what did you gain from that, as you hope to become an NHL player one day?
“It was a good camp, a good experience for me, and a lot of good players there in the NHL.
They helped me learn how to play harder in the D-Zone and what it will take for me to play at the NHL level someday.”
Photo Credit: twitter.com/SanJoseSharks
Q2: You got off to a hot start here in Niagara, you are leading the team in goals, how has that transition been for you here now in Niagara? What has that been like for you getting accustomed to the organization here in Niagara?
“I played Junior Hockey for 3 years in the USHL, it's kind of a similar game but I want to be a part of this leadership group here in Niagara.”
Photo Credit: Jenae Anderson – Access Hockey MI
Q3: Speaking of that, you are now an Assistant Captain (as of Nov. 4th) here, how happy are you to now be dawning an A on your jersey for this team?
“It is pretty exciting for me! Thanks to my fellow captains, teammates, coaches, and organization for giving me the honour of wearing an A for the IceDogs. I am just going to try my best to help this team win some games.”
Billy Burke - Niagara IceDogs Head Coach
Photo Credit: niagaraicedogs.net
Billy Burke described to the Media what having a player of Gushchin's caliber means for his young Niagara IceDogs club:
“We knew Danil Gushchin was a leader and a great person before he arrived here, but I was unsure if he would be ready to be a captain right away. His actions have made him undeniable. The way he prepares himself before and after every game and practice is exactly like the pros do. he is always positive and talking to his teammates, trying to help them in any way he can. On top of his character, he goes and backs everything up on the ice as he is as elite of a player as we have in our league”, said Burke.
Video Credit: youtube.com/c/OntarioHockeyLeagueOfficial/videos
Q4: You scored a great goal that kind of went viral while you were in San Jose for their Training Camp. How are you trying to minimize those high expectations by just going out there as a hockey player and playing your game?
“I love being on the ice skating, playing hockey, playing well with my linemates, and helping my team win is the main priority. I love my teammates.”
Statistics provided by: eliteprospects.com
Q5: You obviously love to score goals, is there a player you grew up idolizing or trying to mold your game after or a Russian hero of yours? Who did you really like as far as a favourite NHL player?
“He is not in the NHL anymore as he is now retired, but I really liked Pavel Datsyuk and how he played the game over his great hockey career.”
Photo Credit: Anna Sergeeva/Getty Images
Despite a language barrier and still trying to get accustom to a new country for the 3rd time in a few years after coming over from Russia, Gushchin is clearly making an impression on his new club.
Although the team is going through a tough stretch of games, Danil still finds his way onto the scoreboard as a regular contributor on more nights than not as the teams most dynamically consistent goal scorer.
Gushchin would rather let his play and statistics speak for themselves when it comes to the saying "leading by example." Gushchin is the team leader in goals by a wide margin and he puts people in the seats of the Meridian Centre in Niagara on a nightly basis, who anxiously anticipate his electrifying gamebreaking ability and bringing them out of their seats to cheer. From Russia, With Love!