There’s no doubt that Thomas Bordeleau impressed in his brief stint with the Sharks last year.
In the last eight games of the 2021-22 NHL season, Bordeleau notched five assists. He also scored one of the biggest goals in an otherwise disappointing Sharks campaign, a shootout winner over the Vegas Golden Knights that put their division rival’s playoff chances on life support. The victory snapped San Jose’s 11-game losing streak to Vegas.
So it makes sense why Sharks fans might pencil the 20-year-old center into the lineup this coming season. However, two observers who watched Bordeleau recently at August’s World Junior Ice Hockey Championships tapped the brakes on that.
Not that Bordeleau wasn’t terrific at the tournament: The centerman followed up his NHL cup of coffee with a starring turn at the World Juniors, leading Team USA with eight points in just five games.
Chris Peters of FloHockey named Bordeleau the 18th-best player of the tourney: “Bordeleau was a jack of all trades for the U.S. His two-way play, faceoff prowess and high-end skill made him a factor in all three zones.”
But being a top-20 player at the World Juniors is a far cry from being an everyday NHL center.
“I didn’t necessarily see a player I thought should be in an NHL lineup tomorrow,” Peters told San Jose Hockey Now of Bordeleau’s World Juniors showing. “Someone with his size profile has to be able to impact the game on the scoresheet, and I don’t know that he is going to do that right away next season. It might help him to get top-six reps in the AHL and find his way as a productive two-way center to play at a higher level by the time he’s ready to reach the NHL.”
For what it’s worth, the 5-foot-10 Bordeleau was productive in the NHL. Besides some highlight-reel set-up passes, he also popped in a number of SPORTLOGiQ microstats, which I wrote about at San Jose Hockey Now recently.
Bordeleau “was third among San Jose Sharks forwards, behind Tomas Hertl and Timo Meier, with 00:27 OZ Possession and 6.87 Offense-Generating Plays Per 20 at 5-on-5. He was second with 1.57 Slot Pass Completions and 3.73 Puck Battle Wins Per 20.”
It’s a small sample size, but Hertl and Meier are the company that you want to keep when it comes to generating offense.
But there are more question marks than just size with Bordeleau.
An NHL executive who watched all of the World Juniors told SJHN: “He certainly has to learn to play faster. Play with pace every shift.”
Puck management was an issue too, at least in the best league in the world. Bordeleau had a Sharks-worst 3.84 Giveaways Per 60, according to NHL.com. I know, the tracking of such numbers is not reliable, but that’s one of a few barriers between Bordeleau and an everyday NHL role.
Look, Bordeleau’s a terrific young player. There isn’t a team in the league that wouldn’t like to have him in their system.
“I thought Bordeleau showed a lot of what makes him a good player and prospect at the [World Juniors],” Peters noted.
But a little patience never hurt a prospect.
“There’s no sense in rushing him if he’s not ready,” Peters cautioned. “He’s got an NHL brain already, but I think there’s still another level he needs to get to before becoming an everyday NHL’er.”