27-Year-Old Left Wing – Free Agent
James Sheppard Contract Information:
Became an unrestricted free agent in July 2015.
Sheppard scored his first goal of the playoffs in Tuesday's Game 6 against the Lightning, tallying the eventual game-winning tally in the third period.
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James Sheppard: Past News Updates ( ▲ View most recent update )
RotoWire's Preseason Outlooks
Sheppard's development stalled after a freak ATV accident ripped apart his knee and shattered his knee cap in the summer of 2010. He was traded to the Sharks in the summer of 2011, but didn't see game action until this past season when he played in 32 games during the regular season and all 11 of San Jose's playoff games. Unfortunately, he only tallied four points in those 32 games and zero in the playoffs. Nonetheless, Sharks general manager Doug Wilson was impressed with Sheppard's progress and is willing to give him the time to get his game back. He's going to get playing time, but he's just not fantasy relevant in 2013-14.
Minnesota dealt Sheppard to the Sharks early in August, but he arrives in the Bay Area as damaged goods. The depth center missed all of last season with a broken kneecap originally sustained in an ATV accident, and it's an injury that leaves his availability for 2011-12 in question. Luckily for Team Teal, there is adequate depth at the forward position and the team can afford to be patient with Sheppard, a former first-round pick, as he recovers from a second operation on his knee. Given that he has only 49 points (11 G, 38 A) in 224 career games - all with the Wild - Sheppard is not likely to turn heads, even once his health is restored.
This 22-year-old center is entering his fourth season in Minnesota. A scorer in the minor leagues, Sheppard hasn't been as fortunate in his NHL career. His best professional season came in 2008-09, when he scored a career high five goals and 24 points. Remember though, Sheppard is only 22-years-old and still has some time to develop into the type of player he was drafted to be. However, for your fantasy teams, he's probably one to avoid this season.
Sheppard only scored 24 points last season and posted a minus-14. However, considering the one time ninth-overall pick in the NHL Draft will only be 21 this season, clearly he still has a ways to go until he reaches his ceiling. Sheppard is very talented, and he will have more room to work in the new, more open offense. While there is no guarantee that Sheppard makes a leap in production this season, he's a guy who could be worth a gamble.
Sheppard will be centering the Wild's third line this season. He'll also reap the benefits of the departure of Pavol Demitra by way of more ice time. By promoting from within to fill the void left by Demitra, the Wild illustrated their faith in Sheppard's ability. He was a scoring machine in the AHL (180 points in just 122 games), and with increased opportunity on the third line, he could improve the 19 points he scored last season by a wide margin. The 20-year old will likely go through some growing pains, but his upside is very high.
There is an awful lot to like about Sheppard's game. He is a good finisher, he passes well, he pays attention to detail in his own end, and he works hard. In just 56 games last season with Cape Breton of the QMJHL, Sheppard tallied 96 points. He has good size at 6-1 and 205 pounds and has received praise for being a leader on the Screaming Eagles. He should get a shot to make the Wild this season.
Sheppard may be ready for the NHL right now if not for his skating. He needs serious improvement in that area, and figures to get it with at least two more seasons in the Quebec League. If his skating comes along this season, he has an outside shot at playing in the NHL in 2007-08.
Sheppard is one of those guys who is either loved or hated by scouts. Some believe he's a top-notch power forward in the making while others see him as a leader from the third line. His foot speed will be the thing that makes or breaks his future, but as long as he can overcome his current size 15 treads, he could really shine. He's a risk/reward pick with good hands and size, but one who will be a long way off from a fantasy perspective.