By Nick Nollenberger (@NickNollen)
Two years ago, the San Jose Sharks thought about drafting 6-foot-5 center-man Alexander True. The Sharks opted not select True, but did invite him to their development camp this past summer. A few days after camp, San Jose’s American League affiliate the San Jose Barracuda signed the Danish forward to a two-year American Hockey League deal.
With a year of junior eligibility still available, True impressed enough during training camp to earn a roster spot with the Barracuda this fall.
When asked about the differences between the WHL and the AHL, True said, “it’s been a transition becoming a pro, but I’m enjoying the style of play. The games are a bit faster than junior and the bodies are a bit heavier.”
True has hockey in his blood. His father, Soren, was selected by the New York Rangers in the 12th round of the 1986 NHL Draft, although he never appeared in the NHL, and his cousin, Nikolaj Ehlers, was the ninth overall pick in the 2014 NHL Draft by Winnipeg and is now a top-six forward for the Jets. His brother, Oliver, is a 17-year-old on the OHL’s Ottawa 67’s and has a chance to be drafted next year.
With a professional hockey player as a father, True’s life has revolved around the game, learning to skate almost as soon as he was able to walk.
“My dad put me on skates when I was two… I was born into the sport,” said Alex. “Since I was a little kid I’ve wanted to be a hockey player, and I wasn’t going to give up on my dreams easily.”
The past three seasons, the Copenhagen native has represented Denmark in the World Junior Championships including playing alongside his cousin, Ehlers, in 2015. His decorated international career and three years in the Western Hockey League with the Seattle Thunderbirds that culminated in a 2017 WHL Championship makes True uniquely seasoned for a 20-year-old.
In a month and a half as a pro, it is clear, True is being given every chance to succeed and he’s earned it. The rookie has centered the Barracuda’s second line and has seen time on the top power play unit and second penalty-killing group, averaging .5 points per-game through 12 games played. He’s also been one of San Jose’s best face-off men.
“We’re really intrigued by Alex, and he plays center which is a position we need in this organization,” said Barracuda General Manager Joe Will, “At his age… the size, the strength, the smarts, and the skill is a great package.”
Just a season ago, Barracuda defenseman Jacob Middleton turned a tryout into an AHL deal, and then into a three-year two-way entry-level deal this summer with the Sharks. True has a chance to follow Middleton’s footsteps if he continues to develop his game.
True’s size is undeniable (6-foot-5, 200 pounds), and his ability to skate with his frame has made him an intriguing prospect, but it’s been his work ethic that has been impressive so far.
“He’s always in good spots in our end and it helps that he’s been able to add some offense,” said Sharks/Barracuda Development Coach Mike Ricci. “He’s adapted to pro style hockey. He’s a good kid that listens and really tries to apply what he’s being taught.”
Ricci went onto say, “Look, there is room for smaller players in this game nowadays, but there is no substitute for a guy at his size that can skate as well as he does… if he just keeps working like I think he will, he’s going to just keep getting better and better.”