Seven things to watch at Sharks training camp
Thomas Greiss’ departure as a free agent means the Sharks have an opening to be the backup for Antti Niemi. Long-time minor leaguer Alex Stalock has the inside edge and it’s his job to lose, but the organization is high on Harri Sateri, too. Only one of them will make the opening night roster.
Is Tomas Hertl ready for the NHL?
When the Sharks drafted Tomas Hertl in the first round of 2012, they mentioned how much they liked the fact that Hertl was competing with men much older than him in the Czech League. Presumably, that would make him more NHL-ready. He seems to be penciled in to the opening night lineup, but hasn’t yet faced NHL competition. Can the 19-year-old handle it yet, or will he start the season in Worcester?
How will the lines shake out?
The Sharks found offensive success last season after they shifted Brent Burns up front and made Joe Pavelski the third line center. That’s probably how they will start the season, barring any unforeseen injuries, but how will the other top nine line up? Coaches like to mix and match players all throughout camp, so different players will get looks on different lines.
Burns a full-time forward
Speaking of Burns, the massive defenseman-turned-forward had all summer to train as a winger after he was so impressive on a line with Joe Thornton in the second half of last season. Will he be an even better forward in 2013-14, after racking up 20 points in 23 regular season games after the switch in March?
Who is the odd man out on D?
The Sharks opted to bring veteran defenseman Scott Hannan back on a one-year deal after Hannan’s steady postseason performance, paired primarily with Brad Stuart. Jason Demers appears to be the odd man out at the moment, but the injured-plagued blueliner was playing his best hockey in awhile before suffering a high ankle sprain near the end of the season. Who will be the six to dress on opening night?
Marty Havlat had substantial pelvic surgery in the offseason, and Doug Wilson has already said he’s likely to start the season on long term injured reserve. But, Havlat has already been skating at Sharks Ice. What’s his status? And perhaps more importantly, does the Sharks’ coaching staff even want the injury-prone and generally ineffective winger back on the team?
Will a surprise player make the team?
Among rookies, Hertl is the odds on favorite to make the club out of camp, but what if a sleeper candidate emerges? Matt Nieto, a second round pick in 2011, looks like a player that can produce offense from the wing after a strong juior season at Boston University. Defenseman Matt Tennyson, who had a cup of coffee with the Sharks last season, could be close to cracking the lineup. Or, is there another?