Sharks

Sharks re-sign forwards Karlsson, Donskoi

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ap

Sharks re-sign forwards Karlsson, Donskoi

The Sharks re-signed forwards Melker Karlsson and Joonas Donskoi, the team announced on Friday.

Karlsson's deal is for three years and Donskoi's contract is for two years.

"Melker plays an up-tempo, high-energy game and brings flexibility to our lineup wherever he plays," GM Doug Wilson said in a statement. "His tenacious style of play fits our team perfectly, and we feel confident using him in many different situations. He kills penalties, can play with high-end players and brings an honest effort night in and night out. We're excited he has made this commitment to the organization."

Karlsson, 26, recorded 22 points (11 goals, 11 assists), 73 shots on goal and set career highs in both plus/minus (+7) and penalty minutes (22) in a career-best 67 games played with the Sharks in 2016-17. He finished ranked T-5th on the team in goals, T-6th in plus/minus, T-1st in shorthanded goals (2) and 3rd amongst Sharks forwards in blocked shots (59). He skated the third-most shorthanded minutes per game amongst all Sharks forwards (1:34).

The forward has collected 65 points (34 goals, 31 assists) and a plus-9 rating in 185 career NHL games with San Jose. He was named the "Sharks Rookie of the Year" in 2014-15, after finishing ranked 7th amongst all NHL rookies in goals and T-15th in points. Karlsson tied a franchise-best goal scoring streak for rookies, tallying a goal in five consecutive contests. He has also added nine points (six goals, three assists) in 30 career NHL playoff games.

"Joonas plays a solid two-way game, combining his skill and creativity with an aggressive, hard-working effort in all three zones," Wilson said. "He plays the game the way we want to play as a team, and we feel he has only scratched the surface of his abilities. He battled through multiple injuries last season and we look forward to having him healthy at training camp this season."

Donskoi, 25, recorded 17 points (six goals, 11 assists), and 10 penalty minutes in 61 games with San Jose in 2016-17, his second season in the NHL. The forward ranked 4th on San Jose in power-play points (4) and his plus-83 shot attempt differential ranked 8th on the Sharks.

In 137 career NHL games, Donskoi has tallied 53 points (17 goals, 36 assists) and 202 shots on goal. He was named the "Sharks Rookie of the Year" in 2015-16, and posted 12 points (six goals, six assists) in 24 playoff games that season with San Jose. Donskoi became just the sixth rookie in NHL history to score an overtime, game-winning goal in the Stanley Cup Final when he scored in Game 3 vs. Pittsburgh. That goal also marked the first game-winning goal in Sharks franchise history in the Stanley Cup Final.

San Jose Sharks media services contributed to this story

 

As Joakim Ryan returns home, Sharks reunite with a former top prospect

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AP

As Joakim Ryan returns home, Sharks reunite with a former top prospect

When Joakim Ryan suits up in his first NHL road game against the New Jersey Devils Friday night, he’ll do so in a familiar place.

Ryan, a New Jersey-born Swede, played for the Devils’ youth program and nearby Christian Brothers Academy (CBA) in high school. In fact, he’s already played at the Prudential Center, skating in the state championship game with CBA in 2009.

He’s not the only one due for something of a homecoming, as the Sharks may see a familiar face line up on the opposing blueline.

This is the Sharks’ first matchup against New Jersey since trading 2013 first round pick Mirco Mueller ahead of June’s Expansion Draft. Mueller was once considered the future on the San Jose blueline, a smooth-skating defenseman with size to boot.

The Swiss defender never fulfilled his potential, in part because his development was rushed from the start. He made the NHL roster as a rookie in 2014-15, almost by default. Other than Marc-Edouard Vlasic, the only defensemen ahead of him on left side of the depth chart were a far past-his-prime Scott Hannan and regular scratch Matt Irwin. Such was the nature of the Sharks’ “step back” that year.

Mueller finally got regular playing time, albeit in the minors, during his second professional season. By then, he was pushed down the organizational depth chart by the team’s acquisitions of Brenden Dillon and Roman Polak, and the development of Dylan DeMelo. David Schlemko’s signing last summer kept Mueller there for most of 2016-17, but it was Ryan and Tim Heed that ensured Mueller’s NHL future would lie elsewhere. The Swedes surpassed him, and emerged as perhaps the AHL’s best defensive pair in the process.

It’s fitting, then, that Ryan and Heed will be in the lineup tonight, and Mueller may not, as the fresh start he needed hasn’t quite panned out. He’s averaging a career-high 18:44 in ice time, but has been scratched in three of New Jersey’s seven games, including Thursday night’s overtime win in Ottawa.

So Ryan comes home to New Jersey under much happier circumstances than Mueller will reunite with the Sharks. One prodigal son returns, and the other is simply trying to save face.

It’s still early in his Devils tenure, of course, and Mueller may yet emerge as a regular on the New Jersey blueline. His Sharks reunion, though, will serve as a reminder of what once was, what could have been, and what is now San Jose’s future on defense.

Sharks headed in right direction, road trip to reveal who they really are

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USATSI

Sharks headed in right direction, road trip to reveal who they really are

The difference between a 2-3-0 start and a 1-4-0 start is bigger than two standings points.

The former is far from ideal, but if you squint hard enough, there's enough wiggle room to improve. There's still time with the latter, too, but the margin for error is much thinner moving forward.

The Sharks experienced that difference firsthand after Tuesday’s 5-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens. It's not an ideal record, but they’ve managed to salvage a poor start. 

There are still some flaws, to be sure. The power play isn't just the Kevin Labanc show after the top unit scored all three power play goals Tuesday, but is still carrying a disproportionate offensive load. The penalty kill’s scoreless streak came to an end, but they were called into action six times.

Despite all that, Tuesday's win was San Jose’s best effort this season. Brent Burns, Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski, and Joe Thornton all had multi-point games for the first time this year. Martin Jones had another strong game, and appears to have shaken off his slow start.

In short, San Jose’s game is headed in the right direction. It needs to be, with a five-game road trip beginning on Friday. 

Now comes the hard part.

It's on the road where we’ll get our best sense of who this team really is. Peter DeBoer won’t have the benefit of last change, and won't be able to dictate matchups. 

Under these circumstances, we’ll begin to really see if Joakim Ryan is ready for a top-four role, whether Kevin Labanc is a viable first-line winger, and how the rest of the young reinforcements stack up. They will have less time off, too, as all but one game occurs after one day (or less) of rest and travel. That missed practice time isn't ideal for any team, let alone one still trying to work out the kinks.

Fortunately, the competition is forgiving, at least on paper. Other than the Devils, none of the Sharks’ four other road trip opponents have winning records as of this writing. The topsy turvy nature of the standings, though, show how little “on paper” means this early in the season.

We’ll know a lot more about who these San Jose Sharks are by the time their road trip ends. Their record still won't tell the whole story, but by then, they'll have played about an eighth of the season. 

And by then, we’ll have a much better idea of how good this team really is.