Editor's note: Over the next month, CSNCalifornia.com Sharks Insider Kevin Kurz and Postgame Live reporter Brodie Brazil will evaluate the 2011-12 performance of each player on the roster. One breakdown will occur every weekday in numerical order.
Sharks spotlight -- the series
Sharks spotlight: Justin BraunAge: 25 DIn his second NHL season, defenseman Justin Braun had twogoals and nine assists for 11 points and 23 penalty minutes in 66 games. He wasscoreless with 15 penalty minutes in five playoff games.Kurz says: If in 20 years Braun looks back on whatwas a long and prosperous career, hell remember the 2011-12 season as the onein which he established himself as an everyday NHL player. Braun started theseason in Worcester, but was recalled on Oct. 22 thanks mostly to Jason Demersearly struggles. He was in and out of the lineup for about a month and a half,returned to Worcester at the end of November, but was back after just two gameswhen Douglas Murray got hurt for the first time.Braun cemented his place in the lineup late in the seasonwhen he was put on the second power play unit, and he played in all but twogames after the All-Star break. After beginning the year ninth on the depthchart, Braun was a more effective and valuable player than Murray, JasonDemers, Colin White and the rarely used Jim Vandermeer by the time the seasonwas through.SLIDESHOW: Grading the Sharks
Brodie says: It waskind of cool that Braun regularly wore a Worcester Sharks t-shirt underhis shoulder pads this season. But itwas quite clear after success midway through the NHL campaign, that he was notheaded back to Massachusetts anytime soon.Its a regular question asked: who is the best skater on theteam? And although Patrick Marleau andTorrey Mitchell might have the speed contest won, Justin Braun displays someimpressive skills. Long levers enableJustin to accelerate with power. As wellin the offensive zone, he changes angles up high; moving the puck laterallyalong the blueline with grace and quickness thanks to some impressivetechnique. Yes, a lot of d-men do this,but not many with the fancy footwork of Braun.
It should also be pointed out that Braun has (at least) abetter-than-average shot from the point.Similar to skating, his physical build offers a lot of torque when hewinds up for a slap shot, but also can put some good velocityaccuracy on awrister as well.Justin and Tommy Wingels could be thrown in the samebig-picture evaluation. Both hadestablishing seasons with the Sharks, where they were called in and made themost of opportunities given earning regular spots in the lineup. For Braun, it was even a tougher job tocrack, given the lesser starting spots for a defenseman. 2012-13 expectationsKurz says: While he shouldnt be considered untouchable likeLogan Couture and Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who look to be future cornerstones ofthe franchise, Justin Braun is among San Joses most valuable young players. Heis defensively responsible, has good size, can contribute on the power play,and has shown strong leadership qualities despite a young age. Thats why, whenthe Sharks were eliminated in the postseason, Braun was asked to play for Team USAin the World Championships the first time hes ever represented his countryin international play.
Brauns spot on the 2012-13 roster is a virtual certainty,and theres no reason to think he wont continue his progress.RELATED: Justin Brauns stats splits game logs
Brodie says: My biggest question for guys like Braun andTommy Wingels will they be the first Shark players in a while to trade intheir rookie jersey numbers for lower ones?In all seriousness, we know he will get the opportunity, butits going to be important for Justin to maintain this year not only hisprogress as a young player but also his development. The good news is that he set the bar high,but not impossibly out of reach, so that achieving expectations is somethingattainable. He has all the right ingredients: youth, strength, size,speed, and so far what appears to be a noticeably high hockey IQ at the NHLlevel. Essentially, there seems to be amassive amount of potential for the American defenseman, but maybe the best approachis to focus on the shorter-term. Andthat would be to continue producing on the second power play unit, and tryingto crack a consistent spot as a top-4 D.
Up next: Andrew Desjardins