San Jose Sharks center Dylan Gambrell hasn't played in an NHL game yet this season. But he's certainly getting plenty of work in.
The 22-year-old kicked off his 2018-19 campaign getting on the score sheet for San Jose's minor league affiliate, the Barracuda. But when Sharks' forward Joe Thornton left the Sharks' five-game road trip after one tilt, Gambrell was on a plane to join the big league club on the east coast. In six games so far this season, he has bounced back and forth between the NHL Sharks and their AHL branch three times.
Flip flopping sweaters may seem like a hefty workload. But Gambrell is happily taking on the challenge. And having the opportunity to create chemistry with both dressing rooms has helped make the regular transitions smoother.
"There's such a great group of guys in both locker-rooms," Gambrell said after a lengthy Wednesday practice as the Sharks gear up to host the Buffalo Sabres. "It makes it so much easier when you come back from a trip, or from the other side of the locker-room."
It also doesn't hurt that the Sharks and their AHL club share a facility, which was not the case just a few seasons ago when players had to fly from Worcester, Massachusetts when they were recalled to the big club.
"It nice that both teams are in the same facility," said Gambrell, who the Sharks picked 60th overall in the 2016 Draft. "That makes it so much easier for a guy like me who's been going up and down a bit."
The Bonney Lake, Washington native was one of the last players at Sharks training camp to be reassigned to the 'Cuda the day before the NHL regular season opened. While the Sharks were starting off their roadie in LA against the Kings, Gambrell was leading the Barracuda with two goals and one assist in a 4-1 victory over the Ontario Reign.
He joined the Sharks on the east coast a couple days later. And although he didn't play in those games, the rookie said he took plenty of mental notes on what the rest of the team was doing.
"Just taking little notes," the University of Denver product said of observing games. "Watching (the other players) and how they prepare, how they handle themselves on the road, the little things they're doing to get ready for a game situation."
Clearly that note-taking is paying off, even at the AHL level. No sooner had the Sharks returned from their final road game against the New Jersey Devils Sunday that Gambrell was reassigned back to the Barracuda for a Monday night tilt. He registered a goal in the second period for the AHL squad -- despite not playing since their season-opener over a week earlier.
"It was nice to get a game in, for sure," Gambrell said. "The legs took a little bit to get going, obviously. But after the first period I felt pretty good."
Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer was in attendance to watch the young center in that game. DeBoer told the media after Tuesday's practice Gambrell could see NHL game time soon. Although it isn't clear as of yet where Gambrell would slide into the lineup. While he normally plays center, the Sharks' bench boss slotted him in at wing during the Sharks' preseason. But like with switching back and forth between the AHL and NHL, Gambrell is comfortable playing in either position.
"I've played both wing and center throughout my whole life," Gambrell said, clearly okay with the workload he has taken on. "Wherever I'm slotted in, I'm pretty happy with it."