If the Sharks are to avoid a dreaded three-year NHL playoff drought, they'll need strong, bounce-back seasons from their veteran stars.
Erik Karlsson, in particular.
The 13-year NHL veteran is coming off a down year last season, but his confidence remains sky-high.
“I obviously still think that I’m one of the best players in the world," Karlsson said prior to Saturday's season opener. "That’s where I’ve been for a very long time, that’s where I want to go, that’s where I want to stay.
“I’ve claimed that time at the top and I want to stay at the top. For me, that’s always going to be my expectation, and I hope that that’s going to be the case for the rest of my career, not only this year.”
The 31-year-old tallied just 22 points last season, his lowest since the 2012-13 season (14) in which he played just 17 games.
After signing him to an eight-year, $92 million contract in 2019, the Sharks plan on Karlsson sticking around for a while. Entering his fourth season with the team, the two sides are hoping he returns to form.
“He’s a prideful guy," Sharks coach Bob Boughner said. "I think he wants to have a rebound season. He’s prepared for that. He’s got a sense of seriousness to his approach and I think great players figure it out. You can’t teach what he has.
“It’s up to our coaching staff to provide that structure and the details, but a big onus is going to be on him to perform.”
Karlsson tallied his first point of the season Saturday night on an assist in the Sharks' 4-3 win over the Winnipeg Jets.