Sharks

Sharks

SAN JOSE -- Erik Karlsson wasn't the first player on the ice at Sharks training camp Wednesday morning. That’s understandable, since the Swedish defenseman arrived in the Bay Area around 10 p.m. Tuesday, and practiced with his new club for the first time around 12 hours later. 

How did Karlsson’s new teammates welcome him to the locker room?

“I said hi to him,” Sharks defenseman Brent Burns cracked to reporters Wednesday. “There were no balloons, or cakes or anything. I think we know kind of how hard it is for a guy like that, or for anybody.

“You try to make him feel welcome but also give him a break, too, because I think it’s going to be crazy for him.”

It wasn’t always clear when Karlsson would join his new team. The Sharks acquired the 28-year-old in a massive trade with the Ottawa Senators last Thursday, but he still had immigration issues to sort through after moving from a Canadian franchise to an American one. 

Sharks coach Peter DeBoer didn’t expect Karlsson to join the team until the end of the week, and captain Joe Pavelski said the team received word that the defenseman could have joined the team Wednesday, or possibly even later. 

But those concerns went away when the two-time Norris Trophy winner finally stepped on to the ice. 

“I think we’ll keep him,” DeBoer said. “He’s a world-class player. When you add players with skill and speed like that to our group, it energizes them, too. Good players want to play with good players. I thought the energy level of the whole group was up today because of his presence, and he came as advertised.”

 

Karlsson constantly chatted with his new teammates. Whether stretching, between drills or in the locker room, it was rare to see him alone. Fellow defenseman Justin Braun explained an early transition drill, and assistant coach Rob Zettler skated over to speak with Karlsson during, and after, another one. 

The Sharks who didn't skate in Tuesday night’s preseason game practiced with Karlsson on Wednesday morning, while those who did skated later on. Marc-Edouard Vlasic did not play in that game, and he skated alongside his new teammate for the majority of the session -- although DeBoer was quick to say afterward that it’s too early to know whether they will end up playing with one another. 

DeBoer gave the fans in attendance a glimpse at another possibility: Burns and Karlsson playing alongside one another in three-on-three overtime. The duo skated with Pavelski during a full-rink scrimmage at the end of practice, and Burns buried Karlsson’s backdoor pass to conclude the session. 

Pavelski said having Karlsson join the Sharks toward the beginning of camp allows the team to enter the season on the same page. 

“It’s great for us,” Pavelski said. “Our group is set, and we get to spend some time in these [preseason] games, then he’s not trying to play catch-up by any means. It’s always nice to get as many pieces as you can together and get an earlier start just so you’re comfortable. 

“When you get here early enough, it’s nice to be able to hit those stages all at once, blend it together and get up to speed.”

It’s not likely that Karlsson will play in Thursday’s preseason game in Anaheim. DeBoer said the Sharks' coaching staff is still focused on evaluating some of the young players in camp, and they’ll map out the remaining four games afterward. 

Karlsson still has details to learn as he gets up to speed and acclimated to his new team. That includes his apparel on the ice, and off of it: Burns noted than in addition to getting used to his new gear, Karlsson came to the rink wearing long pants on a day with temperatures sitting in the 70s.

“That’s probably going to be the last day,” Burns quipped.

Other than that, the Sharks don’t feel like they need to give their newest defenseman too much instruction.

“I think with the type of player he is, he’s just going to find his own way [even] if you told him nothing,” Pavelski said. “He’ll just play hockey, and we’ll give some structure. … With the skill set he has, I believe he’ll adjust pretty quickly.”