Sharks

How Erik Karlsson felt after preseason debut in Sharks' win vs. Flames

erikkarlssonsharksflamespreseasonusatsi.jpg
USATSI

How Erik Karlsson felt after preseason debut in Sharks' win vs. Flames

SAN JOSE -- It's difficult to pinpoint the last time Erik Karlsson looked 100-percent healthy while playing in a Sharks sweater. Sure, he had a couple of good games in the playoffs. But really, the San Jose blueliner was at his best at the halfway point of the 2018-19 season.

More of those good days could be on the horizon, though, if Karlsson's return to the ice in Thursday's preseason game against the Calgary Flames was any indication.

It was only his first game back, but Karlsson looks like he's ready to rebound from an injury-hampered first season in San Jose and start off the 2019-20 season on a high note.

"The first game is always about trying to feel it out a bit," Karlsson told the media after the Sharks' 4-1 victory over the Flames. "But it felt good out there. It was the first game of the year."

It's understandable that Karlsson or anyone else on the team doesn't want to jump to any conclusions regarding his health. Nevertheless, it was nice to see how much he was able to contribute in Thursday's game.

"For him, a guy that sees the ice as well as he does and makes plays like he does, I think he was getting better and better as the game went on," teammate Brenden Dillon said. 

New Sharks captain Logan Couture agreed with that assessment.

"When he wants to go, he can go," Couture said. "And that's a positive. You just hoped he recovered fully from that surgery and it looks like he has."

There were, of course, some questions before the preseason opened up as to how Karlsson would play in his return to the ice after he had surgery early in the offseason. Then Karlsson showed up to work on on the first day of training camp and was a full participant. Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer even admitted on the first day of camp that he was surprised to see the two-time Norris Trophy winner participating so heavily. 

"I think if you'd asked me a month ago if he'd look like he did right now and he was participating full-out, I'd probably be a little reluctant to say yes," DeBoer said when camp opened up on September 13. "But that wasn't even a question. I thought he looked great out there."

Karlsson put the speculation further to rest on Thursday when he took the ice for his first preseason contest. He was one of the team leaders in ice time and looked especially speedy on the power play. Granted, Calgary didn't put their usual regular-season lineup on the ice. Regardless, Thursday's game proved to be a good jumping-off point for Karlsson and the rest of the Sharks.

"He looked good. His composure, some of his passes were great," DeBoer observed. "It was an exhibition game. It was nice to win, it's been a while since we've won a game. There was some good stuff."

The strong return to game action sets the stage nicely for Karlsson to contribute on a more regular basis this upcoming season -- and in a season that will be unlike the last. Roster changes have made the Sharks a different team than they were last season, and Karlsson and his teammates know they will have new challenges to face and overcome if they're going to remain one of the biggest threats in the Western Conference.

[RELATED: Why Sharks need Jones to outperform rating]

"It feels like a new year," Karlsson said. "You're going to have to adapt and figure things out as early as possible -- what you need to do this season to be successful within the team. We all know this year is going to be extremely different from last year. That's how it is."

At least, for starters, Karlsson's first game back went well.

Sharks suddenly in better position with draft picks, college signings

Sharks suddenly in better position with draft picks, college signings

Given the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, we could all use a bit of a pick-me-up right now. It's understandably difficult, but focusing on what bright spots there are will help us get through this unprecedented time.

Taking the glass-half-full approach shouldn't be new to Sharks fans. They had a few months head start before the team's disappointing season was indefinitely paused.

Yes, it was clear early on that it was going to be a tough season in San Jose. The Sharks dropped their first four games of the season, and turned to former captain Patrick Marleau to get back on track. After a strong November, San Jose undid it all with a putrid December, and at that point, it became easy to focus on all of the things the franchise didn't have. The most notable absence was that of hope.

One by one, the Sharks' best players went down with severe season-ending injuries. One of them -- Erik Karlsson -- was like a double punch to the gut. Not only would San Jose not have the benefit of having the former Norris Trophy winner in the lineup, but the cost it took to acquire him -- including the Sharks' unprotected 2020 first-round draft pick -- looked disproportionally painful. Every team in the league would have made that trade for Karlsson -- and signed him to the same eight-year contract extension -- but nearly everything that occurred from that point on was a string of bad luck for San Jose.

There was an upside to losing all of those top players, though. Whatever lingering hopes of a playoff run existed soon went out the window. The Sharks and general manager Doug Wilson could turn their attention to the future, and that's exactly what they did.

In sending Brenden Dillon to the Washington Capitals, Marleau to the Pittsburgh Penguins and Barclay Goodrow to the Tampa Bay Lightning at the trade deadline, Wilson overhauled the Sharks' cupboard of draft picks in both quality and quantity. He acquired four picks -- including a 2020 first-rounder -- that will fall within the first three rounds, and San Jose now has seven selections in each of the next three drafts.

Those will come in very handy as the Sharks try to get back into contention -- and stay there. Sustained success is built through young, controllable assets, and the draft is the best way to acquire them.

That said, there are always some prospects that fall between the cracks. Brinson Pasichnuk was one such prospect who was never drafted, yet became one of the best players throughout all of NCAA Division I hockey. The Arizona State standout agreed to join the Sharks organization, Wilson announced Tuesday, adding to San Jose's collection of promising young defensemen, including Mario Ferraro and Ryan Merkley.

[RELATED: Sharks' Ferraro moved in with parents during NHL pause]

Shortly after Pasichnuck agreed to join the Sharks, Hobey Baker Award finalist John Leonard did the same. Leonard, San Jose's sixth-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, tallied 105 points over 106 career games at UMass Amherst. He had the option of returning to school for his senior season, but had little left to prove at the collegiate level. While he isn't a new prospect to the Sharks' system, it's nonetheless a positive development for San Jose.

Two months ago, the Sharks' future appeared as bleak as it had in nearly two decades. Since then, however, they've taken several steps in the right direction, and there is considerably more reason for hope.

We can all use a little of that right now.

Sharks' Mario Ferraro moved in with parents for NHL coronavirus pause

Sharks' Mario Ferraro moved in with parents for NHL coronavirus pause

Sharks defenseman Mario Ferraro normally would be spending recent nights in five-star hotels around the NHL. But he's back at home these days because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
 
As in, living with his parents in Toronto.
 
“Different vibes now, I don’t run the household anymore,” Ferraro joked Monday in a 1-on-1 interview with NBC Sports California. “I told them already, 'If I’m in my room filming a YouTube video, limit the noise, and don’t come knocking on the door.' ”
 
Ferraro is becoming more well known for the side hustle of producing his YouTube channel, "Youngest of Plugs."
 
One of his latest uploads turned out to be among his most popular: A specific workout for staying at home, like so many of his fans are right now while social distancing.
 
“I like making videos, and I like working out,” Ferraro said. “So kind of just put the two and two together. I guess because of what’s going on now in the world, a lot of people are at home and need that entertainment.”
 
As for his day job, it was quite the bizarre rookie season in San Jose. Ferraro's first pro season included personal success, team struggles, a coaching change and, now, the unthinkable: A suspended NHL season, due to a pandemic.
 
“I don’t even know if bizarre would cut it,” Ferraro said. “Things that are happening right now are much more important than hockey, or sports in general. But when you do circle back since the beginning of the season and what’s happened, it was tough ups and downs.”

[RELATED: Promising D-man prospect Pasichnuk agrees to join Sharks]
 
Ferraro ended up playing in 61 of the Sharks' 70 games, and he was one of the few consistent bright spots of their season. There’s high optimism he’ll end up as a top-four defenseman in the near future.
 
But as for now, he’s like all of us. At home, and a bit scared of what the coronavirus pandemic is about to become around the globe.
 
“It’s hard to deny that,” Ferarro said. “It’s a scary time. When you think about how it affects not just you, or your family, it affects the whole world. Everybody is going through this.”