Sharks

How these Sharks prospects can help fill goal-scoring void this season

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How these Sharks prospects can help fill goal-scoring void this season

Editor's note: The Sharks open training camp later this week, looking to replace nearly 60 regular-season goals from departed forwards Joe Pavelski, Joonas Donskoi and Gustav Nyquist. Before camp officially begins, NBC Sports California is examining the players who will help San Jose fill that goal-scoring void. We continue with a group of forwards who can crack the roster. 

The Sharks' brass made it clear this offseason that there will be roster spots up for grabs when training camp begins Friday. 

San Jose, after all, lost three wingers who played in top-nine roles during the club's run to the Western Conference final. Experienced young players like Timo Meier and Kevin Labanc will be asked to play bigger roles, but another wave of forwards behind them will have to make the jump from the minors -- and, in some cases, juniors -- to full-time NHL roles.

Here are five Sharks prospects who, if they make the team, could go a long way towards offsetting the offensive production San Jose lost this summer. 

Joachim Blichfeld 

As an overage player in the WHL last season, Blichfeld tore it up with the Portland Winterhawks. He scored more goals (53), one fewer assist (61) and as many points (114) as he had in his first two seasons in Portland ... combined. 

Blichfeld, in all likelihood, will need some seasoning before he gets a crack at the NHL. The 6-foot-2 Danish winger only played in two playoff games with the AHL's San Jose Barracuda two seasons ago, and the jump from major junior star to AHL regular is big enough on its own. Still, the 21-year-old's shot should translate to the pros, and Blichfeld's combination of size and skill bodes well for his development down the line. If he quickly acclimates, it might be enough to earn an NHL role. 

Ivan Chekhovich

Chekhovich looks like a hockey player after taking a puck to the face in a rookie tournament game over the weekend, and he has the skill set to hang around. 

The 21-year-old impressed in back-to-back end-of-season stints with the Barracuda over the last two seasons, and Chekhovich appears ready for the jump to the professional ranks after scoring 105 points (43 goals, 62 assists) with the QMJHL's Baie-Comeau Drakkar last year. His size -- the Sharks listed Chekhovich as 5-foot-10, 180 lbs. in their May prospect report -- could cause some growing pains in adjusting from junior, but Chekhovich has dynamic offensive potential. 

Sasha Chmelevski

Could a roster spot vacated by a right-shooting American center who converted to a winger be filled by another one? That's not to say 20-year-old Sasha Chmelevski is the next Pavelski, but the Huntington Beach native is known for his hockey IQ and competitiveness. 

Chmelevski lined up on the wing in a recent Anaheim Ducks-hosted rookie tournament in Irvine, and positional versatility always helps when one tries to earn a spot in coach Peter DeBoer's lineup. So, too, will Chmelevski's ability to fire pucks on net -- he had just four games in the last two seasons without a shot on goal -- as well as the aforementioned intangibles. If that combination means he's NHL-ready, Chmelevski can help the Sharks bridge their goal-scoring gap from last year. 

Dylan Gambrell

Gambrell, much like Chmelevski, is intriguing because of his versatility. He has played on the wing and centered his own line in his brief NHL career, and the 23-year-old arguably was the Sharks' best player in an injury-necessitated appearance in Game 6 of the Western Conference final.

Now entering his third year as a professional, the Sharks need Gambrell to establish himself as an NHL regular this season. Whether that's as a center or winger, Gambrell's collegiate and minor league production are encouraging for his chances. Regularly using the strong shot he displayed on his Game 6 goal will help him stick around at either position. 

[RELATED: Sharks goalie Jones unveils cyborg-inspired mask for next season]

Antti Suomela

Suomela is something of a wild card. The center made the Sharks out of training camp last year, scoring eight points (three goals, five assists) in 27 NHL games. But the Finnish forward was sent down in December, and scored just 20 points in 47 AHL games.

With a full season on North American rinks under his belt, can Suomela's offensive game fully translate? He led Finland's top league in scoring two seasons ago, and flashed solid offensive instincts playing with Donskoi and Evander Kane early last season. It will be interesting to see if Suomela gets a look on the wing in training camp, but him winning the fourth-line center spot would give the Sharks another skilled pivot behind Logan Couture, Tomas Hertl and Joe Thornton.

Players who will help Sharks fill goal-scoring void in 2019-20

Timo Meier
Kevin Labanc

How Sharks can fill void on defense until Radim Simek re-joins team

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USATSI

How Sharks can fill void on defense until Radim Simek re-joins team

It's a darn good thing the Sharks have a bevy of talent coming up the pipeline -- especially on defense.

With news coming out of training camp Friday that Radim Simek is questionable to be ready for game-action when the season opens on Oct. 2, the focus shifts not just to when he might finally rejoin the team, but to who will most likely fill in that void on San Jose's blue line.

With four preseason games remaining, San Jose has a couple of options when it comes to filling in that roster spot.

Being that Simek is a left-handed shooter, the best bets to pencil into the roster from San Jose's group of young talent are Jacob Middleton and Mario Ferraro. Middleton has a strong chance of being the go-to guy, having been recalled from the Barracuda on a few occasions last season to fill in when the injury bug bit the Sharks' blue line especially hard.

Fans might remember Middleton's surprise NHL debut back in January when he went from prepping for a road trip with the Barracuda one night to practicing alongside Brent Burns the following morning. At that time, left-handed defensemen Simek and Marc-Edouard Vlasic were both out of the lineup.

Even with Middleton's prior experience at the NHL level, Ferraro will likely still be a consideration to make the opening night roster. The 21-year-old has been impressing the organization since he participated in rookie development camp back in July and has continued that trend through training camp. Ferraro also has recently been paired up in camp with Dalton Prout -- who the Sharks will likely keep in mind to fill in should one of their right-handed defensemen be sidelined.

Having a few different players who can file into the lineup also gives DeBoer more options as far as mixing and matching his d-pairs. Middleton filled right into Simek's spot alongside Burns last year, and should the pairing of Brenden Dillon and Erik Karlsson stay intact, the Middleton-Burns pairing could be reunited with Vlasic being paired up with Tim Heed. If both Ferraro and Prout demonstrate they're a reliable pair to start, the duo might get the nod which would keep Vlasic and Burns skating together as they have been through the start of the preseason.

Of course, those are just guesses as to how DeBoer's lineup will shake up until Simek comes back healthy.

Naturally, the best-case scenario is that Simek gets into the lineup sooner rather than later. San Jose did go 29-9-3 with a healthy Simek in the lineup last season, after all. Plus, Simek's ticket into a regular roster spot was his uncanny chemistry with Burns.

[RELATED: Why Sharks expect Meier to take step forward]

That being said, the Sharks don't want to rush the Czech defenseman back into the lineup too quickly. Sure, Simek has been training for some time now, following surgery to repair the ACL and MCL in his right knee. Teammate Tomas Hertl told the press on the first day of camp that he talked to Simek over the summer and that the blueliner has been "working his ass off" to get back into playing shape. Nevertheless, the Sharks don't want to bring Simek back to quickly and risk him re-injuring himself.

At least the Sharks have good options for filling out their blue line until he returns.

Sharks' Erik Karlsson ranked No. 24 player in league by NHL Network

Sharks' Erik Karlsson ranked No. 24 player in league by NHL Network

Erik Karlsson is arguably the best player on the Sharks. According to NHL Network, San Jose's defenseman is the 24th-best player in the league.

In counting down the best players in the current NHL, the league's network placed Karlsson in between 25th-ranked David Pastrnak of the Boston Bruins, and 23rd-rank Mark Giordano, the Flames' reigning Norris Trophy winner.

"We know that he can put the puck just about anywhere, he can skate himself out of trouble, he can pass himself out of trouble, he can do just about anything," NHL Network's Brian Lawton said of Karlsson. "For a defenseman in today's game that played on one leg basically last year … he did have 16 points in 19 playoff games and it wasn't quite enough, but it was pretty darn heroic if you ask me."

Karlsson totaled 45 points in 53 regular-season games with the Sharks after arriving in San Jose at the start of training camp last year. The Sharks had their best stretch of the season once he found his groove in early December, and if not for a troublesome groin injury, there's no telling how far San Jose could have gone.

The two-time Norris Trophy winner still managed to appear in the All-Star Game, and signed a lucrative eight-year extension with San Jose at the start of free agency. He tallied at least 62 points in each of the previous five seasons, and his 563 points since making his NHL debut are the most among all NHL defenseman, ahead of fellow Sharks defenseman Brent Burns (532).

[RELATED: Listen to Jumbo Joe mic'd up at a recent Sharks practice]

Karlsson will be an alternate captain in his second season with the franchise, and one would naturally expect him to benefit from having played a year in the system. He ranked sixth among NHL defensemen in points per game (0.85) last year, and with the departures San Jose suffered in free agency, it wouldn't be surprising to see that rate increase in the season ahead, particularly considering Karlsson says he feels "back to normal" after offseason surgery to address the injury that hampered him a year ago.

Assuming Karlsson stays healthy this coming season, you can expect him to be ranked even higher a year from now.