Key players to watch in 2016 Sharks training camp
Top Sharks to watch in 2016 camp
The short offseason for the Sharks is over as training camp kicks off on Friday. Will any young prospects make the opening night roster? Which veteran player could be on his way out? Do the Sharks have a competent backup goalie? These questions should all be answered in the next three weeks leading up to the season opener on Oct. 12.
The smiling Hertl had a brilliant second half of last season on the top line with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski, but the Sharks would like Hertl to be a center sooner than later. Expect the 22-year-old to start camp in the middle of what could be the third line on opening night, after he spent the first half of last season at center with middling results. Hertl is expected to be completely recovered from the right knee injury he suffered in the Stanley Cup Final.
If Hertl does in fact become a center that would leave a vacancy at the wing position, and the ninth overall pick from 2015 draft could be the guy to fill it. Meier brings size and skill and is coming off of a strong season in juniors. He was close to making the Sharks last year, so he should be in an even stronger position this time around. Don’t be surprised if Meier ends up on that top line with Thornton and Pavelski on opening night. It could be the perfect spot for him.
Sticking with former first round picks, Nikolay Goldobin may also be ready to challenge for an NHL spot. The soon-to-be 21-year-old had just a so-so season with the AHL Barracuda last year, although he was mishandled by the organization when he was recalled early in the year, perhaps hindering his development. Still, Goldobin has all-world skill, and if he can figure out how to play in the defensive end while maintaining a high compete level, he should get a long look.
The Sharks were expected to go after a backup goalie in the offseason, but after Mikkel Boedker made the slightly surprising decision to sign in San Jose, the organization was forced to look internally for a back up to Martin Jones. Aaron Dell is the frontrunner to lock down that job after his strong season with the Barracuda resulted in a two-year contract extension in July. Is the 27-year-old career minor leaguer ready for the show, or will Troy Grosenick regroup and seize the position?
Need a dark horse candidate to make the team? Look no further than former 2014 sixth round pick Kevin Labanc, who actually led all of junior hockey last season with 127 points for Barrie (OHL). Labanc has already caught the eye of Roy Sommer in rookie camp, and the Barracuda coach even compared the 20-year-old Brooklyn native to Joe Pavelski for having a “knack for the net.”
There are plenty of similarities between Sorensen and last year’s darling of training camp, Joonas Donskoi. The 24-year-old is older than most other players looking to break through, had some productive seasons abroad with 32 goals and 66 points in 97 games in Sweden the past two years combined, and is a former NHL draft pick (Ottawa, 2010, fourth round). He could push some Sharks regulars for a spot in the bottom six.
Although the Sharks’ top six on defense appears set, there is a competition for the seventh spot between Mueller and Dylan DeMelo. DeMelo had a nice season last year, but Mueller is still viewed as the guy with the higher upside after he was chosen in the first round in 2013. After the Sharks erred by keeping him in the NHL as a teenager in 2014-15, Mueller struggled to adjust to life in the AHL last season. He’ll be trying to get back on track this year.
Matt Nieto, Tommy Wingels and Melker Karlsson
The prediction here is that at least one of these three players won’t be on the official NHL roster that’s due before opening night. Nieto hasn’t been able to develop the way a former second round pick should; Wingels seemed to fall out of favor with coach Pete DeBoer in the second half of the year and in the playoffs; and Karlsson took a step backwards after he was the club’s best rookie in 2014-15. Each of these three needs to come to camp looking to prove he still belongs in the NHL.