SAN JOSE -- With the Toronto Maple Leafs in town and the Canadian media on the scene, there were two names that popped up a lot at the Sharks’ Wednesday morning practice: Erik Karlsson and John Tavares.

The two veterans were the biggest names on the market last summer -- both captains on their respective teams who had the opportunity to play for a contender. Fast-forward to November, and the two players are facing off for the first time since sporting new sweaters.

So naturally, Sharks’ bench box Peter DeBoer was peppered with questions about the Leafs’ newest forward and Team Teal’s newest defenseman.

You may recall the Sharks were initially in on the John Tavares sweepstakes before the 28-year-old center chose to take his talents up to Toronto. That didn’t stop DeBoer from praising his success since joining the Leafs.

“John Tavares, for me, is one of the best players in the world,” DeBoer said. “Playing with a lot of confidence.”

It’s easy to see why Tavares is playing so confidently, too. He’s leading the team with 11 goals in 18 games and is ranked second on the squad with 22 points. 

“I just love the honesty to his game,” DeBoer continued. “He plays both ends of the rink. He wins battles. He goes to the dirty areas of the rink. And he makes other people around him better.”

 

Of course, the conversation turned toward the big acquisition the Sharks did make this off-season: two-time Norris Trophy-winner Karlsson. While much of the outside focus has centered on the defenseman not scoring his first goal of the season yet, DeBoer was frank when he said he likes what he’s seeing from the new addition to the roster. He also noted that the number of goals scored isn’t the only number outsiders should be looking at.

“I think his game is trending in the right direction,” he said of No. 65.  “When you look at the underlying numbers of what he’s doing here, they’re as good or better than they were two years ago in Ottawa.

“All those things are there. It just hasn’t (broken) the right way for him yet.”

As far as finding the back of the net, DeBoer acknowledged the pressure on Karlsson can play a role.

“It’s human nature. You want to come in, you want to make an impact," DeBoer said. "For sure, that can weigh on you. But sometimes you have to take a step back and look at what’s actually going on.”

What’s going on now is the Leafs making their one and only season visit to San Jose after defeating the LA Kings 5-1 on Tuesday. The matchup with Toronto won’t be easy, much like the contest the Sharks just played on Tuesday against the conference-leading Nashville Predators.

“We know, like with Nashville, that we have to be on top of our game,” DeBoer summarized. “If you try and cheat, they can put up some goals really quickly on you.”