Sharks

Rookie who almost signed with Sharks getting bigger opportunity with Avs

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USATSI

Rookie who almost signed with Sharks getting bigger opportunity with Avs

The Sharks and Avalanche enter Tuesday night’s contest as kindred spirits, as both are without their top centers.

San Jose is set to play its sixth game without Joe Thornton, who’s out indefinitely after injuring his right MCL and undergoing surgery, and Colorado will play its third without Hart Trophy frontrunner Nathan MacKinnon. MacKinnon injured his shoulder in the Avalanche’s first game after the All-Star break.

In MacKinnon’s place skates a player who represents another point of commonality: 23-year-old rookie Alex Kerfoot. Kerfoot signed with Colorado this summer after a four-year career at Harvard, and San Jose was one of a handful of finalists for his signature.

He ultimately chose the Avalanche because he’d have the opportunity to make the NHL right away, and have the chance to grow into an even bigger role thanks to the eventual trade of Matt Duchene. So far, the decision’s paid off: Kerfoot’s tied for ninth among rookies in goals (12) and tied for seventh in points (32), despite averaging just 13:35 per night in ice time.

That’s not an opportunity he would have gotten right away with the Sharks. San Jose’s gotten contributions from second, third, and even fourth-year players, but the rookie forwards have had more difficulty.

Marcus Sorensen’s become something of a regular, but has managed only three goals in 18 games in a fourth-line role. Danny O’Regan’s shuttled back and forth between the Sharks and AHL Barracuda, and has also spent most of his time on the fourth line.

Considering Kerfoot has 25 more points than the combination of O’Regan and Sorensen, it’s reasonable to wonder what could have been. If anything, though, Kerfoot’s relative success reiterates how much circumstances matter when developing players.

For instance, Kerfoot is averaging 3.67 shots per 60 minutes of five-on-five play, according to Natural Stat Trick. That’s more than O’Regan (2.2) and Sorensen (3.06), yes, but not nearly enough to explain such a massive difference in production.

That’s especially true when you consider Kerfoot barely plays more than Sorensen and O’Regan in five-on-five situations. He only averages 1:09 in five-on-five ice time than Sorensen, and 46 seconds more than O’Regan.

The difference is opportunity. Kerfoot regularly skates on the power play, and has spent most of his five-on-five ice time with Nail Yakupov (nine goals) and J.T. Compher (10). O’Regan’s gotten some looks on the power play, but both he and Sorensen have spent most of their time at even strength with Joel Ward (four goals) and Barclay Goodrow (four).

It’s tempting to look at Kerfoot’s season and say San Jose missed out on a productive rookie, but it’s also fair to wonder how productive O’Regan or Sorensen would be in Colorado if given the same opportunity. Nurture, not just nature, is vitally important to developing prospects, and the Sharks simply would not have been able to develop Kerfoot under the same circumstances as the Avalanche.

Reports: John Tavares will meet with Sharks, four other teams

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AP

Reports: John Tavares will meet with Sharks, four other teams

New York Islanders captain John Tavares isn't officially a free agent yet, but he will listen to what a handful of teams have to say, Tavares' agent Pat Brisson told reporters in Dallas. That list reportedly includes the Sharks. 

San Jose will reportedly meet with Tavares in Los Angeles on Monday, according to multiple reports. The Dallas Stars and Toronto Maple Leafs are also "assured of meetings," according to The Athletic's Arthur Staple, while the Tampa Bay Lightning and Vegas Golden Knights may also meet with the 27-year-old. But, meetings may be as far as any of those teams get, Staple noted. 

The Islanders' No. 1 pick in 2009, Tavares would be the best free agent available should he opt to leave New York, and arguably the best forward to hit unrestricted free agency in years. Since entering the league, Tavares ranks fifth in goals (272), and ninth in points (621), higher than any current Shark in either category. He's won gold with Canada at the 2014 Sochi Olympics and the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, and made the All-Star Game five times, including in each of the last four seasons. 

This week, the Sharks positioned themselves to acquire Tavares, or another player via trade or free agency by clearing about $7 million in salary cap space. San Jose traded winger Mikkel Boedker ($4 million salary cap hit) to the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday, and placed veteran defenseman Paul Martin on unconditional waivers with the intention of buying out his contract on Friday. Martin cleared waivers on Saturday, freeing about $2.83 million this season, according to CapFriendly, or around $3.2 million, which the Sharks cited to reporters at the draft on Friday.

Either way, that gives San Jose right around $19 million in salary cap space this summer. Dylan DeMelo, Tomas Hertl, and Chris Tierney remain unsigned as restricted free agents, while pending unrestricted free agent Joe Thornton has expressed a desire to return to the Sharks. 

San Jose reportedly met with a former No. 1 pick ahead of free agency two summers ago, only to see him return to his club. The Sharks were believed to be one of four teams to meet with Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos in 2016, according to SportsNet's Elliotte Friedman.

Sharks Day 2 2018 NHL Draft Tracker

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AP

Sharks Day 2 2018 NHL Draft Tracker

SHARKS DRAFT PICKS
First round (No. 21 overall): D Ryan Merkley, Guelph Storm (OHL)
Third round (No. 87 overall): C Linus Karlsson, Karlskrona HK / Karlskrona Allsvenskan (SHL/SuperElit)​

Fourth round (No. 102 overall): C Jasper Weatherby (BCHL)
Sixth round (No. 176 overall)
Sixth round (No. 182 overall)

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After the Sharks made one of the biggest splashes of the first round on Friday, San Jose entered the second day of the 2018 NHL Draft with six picks, two each in the fourth, fifth, and sixth rounds. 

Here all of the Sharks' pick from Saturday.

LINUS KARLSSON
Position: Center
2017-18 Team: Karlskrona HK / Karlskrona Allsvenskan (U-20)
Height: 6-1
Weight: 179 lbs
Age: 18
Shoots: Right
Selection: Third round (No. 87 overall; Acquired from Arizona in exchange for No. 114 and No. 145 picks)
Scouting report: The Sharks traded a pair of picks, a fourth rounder and a fifth rounder, to select the second-leading scorer from Sweden's under-20 league last season. Karlsson tied for the league-lead in goals (27), and even played 13 games with Karlskrona's pro team as an 18-year-old. He was one of the biggest risers in NHL Central Scouting's final rankings, finishing the season as the service's No. 39 European skater, after being unranked at midseason. 

JASPER WEATHERBY
Position:
Center
2017-18 Team: Wentachee Wild (BCHL)
Height: 6-4
Weight: 216 lbs
Age: 20
Shoots: Left
Scouting report: Weatherby led the BCHL with 74 points (37 goals, 37 assists) in the regular season, and in postseason scoring with another 38 points (15 goals, 23 assists) in just 20 playoff games. He was a man amongst boys in more ways than one, as he's the oldest draft-eligible BCHL player and the biggest, according to EliteProspects. He's committed to play at the University of North Dakota this fall.

This story is being updated.