The Sharks have an important task this season: avoid a third straight playoff miss for the first time in franchise history.
The Sharks announced their initial 23-man roster Monday afternoon, which includes provides a good opportunity to assess what this team could be.
Eklund has gone from 7th overall draft pick of 2021 ... to a ‘good story’ if he cracked the roster ... to fans wondering when his jersey will be sold at the team store. The under-sized winger will have just turned 19-years old by Saturday night, and should likely find himself in a top-six role and the ice time to go along with it.
His maturity during media sessions, and playmaking both with and without the puck, have been noticeable bright spots. Eklund often references the constant acclimation to the (smaller) ice surfaces in North America, but coach Bob Boughner thinks his rookie might even perform better when pressured into tighter spaces.
Eklund tallied one goal and five assists in five preseason games. No matter how his regular season goes, it will be watched closely.
Kane currently is considered a non-roster player pending completion of the NHL's investigation. He officially missed all of the exhibition season, while remaining at the center of two league investigations. It’s difficult and irresponsible to predict or rush resolutions on any of these fronts.
The Sharks would almost certainly benefit on paper from the services of their most productive player last season, or at least the knowledge of options if Kane has already played his last game in Teal.
Adin Hill and James Reimer
A new goalie tandem is just what the Sharks needed. Not only should the fresh slate help more team defensive issues get addressed, but it’s also a good complement of injected talent. Hill pitched a 25-save shutout in his final preseason showing against Las Vegas, and will likely get the nod for Opening Night.
Reimer begins his second tour of duty in San Jose, and his second decade in the NHL. Reimer’s predictable success across more than 350 starts is a nice foundation to the hope that Hill (and his 41 NHL starts) can use this opportunity to springboard into frontman status.
Nick Bonino and Andrew Cogliano
Bonino and Cogliano should dramatically enhance San Jose’s veteran presence among forwards, an area the team greatly lacked for the last two seasons. Not to diminish Barracuda players from opportunity or experience at the NHL level, but it has been clear the Sharks were not experienced enough up front. Nor did any of their youngest players “stick” into regular roles.
Bonino as a third-line center and Cogliano on the fourth line wing alone should greatly enhance the impact of each trio jumping over the wall, and the overall depth they provide to the lineup.
Defenseman Santeri Hatakka is 20 years old and has never played on a North American team, but impressed during camp, and will likely step in for the injured Nikolai Knyzhov to start the season.
Jonathan Dahlen had a brief stint in the AHL three years ago, and now makes the NHL from Sweden after MVP status while leading his entire league in scoring last season -- he is the son of former Shark Ulf Dahlen.
The Sharks have more fighting majors logged this preseason than (zero) in their first 20 games of last season, which has some feeling like the team is a little more competitive and motivated this time around.
Patrick Marleau remains an unrestricted free agent.
Here is the complete opening night roster for the Sharks:
- Balcers, Rudolfs
- Barabanov, Alexander
- Bonino, Nick
- Cogliano, Andrew
- Couture, Logan
- Dahlen, Jonathan
- Eklund, William
- Hertl, Tomas
- Labanc, Kevin
- Meier, Timo
- Nieto, Matthew
- Pederson, Lane
- Weatherby, Jasper
- Burns, Brent
- Ferraro, Mario
- Hatakka, Santeri
- Karlsson, Erik
- Middleton, Jake
- Simek, Radim
- Vlasic, Marc-Edouard
- Hill, Adin
- Reimer, James
- Viel, Jeffrey
*Evander Kane is considered a non-roster player pending completion of the NHL's investigation.
Additionally, a Sharks spokesman told The Athletic's Kevin Kurz that Nikolai Knyzhov didn't pass his training camp physical, which is why he's not listed on injured reserve.