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Sharks prospects to watch: Ivan Chekhovich has skill to earn NHL spot

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Sharks prospects to watch: Ivan Chekhovich has skill to earn NHL spot

Editor's Note: This week, NBC Sports California will highlight five different Sharks prospects to watch heading into the 2019-20 season. Some have a chance to make the NHL roster as soon as this year, while others face critical years in their development. We conclude with winger Ivan Chekhovich.

For the second straight year, Sharks prospect Ivan Chekhovich earned a look with the AHL's San Jose Barracuda late in the season. 

The 20-year-old left winger tied for second in the notoriously high-scoring QMJHL with 105 points (43 goals, 62 assists), and joined the Barracuda once more for their playoff push. While he wasn't as prolific as his first stint with the Barracuda, he showed he belonged at the professional level and scored seven points (three goals, four assists) in nine regular-season and playoff games. 

Chekhovich missed out on representing Russia at the IIHF World Junior Championship after injuring his back lifting weights but had about as strong of a season as he could have asked for to close out his junior career. He caught the eye of Barracuda coach Roy Sommer at the team's prospect development camp earlier this month and has the skill to push for an NHL roster spot in training camp. Here's what to expect from Chekhovich this season. 

Ivan Chekhovich

Draft year, position: 2017, seventh round (No. 212 overall)
Position: Left wing
Shoots: Left
Height: 5-foot-10
Weight: 180 pounds
2018-19 team: Baie-Comeau Drakkar (QMJHL)/San Jose Barracuda (AHL)

Skill set

Chekhovich is a strong skater who is very creative on offense. He is a good passer and boasts a strong shot, with the hands to deke and dangle around defenders. That package has added plenty of plays to his highlight reel. 

He is perhaps a tad undersized at 5-foot-10 and could stand to bulk up a bit as he transitions to professional hockey. But, he does a strong stick that he uses to hound opponents on the forecheck. Chekhovich fits the mold of a winger who can succeed in a league increasingly relying upon players with skill and skating ability. 

Training-camp proving ground

Earlier this summer, Sharks general manager Doug Wilson mentioned Chekhovich among a list of candidates who will have a shot to make the team out of training camp. Joe Pavelski, Joonas Donskoi and Gustav Nyquist are gone, and San Jose could use some skill among its top nine forwards, and the winger should get a long look.

But he'll face some competition in that regard. Joachim Blichfeld, who was the highest-scoring Sharks prospect with 114 points in the WHL last season, and free-agent signing Jonny Brodzinski likely will be in the mix, and centers Dylan Gambrell and Sasha Chmelevski can play on the wing. Considering how much the Sharks lost up front, though, he wouldn't have to beat out each of them to earn a spot. 

Best-case scenario

As one of the Sharks' final cuts at training camp, Chekhovich immediately emerges as one of the Barracuda's best players. He earns an NHL call-up by the end of October and works his way up DeBoer's lineup.

By the turn of the calendar, Chekhovich grabs a spot on either Logan Couture or Tomas Hertl's wing and stays there for the remainder of the season. Once the playoffs roll around, Chekhovich gives the Sharks much-needed depth and emerges as an x-factor. 

Worst-case scenario

Chekhovich makes the Sharks out of training camp but is sent down to the AHL after playing fewer than 10 games. His confidence takes a hit and his previous AHL scoring record -- he scored on six of his 27 shots (22.2 percent) in 19 AHL games over the last two years -- feels like a distant memory after some ill-timed regression to the mean. 

Although Chekhovich finds his footing by the end of his first full professional season, he doesn't do so quickly enough to get much more of a look from the Sharks throughout the year. He becomes an important player for the Barracuda, but there are questions about his long-term NHL potential.

[RELATED: Can Sharks' Ferraro go straight from college to the NHL?]

Realistic expectations

The Sharks surely will have to experiment throughout the season in order to replace their departing forwards, and Chekhovich should be among the forwards who get a look. He has the ability to hang around and the potential to do more than that if he proves to be a fit alongside Couture, Hertl or even veteran center Joe Thornton on a skilled third line. 

Chekhovich's first professional certainly wouldn't be a disappointment if he ends it in the AHL, but the Sharks will feel much better about their forward depth if he can hang on with the big club.

Sharks' biggest threats to winning Stanley Cup: Potential NHL lockout

Sharks' biggest threats to winning Stanley Cup: Potential NHL lockout

Editor's Note: Now that the Blues and Capitals have gotten off the Stanley Cup schneid, there's arguably no NHL franchise more "due" to win a Cup than the Sharks. This week, NBC Sports California will examine the five biggest threats to San Jose's championship aspirations in the relatively near future. We continue with the upcoming CBA negotiations that could result in a potential lockout.

The current NHL collective bargaining agreement expires after the 2021-22 season, meaning there's no need to worry about any sort of lockout occurring before then, right?

Wrong.

Yes, the CBA expires after the 2021-22 season, but both the league and the NHL Players' Association have options to opt-out of it next month, just as teams are convening for the start of training camp. Even if neither side chooses to do so at that time, there is plenty of reason to believe the NHL could experience its fourth work stoppage under commissioner Gary Bettman at some point in the near future.

And, if that indeed does occur, one could make the case there are few teams that would be more negatively impacted than the Sharks.

San Jose has done an incredible job of prolonging its championship window -- more times than once. The Sharks only have missed the playoffs twice since 1998, reaching the Western Conference final five times in that span. The most recent of those trips came just this past season when San Jose was eliminated in six games by the eventual Stanley Cup Champion St. Louis Blues.

The developments of the offseason have done nothing to remove the Sharks from the list of legitimate contenders.

But, all good things must come to an end, and that window -- at some point -- eventually will close. The fact of the matter is, while general manager Doug Wilson has replenished the roster with several quality young players, the ones that have formed the backbone of so many of those playoff runs are getting long in the tooth.

Joe Pavelski is gone. Brent Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Logan Couture will turn 35, 33 and 31 years old, respectively, this coming March. Erik Karlsson, who signed an eight-year contract at the start of the offseason, turns 30 in May. Surefire Hall of Famer Joe Thornton is 40, and while he's currently unsigned, you can count on seeing him in teal for at least one more season. 

All of this is to say, the Sharks can't afford to waste any time. They've come close -- very close -- to winning it all multiple times, but last year's team might have been the most talented in franchise history, and still it fell short. One naturally would assume that if San Jose is going to end its lengthy Stanley Cup drought, it will occur while some or most of that talented and decorated core still is intact.

Any sort of work stoppage -- for however long -- would therefore rapidly increase the speed with which that window closes.

Now, there is optimism that the two sides will be able to avoid any such lockout, but there are a few contentious issues that will be at the heart of the negotiations, most notably the percentage of player contracts held in escrow, and the feasibility of NHL players participating in the Winter Olympics mid-season. Given how certain star players have set up their contracts for the 2020-21 season, it's clear that optimism isn't shared by all.

[RELATED: Why 2021 NHL Expansion Draft is threat to Sharks' cup hopes]

For instance, $12 million of Edmonton Oilers star Connor McDavid's $13 million 2020-21 contract is in the form of a signing bonus to be paid in July. Similarly, Toronto's John Tavares will make more than $11 million of his $12 million 2020-21 salary in the form of a lump sum, thereby ensuring he'll receive the vast majority of his salary whether there's a lockout in 2020 or 2022, or not at all.

The most recent NHL lockout reduced the 2012-13 season to 48 games. The one before that eliminated the 2004-05 season altogether. If the next one occurs anytime soon, it will steal time from the Sharks that they simply don't have.

Sharks' biggest threats to winning Stanley Cup: 2021 NHL Expansion Draft

Sharks' biggest threats to winning Stanley Cup: 2021 NHL Expansion Draft

Editor's Note: Now that the Blues and Capitals have gotten off the Stanley Cup schneid, there's arguably no NHL franchise more "due" to win a cup than the Sharks. This week, NBC Sports California will examine the five biggest threats to San Jose's championship aspirations in the relatively near future. We begin with the 2021 Expansion Draft.

In less than a month, the Sharks will convene for training camp, marking the beginning of another pursuit of the elusive Stanley Cup.

San Jose has seen each of the last two champions bring an end to lengthy title droughts, an accomplishment for which it hopes to follow suit. The Sharks have been a frequent contender over the last two decades -- having qualified for the playoffs in all but two seasons since 1998 -- including each of the last four under Pete DeBoer.

Given the construct of San Jose's current roster, there's no reason to believe they'll fall precipitously from contention anytime soon. They've got an enviable collection of star players, most of which are locked up long-term. Those players have formed the core of a Cup finalist before, and after pushing the Blues to six games in the conference finals last year, clearly can do so again.

But what if one of those key players that the Sharks have depended on so often -- and will continue to moving forward -- suddenly is no longer around?

That is a legitimate possibility afforded by the upcoming 2021 NHL Expansion Draft, through which the Seattle franchise will join the league as its 32nd team. Which forwards, defensemen and goalies the Sharks might protect have been covered in great detail, as have which players might be exposed.

If someone like Brent Burns or Evander Kane departs San Jose via the expansion draft, that obviously could have a drastic impact on the Sharks' ability to contend.

[RELATED: Why Sharks' defense has Hahn excited for 2019-20 season]

There is another angle to consider, as well. The last time the NHL had an expansion draft, it produced the Sharks' newest and most formidable rival in the Vegas Golden Knights. If the unnamed Seattle franchise -- who will join the Pacific Division -- can capitalize on the expansion draft like Vegas did, that could be yet another daunting intradivision competitor for San Jose, which could make the path to a cup all the more challenging.

The Sharks will lose just one player in the expansion draft, and it won't necessarily be one of the more high-profile players on their roster. Additionally, teams learned from the Vegas expansion draft, and have begun their preparation much further in advance than the last time around, meaning some of the mistakes the Golden Knights capitalized on might not be available to Seattle.

As such, who San Jose loses in the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft and how good Seattle becomes as a result isn't the biggest threat to the Sharks' championship hopes in the near future -- but as recent history has proven -- it can't be entirely discounted.