What can Joakim Ryan bring to Sharks' lineup in Game 4 vs Golden Knights?


What can Joakim Ryan bring to Sharks' lineup in Game 4 vs Golden Knights?

Sharks rookie defenseman Joakim Ryan told reporters at Wednesday's morning skate that he would make his playoff debut in Game 4 against the Vegas Golden Knights. San Jose head coach Peter DeBoer would only say that Ryan, as well as a few other players, were "game-time decisions." 

But Ryan left the ice before Paul Martin, Burns' defensive partner since the rookie went down with an upper-body injury and missed a game against the Vancouver Canucks on March 17, multiple reporters at the skate observed. Adjusting for score and venue, Martin posted a 41.18 percent five-on-five corsi-for percentage, 44.34 percent scoring chance-for percentage, and 36.15 percent high-danger chance for percentage in the first three games of the series, according to Natural Stat Trick. 

Martin was also on the ice for William Karlsson's game-winning, overtime goal in Game 3, unable to catch up to the Sin City speedster following some confusion in the neutral zone. Ryan is a younger, more mobile option, so the reasoning behind a switch is understandable. 

However, Martin played very well alongside Burns so it's worth examining how his on-ice results alongside Burns compared to Ryan's, as the table below attempts to do. 

Courtesy of Corsica Hockey
Stat 88-7 (265:48 TOI) 88-47 (769:04 TOI)
CF/60 69.3 66.24
CA/60 59.82 57.11
SF/60 33.18 34.09
SA/60 30.47 29.57
xGF/60 2.84 2.72
xGA/60 2.38 2.24

Those are remarkably similar numbers, but there are some important differences. Martin and Burns attempted shots and generated high-quality chances at slightly higher rates five-on-five, while Ryan and Burns allowed shot attempts, shots, and expected goals at lower rates. The Golden Knights bettered the Sharks in those areas with Burns and Martin on the ice in this series. Considering how strong Vegas' top line has looked, San Jose needs to limit opportunities from players not named Karlsson, Marchessault, and Smith.

Based on his play this season, Ryan can help in that regard. He's also been strong defensively in the spots where the Golden Knights like to work. Five-on-five, the Golden Knights have scored three of their eight goals in the second round from in and around the right face-off dot, as the following heat map from Natural Stat Trick shows. 

That area is where Ryan did some of his best work defensively, which is what the heat map from HockeyViz below illustrates. With Ryan on the ice at full strength, the Sharks allowed shots from their left side at a rate lower than league average. 

Now, Ryan's not played in a month-and-a-half, and even though he's younger and a better skater than Martin, there could be a bit of an adjustment period for him in his first playoff game on Wednesday. His body of work from the regular season, though, suggests he may just be what the Sharks need defensively. 

2020 NHL Draft lottery: Sharks benefit from Rangers getting No. 1 pick

2020 NHL Draft lottery: Sharks benefit from Rangers getting No. 1 pick

The Sharks' NHL draft lottery woes didn't go from bad to worse Monday.

The Ottawa Senators won't get the chance to select top prospect Alexis Lafreniere with the Sharks' pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, and none of San Jose's division or conference rivals will be able to select him, either. The New York Rangers won Phase 2 of the draft lottery, grabbing the No. 1 selection in this year's draft after bowing out to the Carolina Hurricanes in the qualifying round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Lafreniere, widely expected to be the No. 1 pick in this year's draft, has franchise-defining talent. He has scored a whopping 297 points in the last three years in the QMJHL, including 112 in 52 games this season. The Sharks can rest easy knowing no team in the Pacific Division or Western Conference will have Lafreniere on a rookie deal for the next three years, though it was a possibility.

The Edmonton Oilers, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators and Winnipeg Jets each had a 12.5 percent chance of landing the top pick (and thus Lafreniere) entering Monday night. Each team had at least 15 more points than the cellar-dwelling Sharks when the NHL season was suspended in March, and San Jose's path back to contention is fraught enough without adding a Lafreniere-starring team in the division or conference.

[RELATED: Why bringing Marleau back makes plenty of sense for Sharks]

The Sharks surely breathed a sigh of relief once they learned the Senators would select No. 3 overall with the pick San Jose used to acquire defenseman Erik Karlsson nearly two years ago, and they can do so again knowing Lafreniere won't be out west. The 2019-20 season will still sting, of course, if Ottawa's selection is used to draft an eventual franchise cornerstone, but the Sharks haven't had many victories to fall back upon in the last calendar year and this would certainly qualify.

It won't mean much if the Sharks aren't soon able to chart a path back to contention, though.

Why Sharks should sign Patrick Marleau for third go-around in San Jose

Why Sharks should sign Patrick Marleau for third go-around in San Jose

It has been widely presumed that if Patrick Marleau returns for a 23rd NHL season, he will do so with the Sharks, back where it all began.

He still is without a Stanley Cup on his career résumé after he and the Pittsburgh Penguins were eliminated by the Montreal Canadiens in the qualifying round of the NHL's expanded playoff format. The Penguins acquired him prior to the trade deadline in exchange for a 2021 third-round draft pick after he returned for his second go-around with San Jose early in the season.

Based on what his wife, Christina, tweeted Friday, it appears Marleau already has made up his mind about playing next season.

That really shouldn't come as a surprise. Though he isn't the top-end player he once was, Marleau showed this past season that he still has some left in the tank. And, on top of that, he only needs to play in 45 more games to pass NHL legend Gordie Howe for the most games played in league history.

Frankly, it would only be fitting if he set the record in a Sharks sweater. And now it would appear the ball is in San Jose's court as to whether or not Marleau will return to the franchise that drafted him with the No. 2 overall pick in the 1997 Entry Draft.

Aside from the appetizing narrative, there's reason why Marleau might get a third go-around in teal. All indications are that the Sharks intend to return to playoff contention next season, but due to their salary structure, don't expect any large salaries to be brought in -- San Jose already has plenty of those. Consequently, the Sharks are going to need to fill the lineup with some minimum-salaried players.

[RELATED: Sharks' Hertl 'finally back' on ice after tearing ACL, MCL]

At this point, you can bet that money isn't a top consideration for Marleau. If a true Cup contender doesn't present him with an offer, it would be difficult to envision a more appealing destination for him than San Jose. Marleau could be signed for the veteran's minimum, and given he scored 10 goals in 58 games with the Sharks this year, that might be a pretty good value.

It's certainly possible the Sharks find a superior player to take Marleau's hypothetical spot, or would rather give it to a younger player that is part of the future.

If that's not the case, though, signing Mr. Shark makes an awful lot of sense.