Doug Wilson

Sharks GM Doug Wilson explains why top prospects are still in minors

Sharks GM Doug Wilson explains why top prospects are still in minors

SAN JOSE -- There has been an overwhelming reaction to the Sharks' current group of promising prospects since training camp started back in September.

The offseason featured the organization boasting about how happy they were with the young talent coming up the pipeline. Yet at the end of training camp, the majority of those players were reassigned to the San Jose Barracuda. Since so few players have appeared with the big club since the season started, fans have been under the impression that not enough of these promising players have "stepped up."

But as Sharks' general manager Doug Wilson explained in an exclusive one-on-one with NBC Sports California, giving San Jose's crop of rookies enough time to develop at the AHL level is imperative.

"It was never a forgone conclusion that they would make the (NHL) team," Wilson said. "We look at this as a platoon system rotating people through."

New faces such as Lean Bergmann, Noah Gregor, and Jonny Brodzinski have rotated through the Sharks' lineup over the first month of the regular season as the team has dealt with injuries and suspensions. But even while filling roster spots for the NHL team, Wilson says the Sharks aren't looking to deviate from their game plan of getting the rookies plenty of work in with Roy Sommer and the Barracuda coaching staff.

"We've altered (our plan) a little bit with the suspension to Evander, injuries to Marcus (Sorensen) and other injuries that we have suffered," Wilson said. "But these young players are the key to our future. Roy, Mike Ricci, Evgeni Nabokov, Jimmy Bonneau, Michael Chiasson -- what they do is tremendously important to make sure the players are ready to play on a regular basis. And then when they come up, they get put in roles that they can succeed in."

When you look at how some of San Jose's most recent young guns have come up through the pipeline, it makes more sense as to why the organization isn't in a rush to bring any of their prospects up too soon.

"You take a look at our history, at Timo Meier's journey, Tomas Hertl's journey, Kevin Labanc's journey ... I think we do a really good job and we aren't going to alter that approach,": Wilson said.

Of course, it can't be left out that the Sharks do have one newbie who is impressing on the big stage. Rookie defenseman Mario Ferraro made the opening night roster and, despite the Sharks' rough start to the season, has visibly elevated his game with every opportunity he gets.

"Mario has played hard every night," Wilson said. "He reminds me a lot of when Radim Simek came in last year."

With so much season left, there's a strong possibility more prospects will get the chance to play with the big club as the Sharks need players to pencil into spots vacated due to injuries or suspensions. But in the meantime, they'll be getting plenty of work in at the AHL level so they'll be ready for the task of regularly playing at the NHL level.

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Bergmann, who has six points in five games for the Barracuda, is a perfect example of that kind of player.

"Lean plays with a high compete level and we know it's just a matter of time before he's ready," Wilson said. "But we want to make sure he grows as a player before then, too."

Patrick Marleau's agent says his client only wanted to play for Sharks

Patrick Marleau's agent says his client only wanted to play for Sharks

When the Toronto Maple Leafs traded Patrick Marleau to the Carolina Hurricanes in a salary dump this summer, the NHL veteran had one thing on his mind.

Marleau was singularly focused on reuniting with the Sharks, his agent Pat Brisson wrote to The Mercury News' Curtis Pashelka.

"Carolina had interest in Patrick for him to be part of the team this season, however Patrick wanted to be a Shark at all [costs]," Brisson e-mailed Pashelka on Friday. "He will retire as a Shark. At that point I started communicating with (Sharks general manager) Doug Wilson on a regular basis in order to try making it work."

Marleau signed a three-year, $18.75 million contract with the Maple Leafs in 2017, and the longest tenured player in Sharks history suited up in a different uniform for the first time in two decades. Needing to re-sign a host of restricted free agents, including star winger Mitch Marner, the Leafs traded Marleau to the Hurricanes just before June's NHL draft. 

Although the 'Canes wanted to keep him, Marleau wanted to return to his first NHL home. That appeared unlikely when Wilson told The Athletic in September that the Sharks were focused on giving their young forwards opportunities to earn roster spots in training camp.

But the Sharks struggled out of the gate, starting 0-3-0 to begin the season while dealing with Evander Kane's suspension, some injuries and those young players adjusting to the NHL. San Jose wanted to bring in a veteran presence, and that opened the door for a reunion.

"The Sharks have made promises and commitments to their young players as part of their development," Brisson wrote in the e-mail. "If they were to look at bringing a veteran player obviously Patrick was going to be Doug's choice all along."

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Marleau officially signed with the Sharks on Wednesday, and he scored two goals in his first game back two days later. He kept skating on his own and with former teammates, but didn't participate in a training camp as a free agent. Marleau told reporters Saturday he experienced "a lot of ups and downs" when asked if he had a chance to sign with another team, but wouldn't elaborate. 

Now, Marleau is set to play his first home game for the Sharks in two-and-a-half years Sunday when San Jose hosts the Calgary Flames. Marleau is sure to receive a raucous ovation, further reminding him that this reunion was worth the wait. 

Patrick Marleau depended on Scott Hannan to prepare for Sharks return

Patrick Marleau depended on Scott Hannan to prepare for Sharks return

Patrick Marleau had a storybook beginning to his second go-around with the Sharks.

Two days after signing his contract, he scored two goals in his first game back with the franchise to help San Jose earn its first win of the season Thursday night in Chicago. The last NHL game Marleau had played in prior to that was last April, with no training camp to speak of in between.

So, when he got the call from general manager Doug Wilson, he had to snap into action. Marleau revealed following Thursday's win that there were places he had to get to, but not before getting one last tune-up in. So, naturally, he turned to an old friend for assistance, who he later credited with helping him get prepared.

NBC Sports California's Scott Hannan spent the first eight and final three seasons of his NHL career with the Sharks, all of which included Marleau as a teammate. So, when his longtime friend needed an on-ice partner, Hannan came through in the clutch.

"I think he gives me a little too much credit out there," Hannan said modestly after the Sharks' 5-4 victory. "I've skated with Patty a couple times. Once the [training] camps started, he was finding ice on his own, so it's always good to get another guy out there. 

"I was able to pass him some pucks, feed him some stuff, so I will take a little bit of credit," he continued. "We were working a lot the other day on our tipped shots -- our high tips, our low tips and coming out in the slot -- I don't know if that paid the big dividend."

A quick glance at Marleau's first goal against the Blackhawks would lead one to believe the tipping practice did pay off, as he deflected an Erik Karlsson shot past Chicago's goalkeeper from -- of course -- the slot.

"The game he had tonight was awesome," Hannan said of his former teammate. "Seeing him score two goals, to see that from a guy that I've -- I mean, we've known each other forever. So to see him have that experience out there on the ice was awesome."

As thrilled as Hannan was to have watched Marleau be so successful in his first game back with the Sharks, it's not like he didn't see it coming.

"To be honest, no, I wasn't surprised," Hannan explained. "Knowing Patty for as long as I've known him, it can almost sometimes pay dividends to miss a camp. He's a consummate professional. He kept himself in great shape. He skates so well out there, so you could throw him out there on any team and he's gonna look good. 

"I thought his timing might have been a little off," Hannan admitted, "but obviously not with the way he played tonight. He was a force out there on the backcheck, forecheck, got a couple goals ... I hope we can keep it up."

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Marleau has been back for one game, and suddenly, the Sharks are no longer winless. Coincidence?

"I think they play with more confidence," Hannan said of the effect Marleau has on the Sharks' locker room. "They played good in Nashville. They had some moments there and they found a way to lose, whereas tonight they found a way to win." 

San Jose will put the Marleau luck charm to the test next against the Flames in what will be his second-ever home debut as a member of the Sharks.

"On Sunday, I think they're going to be able to feed off that crowd," Hannan predicted. "Patty's going to bring a lot of energy as far as the feelings he's going to have. They have to harness those and put them in the right direction and get a win against Calgary on Sunday."

It would be unreasonable to expect Marleau to score another two goals against the Flames. But you should bring some earplugs just in case.