Ivan Chekhovich

Sharks prospects getting final opportunity to audition for NHL roster


Sharks prospects getting final opportunity to audition for NHL roster

SAN JOSE -- This year's training camp has served as one big audition for several new faces in the Sharks organization. And Tuesday evening signals the final stage of that tryout process.

One day after several players were reassigned to the AHL for the start of Barracuda training camp, San Jose recalled eight players for what will be a prospect-heavy lineup for Tuesday's game against the Ducks down in Anaheim. This game will likely serve as a final opportunity for these players to show if they can handle competing at the NHL level on a nightly basis -- or if they're better off starting the season with the 'Cuda.

"We're getting close, we have to start getting our group together and start to get ready," Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer told the media over the weekend. "The guys, I think, between the training camp, scrimmages, and the exhibition games, have had more than enough opportunity to show us what they can do -- or can't."

This isn't to say that highly-touted prospects such as Joachim Blichfeld, Alex True and Sasha Chmelevski don't have the chops to eventually crack the Sharks' roster later in the season. But now, after roughly a week and a half of practices and preseason contests, it's more likely the eight players who were recalled for Tuesday's game in Anaheim will still start the season at the AHL level. 

Unless, of course, one of them plays off-the-charts against the Ducks and earns another look in one of the Sharks' final two preseason games. Even so, Tuesday's game shows that the tryout window is closing.

It isn't just the newest faces from this year's camp who have something to prove on Tuesday evening. Two players who need to have good showings were rookies a year ago: Dylan Gambrell and Antti Suomela. The Sharks signed both centers to deals over the summer -- Gambrell to a two-year contract, Suomela to a one-year deal -- and the expectation was that both would be top candidates to fill in roles for the NHL club this season. Gambrell, in particular, entered the preseason with a strong chance of snagging a roster spot after he split time between the NHL and AHL last season. He was penciled into the lineup for San Jose's final playoff game against the St. Louis Blues, and scored the Sharks' only goal in that game, no less.

With just one goal between them so far this preseason -- which Suomela scored Saturday against the Vegas Golden Knights -- it's crucial they take advantage of their opportunities against Anaheim.

Two players who won't be on the roster for Tuesday's game in Anaheim are forward Lean Bergmann and defenseman Mario Ferraro. Both skaters have had impressive camps and were standouts in last Saturday's preseason game against Vegas. DeBoer is expected to put two NHL-heavy lineups on the ice in the final two preseason games, so it will be interesting to see what opportunities those two players get toward the end of the week.

[RELATED: Why Ferraro's chances of being on Sharks roster are growing]

San Jose's preseason schedule concludes later this week with a Thursday night home game against the Calgary Flames and a Sunday evening tilt in Sin City against the Golden Knights.

Sharks send trio of high-scoring forward prospects to Barracuda camp


Sharks send trio of high-scoring forward prospects to Barracuda camp

Sharks prospects Joachim Blichfeld, Ivan Chekhovich and Sasha Chmelevski will start the season in San Jose. They just won't do it in the NHL. 

The trio of promising forwards were among the 25 players named to the AHL Barracuda's training-camp roster Monday, ahead of all three prospects' first full professional seasons. 

All but four of the Barracuda players were in camp with the Sharks, and the team cut two more players to reduce their training-camp roster to 32. Blichfeld, Chekhovich and Chmelevski were among a group of forwards competing for roster spots following the Sharks' litany of offseason departures, but waivers-exempt forwards with AHL experience Dylan Gambrell, Antti Suomela and Alexander True remained with the Sharks on Monday, as did German rookie Lean Bergmann and former Kings winger Jonny Brodzinski. 

Blichfeld scored scored 114 points with the WHL's Portland Winterhawks last season, while Chmelevski (75 points with the OHL's Ottawa 67s) and Chekhovich (105 points with the QMJHL's Baie-Comeau Drakkar) also enjoyed successful final seasons in Canadian major junior. Chmelevski starred for the United States at the IIHF World Junior Championships, winning a silver medal and tying for second on the team with seven points at the tournament. They each played in one of the Sharks' preseason games, with Blichfeld (goal) and Chekhovich (goal, assist) getting on the score sheet. 

[RELATED: Watch Coyne Schofield steal show against Sharks alumni]

None of Blichfeld, Chekhovich and Chmelevski are older than 21, and each likely will be relied upon to play big roles in the AHL. That doesn't necessarily mean you won't see them make their NHL debuts this season. 

"I think the good thing is that we’ve seen over the years that regardless of where you start, we need bodies, we need depth," Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said last week (H/T The Athletic). "Guys are going to get opportunities throughout the season regardless of where they end up starting.”

Three questions Sharks must answer in training camp before NHL season

Three questions Sharks must answer in training camp before NHL season

Like with the start of every training camp, the Sharks have some questions that need answering before the new campaign gets underway at the beginning of October. 

Here's a look at just a couple things that need solving over the next couple of weeks:

How healthy will the Sharks' blue line be come opening night?

Injuries hit San Jose's d-corps hard last season, with Erik Karlsson going in and out of the lineup with a groin injury and Radim Simek being sidelined the whole second half of the season with a knee injury. The hope is that both players will be back in the lineup and healthy to start the season -- although that still remains to be seen.

Sharks' general manager Doug Wilson told the media last Friday that Karlsson is expected to participate at the start of training camp, while Simek is still building up strength in his injured knee ahead of the season-opener on October 2. San Jose's defense took noticeable hits last season when each skater was out of the lineup, so getting both Karlsson and Simek back at full strength will be huge.

Keeping that in mind, it isn't likely we'll see a whole lot from either skater during the preseason.

Which will make trying to figure out what the defensive pairings will be even more interesting, but that's a story for another day.

Does San Jose really have enough weapons on offense to fill the void left by free agency?

There had been some speculation that Wilson would acquire a forward towards the end of the offseason to fill in the offensive void left by the departures of Joe Pavelski, Joonas Donskoi, and Gustav Nyquist. For the time being, however, it appears the Sharks are going all-in on giving some of their younger players a chance to fill those roles.

Timo Meier and Kevin Labanc have been mentioned a ton in this conversation -- especially after they both had upward-trending seasons and then got inked to new deals over the summer -- but those are just two skaters San Jose is looking to for offensive help.

After a season of bouncing between the NHL and AHL, Dylan Gambrell has the opportunity to become a regular starter. Marcus Sorensen will also be tasked with continuing to grow following a solid 2018-19 campaign skating primarily alongside Joe Thornton. Plus, younger players such as Ivan Chekhovich will be given the opportunity to compete for a roster spot.

[RELATED: How Karlsson can fill scoring void]

Of course, the Sharks may decide to make a move after the season starts if they're still lacking offensive firepower. For the time being, however, it looks like San Jose is looking to its young guns to pick up the slack.

What can we expect from the goaltending this season?

It's pretty fair to assume fans will be on the edge of their seats for Martin Jones' first start, hoping he doesn't let the puck get by him in the first minute of the game. He did that quite a bit last season, after all. And his backup, Aaron Dell, didn't always fair much better. 

Even though Jones turned his game around during last season's playoff run, he will likely be under the microscope pretty early on, especially if he looks shaky during preseason play. While Jones didn't always have the support from the defense in front of him last season, there's still a need for him to be on his A-game early on, even as early as in training camp.