Jacob Middleton

Why these four Sharks have high chance of cracking NHL roster in camp

Why these four Sharks have high chance of cracking NHL roster in camp

SAN JOSE -- Since hosting their prospect development camp in July, the Sharks have boasted about the players who will challenge for a roster spot at training camp. 

Now that San Jose's preseason officially gets underway Tuesday against the Anaheim Ducks at SAP Center, we have a better idea of who has the best shot of making the NHL lineup. Here are four players with a good chance of breaking camp with the Sharks. 

Mario Ferraro, D

The 21-year-old defenseman has skated alongside fellow prospect Ryan Merkley in training camp, but don't be surprised if he gets a look alongside one of San Jose's veterans soon -- or in a few regular-season games. 

Ferraro has been putting on a show since development camp in July. Sharks director of scouting Doug Wilson Jr. went so far as to call him "one of the most high-energy guys you've ever seen. He does not have a bad day." 

Through both development camp and the start of the preseason, the University of Massachusetts, Amherst product -- who played college hockey alongside Colorado Avalanche blue liner Cale Makar -- has demonstrated a high level of physicality that could make his game very effective on the NHL mainstage. 

Plus, with Radim Simek still rehabbing, there's a chance Ferraro -- as well as familiar faces like Jacob Middleton and Nick DeSimone -- gets a look on the big club's blue line.

Antoine Bibeau, G

Some fans wondered if the San Jose Barracuda netminder would get a look with the Sharks last season when Aaron Dell had some hiccups backing up Martin Jones. After a promising 2018-19 campaign in the AHL, his chances of getting an NHL shot this season appear more likely.

Bibeau started two games with the Toronto Maple Leafs three seasons ago, going 1-1-0 with a 1.99 goals-against average and .927 save percentage. While that isn't exactly a deep body of work, his AHL numbers in San Jose (.912 save percentage in two seasons) are enough to get the Sharks excited about his future with the organization.

Alex True, F

Like Bibeau, True was a player last season some thought would get a crack at the Sharks' roster. In his second campaign with the Barracuda, the 6-foot-5 Dane tallied 55 points (24 goals, 31 assists) and was a plus-16 in 68 regular-season games. 

While True has most recently been lumped into a group of young roster hopefuls including Ivan Chekhovich, Sasha Chmelevski and Joachim Blichfeld, the 22-year-old appears to be the readiest to make the leap to the NHL. Those other three still have very promising futures with the Sharks, but our guess is they'll see more playing time with the Barracuda first.

The Sharks have spots to fill at forward and could greatly benefit from adding a big-bodied scorer to their bottom six. If True continues to have a good camp, he could get an NHL look in his third season with the organization. 

[RELATED: Why Sharks confident they can make up for lost firepower]

Jonny Brodzinski, F

Although not as recognizable of a name as some of the names coming out of the Barracuda, Brodzinksi likely will get a crack at the Sharks' roster ahead of some of the organization's top prospects. He's only on a one-year contract, and he has previous NHL experience,

Through three seasons with the Los Angeles Kings, the 26-year-old Minnesota native scored 11 points (six goals, five assists) and a plus-6 rating over the course of 54 NHL games. He also tallied 108 total points in 156 games with the AHL's Ontario Reign. 

Given the aforementioned holes up front, playing a consistent AHL scorer like Brodzinski could make the most sense -- at least to start the season off. 

Tuesday night's preseason opener should prove instructive. Brodzinski has skated on Joe Thornton's wing in practice, and playing well there in an actual game setting should lift Brodzinski's chances of cracking the Sharks' opening-night lineup. 

Sharks free-agency decisions: Should Joakim Ryan stay or go?

Sharks free-agency decisions: Should Joakim Ryan stay or go?

To say the Sharks' blue line got banged up over last season is a bit of an understatement.

In addition to the long stretch of time Erik Karlsson missed with a groin injury, Marc-Edouard-Vlasic and Justin Braun were sidelined with their respective ailments, and Radim Simek had his stellar rookie season cut short by a knee injury that required surgery. 

When it came to filling the void left by San Jose's blueliners, Joakim Ryan was one Shark who was called upon to pencil into the lineup, ending the season with 44 regular-season games under his belt.

Now, Ryan is set to be a restricted free agent on July 1, and his future with the team -- like just about everyone else's on the free agent list -- is unclear. Here's a look at why he could stay in San Jose, and why he could be long gone.

Why he could stay

San Jose's defense is short a left-handed shot after trading Justin Braun to the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesay. With Jacob Middleton being the only other left-hander coming up the pipeline, Ryan might be the Sharks' only readily-available defenseman to fill that void. If Ryan stays, it's possible he and Middleton could fight for the same job.

Ryan also has experience playing alongside a Norris Trophy-winner in Brent Burns. The Cornell product had the difficult task of being "on call" for most of the season and most of that time was spent paired up with the Wookiee. Ryan was also the only defenseman coach Peter DeBoer put into the lineup during the playoffs when Erik Karlsson aggravated his groin injury.

Why he could go

Remember, Ryan started off the regular season alongside Burns before essentially being knocked out of that spot by Simek. Even as DeBoer called on him to fill in other times throughout the season, the coach still said on multiple occasions that he wanted to see more out of the 26-year-old who ended the season with seven assists and at a minus-15.

It's also highly unlikely the Sharks are done moving personnel around this summer as they make room to accommodate high priority free agents set to hit the market on July 1. Even with the Braun trade freeing up some cap space, San Jose can't keep every RFA and UFA on its current list of 21 players.

Timo Meier and Kevin Labanc -- both RFAs -- are likely to get locked into contracts before Ryan is.

The verdict

Although the Braun trade appears to leave the door open for Ryan to stay and get another chance at holding down a spot in San Jose's starting lineup, there's no guarantee the Sharks sign him to a deal. The coaching staff needed more out of him this past season, and the team is likely looking to sign other RFAs first.

With that in mind, it's possible Ryan could be playing somewhere else next season.

[RELATED: Why Erik Karlsson re-signed with Sharks]

For those worried about where that leaves the Sharks' defense, keep in mind: San Jose has a history of making trades over the weekend of the draft, so moves to San Jose's defense could still be made even within the week.

There's no reason to think the Sharks are done piecing next season's defense together just yet. Where Ryan could fit into that mix, however, is difficult to determine.

Sharks organizational review: Inconsistent defense faces uncertain future

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AP

Sharks organizational review: Inconsistent defense faces uncertain future

Since Peter DeBoer took over at the helm, the Sharks have marketed themselves as a "defense first" kind of team. But even with high-profile players and a couple of dominant winning streaks, Team Teal ended the regular season with the eleventh-most goals-against in the league.

The good news is San Jose's blue line is already looking to get a boost in the future -- even if the future of some of its personnel is still unknown.

The Sharks will almost certainly have two key members of their d-corps back in Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic. Burns is coming off another Norris Trophy-worthy campaign and fought off the flu to keep his ironman streak alive. Vlasic may have gotten off to an uncharacteristically slow start to the season, but after being sidelined midseason with an injury returned to be one of San Jose's key defensemen down the stretch.

The blue line can get a boost from there if Radim Simek returns to the lineup healthy next season. After his impressive rookie campaign was cut short by a knee injury, the Czech d-man has been relentlessly rehabbing in an effort to get back to game action. San Jose's defense no doubt looked its best at the halfway point of the regular season when Simek was healthy and paired up with Burns. (And when Erik Karlsson was healthy, but we'll get to him in a second.) Getting the Simek-Burns combo back together already speaks well for the Sharks' future.

As will getting the Burns-Boughner duo back together. There's already a ton of excitement over Bob Boughner rejoining the Sharks' coaching staff next season given the good relationships he has with the veterans in the locker room. Having him back in the fold could be just what San Jose's defense needs to be more consistent.

That consistency is still a bit tough to determine, however, because it isn't certain what the rest of the d-corps will look like next season. At its best, San Jose's defense had Burns paired with Simek, Vlasic reunited with Justin Braun, and a healthy Erik Karlsson paired with Brenden Dillon.

Now, Karlsson is the most talked-about player about to hit free agency and  Braun's name has popped up as potential trade bait if the Sharks really want to push to keep Karlsson on the team. Even if Karlsson is the only member of this season's starting d-corps who doesn't return, that leaves Dillon in need of a defense partner for next season and making up for No. 65's skill set will be no easy feat.

Things get even more interesting in regards to the blue line's depth. Joakim Ryan and Tim Heed are set to hit free agency on July 1 and aren't locks to return -- both of whom had to step into the lineup multiple times this season when one of the starting six d-men were injured. There's no word on whether either skater will be in San Jose next season, although Heed's numbers were better in both the regular season.

[RELATED: Sharks can improve on wingers situation]

Not everything is so up-in-the-air, however, as San Jose has some promising defensemen coming up through the pipeline. Jacob Middleton, who got a couple of games in at the NHL level last season, will likely get a few more looks with the big club this upcoming season. Nick DeSimone is set to become an RFA but could get a look with the big club if he stays in San Jose after a 46-point season (14 goals, 32 assists) with the Barracuda. There is a similar case for Kyle Wood, who is coming off a 35-point campaign (6 goals, 39 assists) in his first season with San Jose's AHL club.