Joachim Blichfeld

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

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USATSI

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. 

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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.”

How these Sharks prospects can help fill goal-scoring void this season

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How these Sharks prospects can help fill goal-scoring void this season

Editor's note: The Sharks open training camp later this week, looking to replace nearly 60 regular-season goals from departed forwards Joe Pavelski, Joonas Donskoi and Gustav Nyquist. Before camp officially begins, NBC Sports California is examining the players who will help San Jose fill that goal-scoring void. We continue with a group of forwards who can crack the roster. 

The Sharks' brass made it clear this offseason that there will be roster spots up for grabs when training camp begins Friday. 

San Jose, after all, lost three wingers who played in top-nine roles during the club's run to the Western Conference final. Experienced young players like Timo Meier and Kevin Labanc will be asked to play bigger roles, but another wave of forwards behind them will have to make the jump from the minors -- and, in some cases, juniors -- to full-time NHL roles.

Here are five Sharks prospects who, if they make the team, could go a long way towards offsetting the offensive production San Jose lost this summer. 

Joachim Blichfeld 

As an overage player in the WHL last season, Blichfeld tore it up with the Portland Winterhawks. He scored more goals (53), one fewer assist (61) and as many points (114) as he had in his first two seasons in Portland ... combined. 

Blichfeld, in all likelihood, will need some seasoning before he gets a crack at the NHL. The 6-foot-2 Danish winger only played in two playoff games with the AHL's San Jose Barracuda two seasons ago, and the jump from major junior star to AHL regular is big enough on its own. Still, the 21-year-old's shot should translate to the pros, and Blichfeld's combination of size and skill bodes well for his development down the line. If he quickly acclimates, it might be enough to earn an NHL role. 

Ivan Chekhovich

Chekhovich looks like a hockey player after taking a puck to the face in a rookie tournament game over the weekend, and he has the skill set to hang around. 

The 21-year-old impressed in back-to-back end-of-season stints with the Barracuda over the last two seasons, and Chekhovich appears ready for the jump to the professional ranks after scoring 105 points (43 goals, 62 assists) with the QMJHL's Baie-Comeau Drakkar last year. His size -- the Sharks listed Chekhovich as 5-foot-10, 180 lbs. in their May prospect report -- could cause some growing pains in adjusting from junior, but Chekhovich has dynamic offensive potential. 

Sasha Chmelevski

Could a roster spot vacated by a right-shooting American center who converted to a winger be filled by another one? That's not to say 20-year-old Sasha Chmelevski is the next Pavelski, but the Huntington Beach native is known for his hockey IQ and competitiveness. 

Chmelevski lined up on the wing in a recent Anaheim Ducks-hosted rookie tournament in Irvine, and positional versatility always helps when one tries to earn a spot in coach Peter DeBoer's lineup. So, too, will Chmelevski's ability to fire pucks on net -- he had just four games in the last two seasons without a shot on goal -- as well as the aforementioned intangibles. If that combination means he's NHL-ready, Chmelevski can help the Sharks bridge their goal-scoring gap from last year. 

Dylan Gambrell

Gambrell, much like Chmelevski, is intriguing because of his versatility. He has played on the wing and centered his own line in his brief NHL career, and the 23-year-old arguably was the Sharks' best player in an injury-necessitated appearance in Game 6 of the Western Conference final.

Now entering his third year as a professional, the Sharks need Gambrell to establish himself as an NHL regular this season. Whether that's as a center or winger, Gambrell's collegiate and minor league production are encouraging for his chances. Regularly using the strong shot he displayed on his Game 6 goal will help him stick around at either position. 

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Antti Suomela

Suomela is something of a wild card. The center made the Sharks out of training camp last year, scoring eight points (three goals, five assists) in 27 NHL games. But the Finnish forward was sent down in December, and scored just 20 points in 47 AHL games.

With a full season on North American rinks under his belt, can Suomela's offensive game fully translate? He led Finland's top league in scoring two seasons ago, and flashed solid offensive instincts playing with Donskoi and Evander Kane early last season. It will be interesting to see if Suomela gets a look on the wing in training camp, but him winning the fourth-line center spot would give the Sharks another skilled pivot behind Logan Couture, Tomas Hertl and Joe Thornton.

Players who will help Sharks fill goal-scoring void in 2019-20

Timo Meier
Kevin Labanc