Joe Thornton

Jonny Brodzinski's audition for Sharks roster spot off to good start

Jonny Brodzinski's audition for Sharks roster spot off to good start

SAN JOSE - When Jonny Brodzinski played on the Ontario Reign during the 2016-17 season, he regularly faced a San Jose Barracuda roster consisting of Timo Meier, Kevin Labanc, and Marcus Sorensen -- among other names familiar to Sharks fans.

Now, the 26-year-old out of Minnesota is sporting the same teal sweater as the aforementioned players while the Sharks preseason gets underway. 

Heck, he and Sorensen are even playing on a line together to kick off training camp.

"I played against a lot of these guys, yeah," Brodzinski reflected after Tuesday evening's preseason game. "Played against a lot of them and now we're teammates. It's exciting."

The Sharks have roster spots to fill on offense and having a player with Brozinski's skillset could help fill out their forward attack. While Sharks' bench boss Peter DeBoer insisted he isn't penciling in his final roster just yet, he's impressed with what he sees from Brodzinski so far.

"He's got a great shot, he's got good speed, he works hard," DeBoer observed. "He's auditioning for some pretty big roles we have open here. He's one of a handful of guys here where tonight was the start of that audition."

The coach was right. Although Tuesday's contest against the Anaheim Ducks ended in a 4-3 loss, it did help kickstart observing the talents of San Jose's roster hopefuls. And Brodzinski's resume was on display. 

Following an NCAA career at St. Cloud State where he posted 112 points (64 goals, 48 assists) and a plus-42 -- and helped lead the Huskies to their first Frozen Four appearance in 2013-- Brodzinski spent four seasons with the Reign and occasionally got recalled to play for the Kings. The 6-foot-1 winger spent a lot of time traveling back and forth between the AHL and NHL as he developed his game, building himself up to be a regular goal-scorer.

That scoring consistency, mixed with the element of speed Brodzinksi demonstrated in Tuesday evening's game, could be one piece of the puzzle pieces the Sharks are looking for to bolster their bottom six.

Brodzinski may still be in the audition phase of his tenure in teal, but he's also getting some veteran guidance along the way. Playing wing opposite Sorensen also means he's spent the start of the preseason on a line with Joe Thornton. Sharks' general manager Doug Wilson said ahead of training camp how excited the organization was that No. 19 would be around for another season to help usher in the next wave of new players -- much like Thornton did with Sorensen last season. So far, Brodzinski is getting that exact opportunity.

"All of those guys, especially Joe, are pretty easy to play with," Brodzinski complimented. "He sees the ice really, really well."

This isn't to say the line combinations won't get mixed up at some point before the regular season starts. DeBoer isn't one to get too attached to combos and pairs, no matter what time of year it is. For the time being, though, Brozinski is trying to figure out how he can best contribute to that line.

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"Those guys have a lot of chemistry already," he said of Thornton and Sorensen. "So, I'm just trying to mesh. Find the way that they play and try to acclimate my game as much as I can to the way they play.

"Now I just have to take this opportunity and run with it."

Sharks alternate captains' job just as important as Logan Couture's

Sharks alternate captains' job just as important as Logan Couture's

SAN JOSE - Fans might have been scratching their heads when it was announced ahead of training camp that the Sharks will have four alternate captains this season.

But as head coach Peter DeBoer explained when camp opened up, each player wearing an "A"-- Joe Thornton, Tomas Hertl, Brent Burns, and Erik Karlsson -- brings something different to the table. And their jobs will be just as important as that of newly-appointed captain Logan Couture

"For me, it's always about the people around the guy wearing the 'C,'" DeBoer said. "They're just as important, and we've got two former captains in there in Jumbo (Joe Thornton) and Erik Karlsson."

He has a point. San Jose's "A-team" boasts a resume of players with extensive leadership backgrounds. From Thornton's and Karlsson's experiences as being captains to Burns' run as being one of the loudest voices in the Sharks' dressing room. Couture himself said having a group like that around him is a plus.

"I'm lucky here in San Jose," Couture said on Friday, the first day of training camp. "There are a lot of guys who are leaders and a few guys who have been captains in the past. So we've got a great leadership group." 

The one alternate captain selection that has garnered the most attention thus far has been Tomas Hertl, who is wearing a letter for the first time in his professional career. Of course, anyone who has kept tabs on the Czech forward during his tenure in teal knows he has developed into a leader over the last couple of seasons, particularly last season when he took rookies Lukas Radil and Radim Simek -- both of whom are older than Hertl -- under his wing.

"I know we've got a lot of leaders here on the team and I'm really happy Pete picked me," Hertl said on Friday, adding that he wants to continue elevating his game after a successful 2018-19 campaign. "I want to prove it, you know? I think I proved it last year but now, it can't just be one year and then I slow down. I want to push myself harder and harder and help the other young guys coming in."

"He's elevated his game and his confidence in demanding and making other people around him better," DeBoer said of Hertl. "That's grown over the four years that I've been here. He was a young kid that was coming off of a couple of really tough injuries when I first got here. His development and growth have just been off the charts."

DeBoer also mentioned that San Jose's contingent of leaders backing up Couture expands beyond the four players wearing "A"s.

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"We've got a lot of other guys, even (more) than the group who are wearing the letters," DeBoer said, "who are going to be part of our leadership group, including Martin Jones and Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Evander Kane and other guys.

"I feel very fortunate here as a coach with what I've inherited in this organization. I think all of those guys will support Logan in his job."

How Erik Karlsson has changed Sharks one year after blockbuster trade

How Erik Karlsson has changed Sharks one year after blockbuster trade

Sure, one player does not a team make. But as the San Jose Sharks saw last season, one player can change the entire complexion of a team.

Such is the case for Erik Karlsson, who came to the Sharks on this date one year ago thanks to a blockbuster trade that sent shockwaves across the league. There's no denying that the former Ottawa Senators captain has had a profound impact on San Jose since his arrival in Silicon Valley.

Now that Karlsson has signed to an eight-year contract with San Jose, will have an "A" on his sweater, and will hopefully start the season with a clean bill of health, the focus shifts to how Karlsson could further evolve with the team.

San Jose already has big names on its roster and was known across the NHL for being a competitive product before Karlsson came to the South Bay. With a future Hall of Famer in Joe Thornton and a Norris Trophy winner in Brent Burns, just to name a few, San Jose already had a way of grabbing the rest of the league's attention.

But the addition of Karlsson to the Sharks' lineup put a whole different spotlight on them. Adding one of the best two-way defensemen on the planet to a blue line with Burns instantly bumped up San Jose's stock, making them a heavy favorite in the Western Conference. 

Of course, with that spotlight also came heightened criticism. The Sharks were the subject of scrutiny early in the season when Karlsson didn't instantly assimilate to the team, particularly when San Jose went on a couple of ugly losing skids. The denunciation resurfaced again in the latter part of the season when Karlsson sustained a groin injury that took him out of the Sharks lineup right up until the end of the regular season. And then, there were the constant questions as to why Karlsson didn't sign a long-term contract with the Sharks during the season and whether his days in San Jose were numbered. 

But don't forget -- Karlsson's first year with the Sharks wasn't all doom and gloom. During a window around December and January of last season, before all of the chaos regarding his injury and his contract status, the Swede went on a hot streak that gave the Sharks both an offensive and defensive boost that made them a force to seriously be reckoned with. His speed and skill in the defensive zone served as a big help to the Sharks' often shaking goaltending, while his work setting up plays at the opposite end of the ice added a layer of danger to San Jose's forward attack.

Alongside Brenden Dillon, who became  San Jose's plus-minus leader for the duration of the season, Karlsson became a key to San Jose's success. He even set a franchise record at the start of the new year, becoming the first Sharks player to record at least one point in 13 straight games. 

Once Karlsson found his footing, he helped morph the Sharks into the team everyone thought they would be at the start of the season. And that's exactly the kind of play the Sharks want to see more of as the new season gets underway.

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How Karlsson will perform after having surgery this off-season remains to be seen. But the Sharks are clearly already putting quite a bit of stock into him being available to lead the team on the ice, on the bench, and in the dressing room. After one season of being the new guy in the room, Karlsson has pivoted into a bigger leadership position, similar to the one he held before that trade one year ago that brought him to San Jose.

After an eventful first season in teal, it's anyone's guess what Karlsson's second year with the Sharks has in store.