San Jose Barracuda

Three takeaways from Sharks' prospect development camp scrimmage

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AP

Three takeaways from Sharks' prospect development camp scrimmage

SAN JOSE — No, Friday night’s scrimmage to end Sharks development camp won’t have any impact on what the team will do when NHL free agency opens Monday. 

At least, for a couple of hours, Sharks fans got a positive glimpse at what Team Teal’s future could look like.

Here are three takeaways from Friday’s scrimmage at SAP Center.

Chekhovich already making case

You might recall Ivan Chekhovich got a look with the big club last preseason, tallying two goals and an assist in a 4-1 victory over a prospect-led Anaheim Ducks squad. In his return to SAP on Friday, the Russian forward scored two of his team’s three goals and was one of the most dynamic players on the ice.

Really, the prospects in this week’s camp won’t have a shot at cracking the NHL roster until they participate in training camp in the fall. But Chekhovich already looks poised to make a case for himself.

Regardless of what San Jose does in free agency, the team no doubt will bring up young players to fill in for injured starters or simply to create more offensive depth. (Think about how many times Sharks coach Peter DeBoer shook up that fourth line last year.) 

Look for Chekhovich potentially to be the next Dylan Gambrell, bouncing between the two San Jose clubs.

First look at goalie depth

Roy Sommer, coach of the Sharks’ AHL affiliate Barracuda, told the press Wednesday that one problem he won’t have on his team next season is goaltending.

On Friday, fans got their first look at the other goalies who are coming up the pipeline behind Antoine Bibeau and Josef Korenar — and if one of them is called up to back up Martin Jones next season, one of them could become a more familiar face to Sharks followers.

The name Sharks and Barracuda fans already might have heard a bit about is Andrew Shortridge, a 24-year-old out of Anchorage, Alaska.

Shortridge only played in one game for the ‘Cuda last season, but he’s coming off a stellar 2018-19 campaign for Quinnipiac University, where he registered a 1.51 goals-against average through 27 starts. He started the first half of Friday’s game strong before giving up the first goal and letting in two late markers.

Prospects Mike Robinson and Zachary Sawchenko also tended the twine, giving up a couple of goals apiece. 

[RELATED: Sharks prospects make early impression at camp]

Unexpected standout

The Sharks had 13 players in camp this past week on a tryout basis. While they might not have entered with the most buzz, a few of them left an impression.

Forward Zach Gallant was, hands down, the most noticeable of them all during the scrimmage, with his mix of grit and offensive assertiveness. The OHL product from Peterborough, Ontario, opened the scoring and ended regulation play trading punches with Lean Bergmann before finding the back of the net in the shootout. 

After practice Wednesday, Sharks director of scouting Doug Wilson Jr. said the key to a tryout player catching the team’s eye is to “just play their game.” If this is what Gallant’s game looks like on a regular basis, he could be a player who sticks around for a while.

Sharks organizational review: Goalie situation depends on Martin Jones

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USATSI

Sharks organizational review: Goalie situation depends on Martin Jones

SAN JOSE -- There may not have been a Sharks' player who caught more flak from fans this past season than Martin Jones, as the starting goalie battled with consistency this season. Criticism of San Jose's goaltending continued as Jones' backup, Aaron Dell, didn't fare much better overall throughout the regular season. 

Then came the Sharks' 20-game playoff run, where Jones did a complete 180-degree turn after the Sharks went into a 3-1 hole against the Vegas Golden Knights in the first round. As if a switch had been flipped, Jones went from being a liability to being a key to getting Team Teal to the Western Conference Final. 

The question now is which version of Martin Jones will be in net for the Sharks next season -- or how San Jose's goaltending contingent, in general, is going to look and match up to the competition in the future.

Sure, wins are what counts at the end of the day and Jones was tied for third in the league with 36 regular season victories in this last campaign. But while his record improved to 36-19-5 over the previous season's 30-22-6, his save percentage dipped from .915 to .896. He also developed a habit of giving up the first goal of the game within the first few minutes of the first period, putting the rest of the team on their heels early into games.  

Nevertheless, it's pretty unlikely Jones is going anywhere. He's entering the second season of a six-year contract extension he signed in 2017, and even before his turnaround performance in the playoffs the team around him never stopped sticking up for him. When Jones struggled, his teammates continued to put their unwavering faith in him and insisted their defensive effort in front of him was to blame. For that faith to continue, however, Jones is going to have to bring some of his strong play from the playoffs into next season.

As for Jones' backup, Dell's future seems a bit more open. Even with two shutouts on the season, No. 30's numbers also took a dip during the 2018-19 campaign and he ended the regular season with a 3.17 goals-against average and .886 save percentage. With just one year left on his current contract, San Jose could potentially use Dell as a trade piece.

[RELATED: What Sharks can learn from Stanley Cup champs]

Neither of San Jose's Barracuda goalies, Antoine Bibeau and Josef Korenar, saw any NHL time this past season. Although there's a possibility both get a look during camp ahead of next season after both posted better than .900 save percentages. Bibeau also already has two NHL games under his belt from when he was part of the Toronto Maple Leafs' organization, going 1-1-0 with a 1.99 goals-against average. 

The Sharks further added to their goaltending contingent this spring when they signed Zachary Emond to an entry-level contract. Emond, 18, won't be making any appearances at the NHL level this season, although the Sharks have expressed satisfaction with how the sixth-round pick from the 2018 draft is developing. Look for Emond to be a goalie to come up the pipeline for the Sharks, especially if he has another strong season with his junior club. 

Sharks offseason questions: Will Antti Suomela be back next year?

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AP

Sharks offseason questions: Will Antti Suomela be back next year?

SAN JOSE - When the Sharks' 2018-19 season first got underway, it looked like Antti Suomela could be the answer the team needed in adding depth to their centers. But after tallying just eight points (three goals, five assists) through 27 games, the Finnish forward was reassigned to the AHL in December for the remainder of the season.

Fast forward to the present, and the 25-year-old is one of many restricted free agents the Sharks have to make decisions about this offseason. The question now is whether San Jose liked enough of what they saw from him in his first season to keep him on the roster. While his fate has yet to be written, it's fair to wonder if Suomela will be playing somewhere else next season.

Suomela was a good catch for the Sharks in the last offseason, coming off three campaigns in the Finnish Elite League that showed upward growth. He had just led his team,  JyP HT Jyvaskyla, with 60 points (21 goals, 39 assists) and a staggering plus-28 in 59 games. But after looking impressive during Sharks' training camp last September and starting the season centering Joonas Donskoi and Evander Kane, the Espoo, Finland native had trouble generating offense or making a positive impact on the game.

When NBC Sports California caught up with Barracuda head coach Roy Sommer back in January, Suomela was one name that came up in the discussion. Suomela only had seven points (two goals, five assists) in 17 games at the AHL level. Sommer was confident that once Suomela "figured out" what he had to do at the NHL level, he would be unstoppable.

“With him, the work ethic is there, and he has a big compete to his game,” Sommer said. “I think he just has to figure out the North American game. Things happen a lot quicker here than where he was at. But he’s picking it up.”

Suomela ended his 2019 tenure with the Barracuda, scoring 20 points (six goals, 14 assists) in 47 games. He rejoined the Sharks roster once the Barracuda's season was over, but never penciled back into the big league lineup as San Jose went on a 20-game playoff run that ended with a Game 6 loss in the Western Conference final to the St. Louis Blues.

Even when the Sharks' roster sustained numerous injuries down the stretch, Dylan Gambrell was the center of choice to pencil into San Jose's playoff lineup.

[RELATED: What does future hold for Dylan Gambrell?]

Needless to say, it goes to wonder if we've already seen the end of Suomela's stint in a teal sweater. San Jose has 14 players who will become RFAs this summer on top of having some very tough decisions to make with its stacked UFA class. And there has been no word yet on how many of those discussions are unfolding.

In short, it's really anyone's guess at this point who will still be in San Jose when the offseason is over. For this center, though, it's looking very possible he could be playing somewhere else next season.