SAN JOSE -- Noah Gregor made his NHL debut with the Sharks on Oct. 19 after being called up from the AHL earlier that day. The 21-year-old appeared in 10 of San Jose's next 12 games, totaling zero points and posting a minus-6 before being sent back down to the Barracuda on Nov. 17.
A week later, Gregor was called back up and scored his first career NHL goal in the next game he played. However, that would be the only point he registered before once again being sent back to the Barracuda towards the end of December after seven more NHL games.
Gregor had to wait almost an entire two months for his next pot of coffee in the NHL. Given how he has played since, he might have said goodbye to the AHL for good.
In getting the primary assist on Stefan Noesen's first-period power-play goal in the Sharks' 3-2 loss to the Minnesota Wild on Thursday night, Gregor offered the latest evidence that he has no intention of ever being sent back down. Since being called up on Feb. 13, he now has tallied three points (one goal, two assists) across eight games.
"Just a lot of confidence," Gregor explained what's different in this go-around with the Sharks following Thursday's loss. "I went down and worked on some things that translated into my recent call-up, and I think I've done a pretty good job of being confident and knowing I can play at this level."
While Gregor's self-confidence might be near an all-time high, he has also been given indications from the coaching staff that they, too, have confidence in him. Interim coach Bob Boughner recently moved Gregor up to the first line alongside Logan Couture and Evander Kane, and the rookie was actually manning the point on the power play when he found Noesen for the goal.
"He thinks the game very well. He's fast," Noesen described Gregor. "Overall, his hockey IQ is pretty good. Every time he's on the ice he creates something, and that's what you want to see."
San Jose's captain echoed a similar sentiment.
"He's quick," Couture said of his new linemate. "He's smart. He sees the game well. As he gets more experience, he's going to get some more patience with the puck. He has a creativity where he can make plays. You can tell he's a skill player -- and he has got a good shot."
Both of the goals Gregor has scored at the NHL level support that last assessment.
Given the current state of the Sharks and the fact they're all but mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, you can expect Gregor to get plenty more opportunities to prove that he belongs. Consequently, he'll likely find himself in positions he's not accustomed to.
Such was the case Thursday night when Gregor had to fill in defensively for Brent Burns, who had previously jumped up in the play and was unable to get back as a Wild skater moved into the neutral zone. In an effort to get into better defensive positioning, Gregor attempted to transition from skating forwards to backwards.
To put it lightly: It wasn't the most graceful look.
"A little better skating forwards than backwards," Gregor said with a chuckle. "Tough pivot there by me."
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There surely will be more growing pains for Gregor as he continues to establish himself at the NHL level, but since his most recent call-up, those have often been overshadowed by evidence of promise.
Gregor has no intention of going back to the AHL, and lately, he's playing like it.