San Jose Sharks: Roster Spots Up For Grabs As Training Camp Opens

SAN JOSE, CA - APRIL 22: Tomas Hertl
SAN JOSE, CA - APRIL 22: Tomas Hertl /

The San Jose Sharks are set to begin training camp and with hockey just around the corner, they have plenty of questions surrounding the roster.

The San Jose Sharks picked the wrong month to play their worst hockey last season. Th month of March is where NHL teams vying for a playoff spot want to finish on a strong note and carry momentum into the first round.

Unfortunately, for the Sharks turned in a disastrous March, going 1-7 on the road as the team limped into the playoffs. Head coach, Peter DeBoer, hoped the misfortunes would end once the playoffs began.

But the Sharks were unable to recover after a horrific month and flamed out against the Edmonton Oilers in the first round.

On paper, the team appeared lethal offensively and had the depth for a return trip to the Stanley Cup Finals.

Instead, players could not provide consistent play on a regular basis and prospects did not show the confidence or ability to handle full-time NHL duties.

Perhaps the biggest reason for exiting early in the playoffs was the injury to Joe Thornton. Near the end of the regular season, Thornton went into the boards awkwardly in a game against Vancouver and sustained an injury.

He ended up missing the final regular season games and the first two games of the playoffs in Edmonton. After the Sharks were eliminated, Thornton revealed the extent of his knee injury — a torn ACL and MCL.

San Jose Sharks
San Jose Sharks /

San Jose Sharks

Thornton had surgery during the offseason and is expected to be ready for the start of the season. His status with the Sharks was up in the air though, as the grizzly veteran became a free agent this offseason.

San Jose was his first choice, though Thornton could have taken another offer for more money elsewhere. Ultimately, he chose to sign a one-year deal to stay in the Bay Area.

Thornton signed a cap-friendly deal with the hope that the organization would be able to re-sign longtime Sharks’ veteran Patrick Marleau.

However, the money and length of the new contract Marleau desired were not in the cards for general manager Doug Wilson and he was unable to make a deal.

As training camp opens for San Jose, players, coaches, and fans will have to adjust to the fact Mr. San Jose Shark has left. Marleau signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs in the offseason and will certainly provide leadership to a young group of skilled players such as Auston Matthews.

Marleau’s departure not only opens a roster spot but also a significant void in terms of goal production. Last season, Marleau scored 27 goals, as only three other Sharks’ players reached the 20-plus goal mark. Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture, will likely carry the brunt of goal scoring responsibility this year, but the team needs contributions from players who had underwhelming performances in 2016.

Mikkel Boedker will certainly be under scrutiny as the former first-rounder failed to live up to the goalscoring prowess he flashed with the Coyotes. He was often scratched from the lineup by DeBoer who had coached Boedker in the minors.

Boedker played for Team Europe last season in the World Cup of Hockey and did not have a full training camp last year. Expect a bounce back season as he will be relied on to find the net each night.

Along with Boedker, forwards Melker Karlsson and Joonas Donskoi need to step up after a down season for both players. Donskoi was perhaps the biggest disappointment after cracking the lineup two years ago, with only six goals last season. As for Karlsson, the young forward struggled to be a presence throughout games.

Tomas Hertl is entering a make or break year as the talented forward has been plagued by injuries in his early career. Since his first injury, Hertl appears hesitant at times to jump on opportunities. A knee injury kept him out for significant time last season and just could not get going.

The hope is that the young forward can stay healthy and contribute after only scoring ten goals in 49 games last season.

At least two roster spots are up for grabs with the departures of Marleau and defenseman David Schlemko. The Las Vegas Golden Knights selected Schlemko in the expansion draft and then traded him to Montreal for draft picks.

There are a few other players to watch for as training camp gets underway.

Timo Meier is almost a guarantee to make the opening game lineup after almost making the lineup out of camp two years ago. Mono ended his chances of making the squad last season and kept him out of training camp.

Meier began the season with the San Jose Barracuda and eventually made his debut with the Sharks. He played 34 games before being sent back down to the Barracuda. With a full training camp this time around, Meier should be ready to go.

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Daniel O’Regan had an impressive season, posting 58 points with the Barracuda. After making a trip to the Conference Finals of the AHL Calder Cup Playoffs last season, Sharks’ management is hoping the young players are ready to compete and play at the NHL-level full-time.

Rourke Chartier is a darkhorse candidate who could eventually see time in the NHL after a solid debut with the Barracuda and in the playoffs.

On defense, Dylan DeMelo seems to be a lock for the open spot — but two other defensemen will challenge to claim that spot in camp.

Tim Heed is a puck moving defenseman like Schlemko and posted 56 points with the Barracuda last season. His teammate, Joakim Ryan, will also contend for the spot. Ryan had a solid second season with the Barracuda, posting 49 points and finishing fourth among AHL defensemen with a plus-27 rating.

San Jose’s lack of moves during the offseason may seem perplexing, but Wilson made three significant deals to keep the Sharks competitive. Brent Burns signed a multi-year extension during last season, and the dynamic defenseman has been San Jose’s best player on the ice. Marc-Edouard Vlasic also signed an extension during the summer to be the team’s shutdown defenseman — and has been one of the best in the NHL in that role.

Wilson took a risk when trading for goaltender Martin Jones who had no starting experience and was the backup to Los Angeles’ Jonathan Quick. The gamble paid off as Jones provided the goaltending to get San Jose to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in 2016. Jones has been reliable since joining the Sharks and was rewarded with a contract extension to keep him in the fold long-term.

All three players will help to bridge the gap between the aging core and the young players who will join the Sharks in the coming years. The three hope to provide leadership in the following seasons with hoisting the Stanley Cup the primary objective.

Next: Marleau's Significance To Younger Fans

Questions will hopefully be resolved once camp kicks into full gear. Plenty of young talent will look to push veterans in hopes of making an impression. The Pacific Division will be tough with the abundance of talent among the teams. San Jose may not be youthful, though they possess a roster capable of making another run to the playoffs.