San Jose Sharks: Quick notes from the team’s preseason opener

TAMPA, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 25: Jonny Brodzinski #76 of the Los Angeles Kings shoots during a game against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena on February 25, 2019 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
TAMPA, FLORIDA - FEBRUARY 25: Jonny Brodzinski #76 of the Los Angeles Kings shoots during a game against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena on February 25, 2019 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) /

The San Jose Sharks officially kicked off their 2019 season with a 4-3 loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday night. Here are some quick notes from the game.

San Jose Sharks hockey is officially back! It’s been nearly four months since we last saw Team Teal take the ice for a game of hockey but on Tuesday night our wait officially ended.

The Sharks took on the Anaheim Ducks in their first of six preseason games this September and came away with a disappointing 4-3 loss in regulation. That said, it’s just really great to see the Sharks back in action.

Most of the NHL regulars didn’t play in this game for either team as expected. However, some notable fixtures of the Sharks lineup played including Timo Meier, Kevin Labanc, Marcus Sorensen, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Brent Burns, and perhaps most surprisingly Joe Thornton.

Perhaps Thornton playing was a product of his late return to the team in the offseason. Regardless, it was fun to see him back centering the top line for a change.

But this game wasn’t about the production from the team’s well-established veterans. Nor was it even about the play of guys like Meier and Labanc who are still coming into their own.

Rather, Tuesday night’s game was all about the prospects. So which prospects did their best to stand out amongst a crowded group of young players all vying for roster spots?

Perhaps no one stood out more than 2018 first-round pick Ryan Merkley. Merkley was one of general manager Doug Wilson‘s most controversial picks as the uber-talented defenseman fell in the draft due to attitude concerns.

But on Tuesday night he showed everyone why he was considered one of the most talented players in that class. Merkley finished with two assists on the night including one on Joachim Blichfeld‘s game-tying goal in the third period.

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The talent is clearly there, but it’s likely he spends most of the season down in the OHL or with the San Jose Barracuda as his path to the starting lineup appears blocked for now.

But remember, Merkely is only 19-years-old — there’s no rush just yet. Besides, it’s probably better for him to see more ice time playing in the OHL or with the Barracuda as opposed to serving as the Sharks sixth or seventh defenseman.

Outside of Merkley, the aforementioned Blichfeld looked impressive as he managed multiple scoring opportunities throughout the game — finally capitalizing on one with his third-period goal.

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Blichfeld sniped a wrister past Ducks goalie Anthony Stolarz to knot the game up at three before a late Anaheim goal gave the Ducks the lead and the ultimate win.

Others who looked strong included Russian forward Danil Yurtaikin, Canadian center Noah Gregor, and former Los Angeles Kings wing Jonny Brodzinski — the latter of which could provide an intriguing case to make the final roster.

Brodzinski played on the first line with Thornton and Sorensen, a testament to the faith that the front office has in him. And after signing a two-way contract with the Sharks in the offseason, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him sneak on to the roster.

Finally, goalie Aaron Dell played well starting in net while Martin Jones sat out with many of the other starters. Dell finished with 11 saves on 12 shots vastly outplaying his main competitor, Josef Korenar.

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Dell’s backup job isn’t entirely secure going into the preseason, but after just one game, it looks increasingly unlikely that Korenar or anyone else will be able to step up and challenge him for the role.

The Sharks will travel to Calgary to take on the Flames on Wednesday night as we inch closer and closer to the regular season.

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But for now, Sharks hockey is back — sort of — and we should all rejoice in relief.