San Jose Sharks young forwards beginning to provide much-needed depth

San Jose Sharks (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
San Jose Sharks (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /

The San Jose Sharks are finally getting the production they wanted out of their young forwards at a time where they really needed some additional depth.

When the San Jose Sharks opted to move on from players such as Joe Pavelski, Gustav Nyquist, and Joonas Donskoi in the offseason, the hope was that some of the younger forwards on their roster would step up and fill the holes left by the departed veterans.

Unfortunately, the Sharks didn’t really see that mass influx of young talent that they liked had hoped for.

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As a result, their roster was thin and they didn’t have too many reliable contributors outside of their top-six forwards. Which is why when second-line centerman Tomas Hertl went down, it could have spelled disaster for the team.

Head coach Peter DeBoer even went as far as to dress seven defensemen and only 11 forwards due to his lack of trust in the team’s bottom-six forwards. Somehow, the Sharks still managed to win three of four games in Hertl’s absence.

But the extra minutes required of the team’s top-six forwards clearly took its toll — and that was made evident in the Sharks’ sluggish 5-1 defeat at the hands of the Winnipeg Jets on Wednesday.

The return of Hertl on Friday allowed DeBoer to dress 12 forwards again and the result was a dominant 4-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings in a game that was never really in doubt.

Hertl’s return certainly helped, but what was especially promising was the performance of the team’s fourth-line — a line that had been a liability for most of the season. DeBoer crafted a fourth line of veteran Melker Karlsson and youngsters Noah Gregor and Antti Suomela.

And that trio produced perhaps the best game out of any Sharks fourth line this season.

The highlight of their night was Gregor scoring his first NHL goal early in the second period after catching up to a beautiful lob pass from defenseman Brenden Dillon. Gregor fired a wrist shot over goalie Jonathan Quick‘s left shoulder for his career score.

Meanwhile, Suomela showcased his speed and skating ability as he was on the ice for eight shot attempts and only five against — the best percentage on the team.

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Both Gregor and Suomela are excellent skaters and they’ve added new life and energy to a fourth line that desperately needed some type of spark. While Karlsson still remains a liability at full strength, his penalty kill abilities are much-needed.

At long last, it appears as though the Sharks may have found the young forward depth that they’ve been searching for. And for Suomela, he’s aware that this could be his last opportunity to prove that he should still around in the NHL.

The 25-year-old had the following to say to reporters after the game.

"“When I came here (on Nov. 19), I was like, ‘This is my last chance.’ I want to show what I can do here. Feels good to play, and feels good to be here again.”"

While they both still have a long way to go as players — they’re not particularly skilled with the puck yet and it would be nice to see them contribute on special teams — the speed and energy that they bring to the lineup is a breath of fresh air.

And it’s exactly what the Sharks have been searching for since the beginning of the season.

Hopefully Gregor and Suomela can continue to impress on the fourth line and allow the Sharks’ top-six forwards to play fewer minutes without having to worry about a steep drop-off in talent.

Next. San Jose Sharks: 3 driving factors behind the team’s recent turnaround. dark

After all, the San jose Sharks are going to need their best players to be rested if they plan to make another deep playoff run this season.