Welcome Wagon 2017: Rudolfs Balcers (ELC), Brandon Bollig, Radim Simek, Filip Sandberg, Josef Korenar, and Antoine Bibeau
Dearly Departed: Mirco Mueller (trade), David Schlemko (expansion), Nikita Jevpalovs (KHL), Patrick Marleau (UFA), Micheal Haley (UFA), Mantas Armalis (UFA)
2017 – Sharks with a Few Less Teeth
Replacing the goal scoring that Patrick Marleau brought to the San Jose Sharks since the 1997-98 season will be difficult to say the very least. Marleau, the Sharks career leader in every relevant offensive category, signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs going from the Shark Tank to the fish bowl of the hockey universe. Marleau is a streaky scorer so how he does in Toronto remains to be seen but the shock waves to the Sharks’ lineup is already being felt.
The Sharks will look to Mikkel Boedker to bounce back from his horrendous freshman year in teal that was by any reasonable metric, an abject failure. With Marleau gone Boedker most likely sees a significant uptick in power play time where he was a threat for the Coyotes as they showcased him for the trade to the Colorado Avalanche two years ago. His efficacy at five-on-five is debatable, so the impact with the man-advantage will be key. Boedker almost has to improve on his power play point total, a single assist, and the opportunity will be there.
Timo Meier is a full-time player in the NHL, ready or not. The highest San Jose pick since Logan Couture will be counted on to at the very least contribute to the 27 goals lost with Marleau heading to the Leafs. It is dangerous to rely on such a young player to play such a significant role with no contingency plan worth noting, but that is exactly where Doug Wilson and Peter DeBoer find themselves headed into the 2017-18 campaign.
Another area of concern is the health of Joe Thornton and his knee. The Sharks' brass is on record saying that Thornton will be ready for the season but how effective he will be after the first major injury of his career is cause for pause. Thornton already had lost a step in the new NHL, will he lose another after reconstructing his 38-year-old knee?
The departure of David Schlemko will hardly be of notice to fans. Dylan DeMelo was ready last year and is the right-handed version of Schlemko anyway. DeMelo and the improved Brenden Dillon were an effective pairing the last two seasons when called upon and there is no doubt they will be a trusted bottom-pair as well this season.
The seventh defender position is likely a three-way race between Tim Heed, Joakim Ryan, and newcomer Radim Simek. Smart money is on Heed to win the battle in training camp, but he will not be able to afford a misstep with the heady Ryan at his heels. Simek is a dark horse that could be in the call-up mix should injuries strike.
Key Barracuda to Watch
Cavan Fitzgerald and Manual Wiederer make the jump from the QMJHL to the AHL to join the ranks of professional hockey. Jeremy Roy could make the ‘Cuda roster as well but multiple injuries in the last two years have stifled development. He is eligible to go back to the Q, and that might be for the best. Radim Simek and Filip Sandberg could be call-up options for the Sharks later in the season and will help plug some talent holes that are upcoming for the Barracuda.
Prospect Depth Chart
Ready or not, here comes Timo Meier to the NHL. Already the bluest chip in the Sharks cupboard the 20-year-old has the added pressure of being penciled in as the top-six forward that management has talked up over the past two seasons. Meier has the skill to be a complimentary winger in the NHL. Meier will have all the opportunity to play with two of the best centers in the Western Conference in Joe Thornton and Logan Couture.
Rudolfs Balcers and his time with the Swift Current Broncos and sent Sharks fans clamoring for his signing. After development camp ended, it was still unclear where the skilled Latvian was going to end up playing, but he put ink to paper and will join the San Jose Barracuda in the fall. Balcers 40 goals in the WHL is a promising step forward. He will now how to show he can do that in the professional ranks, as it is top-six or bust for the sniping winger.
Kevin Labanc came blazing out of the gates and nearly made the Sharks out of training camp last season and was the last cut before the regular season. He instantly meshed with the departed Nikolay Goldobin and was better than a point and a half points per game in the AHL in the early going. Labanc started to slow down towards the end of the season and was all over the map from game to game. The skill is there but the consistency is the missing piece but a key one for a player for the future to infuse skill into the NHL club. Adding Labanc to the “fallers” category is not about ability. He has that. It is more about regaining the momentum he lost in the spring.
The Sharks compensation pick for the Oilers taking Todd McLellan has had a rough two years since being the second highest goalie ever selected by the organization. Robinson struggled in the USHL and started to find his footing in the NAHL. Robinson is still very much a long term project and needs to be starting taking steps forward in his progression.
August Top 10
1 – Timo Meier
2 – Tim Heed
3 – Marcus Sorensen
4 – Ryan Carpenter
5 – Kevin Labanc
6 – Danny O’Regan
7 – Joakim Ryan
8 – Rudolfs Baclers
9 – Scott Reedy
10 – Filip Sandberg