When the San Jose Sharks dealt multiple players at the trade deadline last season and saw others go down with injuries, several forwards got an early call-up to the NHL. However, despite how many players got into game action with the Sharks, very few looked as though they were ready for the NHL.
With the Sharks acquiring three more wingers in Ryan Donato, Patrick Marleau and Matt Nieto and also re-signing Stefan Noesen, suddenly there really aren’t many spots for forwards to win in training camp. The top-six will likely be made up of Logan Couture, Ryan Donato, Tomas Hertl, Evander Kane, Kevin Labanc and Timo Meier. Then we can also bet that Patrick Marleau, Matt Nieto, Stefan Noesen and Marcus Sorensen will all be locks for the bottom-six.
This leaves just two open spots in the lineup and here’s who could be competing for them:
It’s possible they could be the third-line and fourth-line center spots, however, we could also see Marleau or even Donato play third-line center, which would leave a spot open on the wing. If that’s the case, however, whichever veteran is playing on the fourth line would likely slide up to the third line, leaving a spot open on the fourth line instead.
I’d imagine that of the players listed above, the most likely players to get a spot in the lineup would be Dylan Gambrell and Joel Kellman. Kellman would be a good fit as a fourth-line center, while Gambrell spent most of the season in the NHL and could be given another opportunity with the Sharks.
As for the least likely players to make the jump, I’d guess that would be Lean Bergmann, Joachim Blichfeld, Maxim Letunov, Alex True and Danil Yurtaykin, given that all are still young and saw limited action with the Sharks last season.
This means that Noah Gregor, Fredrik Handemark and Antti Suomela could all be fighting for roster spots as well.
With the Sharks adding some veteran depth up front, we’re going to see a battle for ice time this season in the bottom-six. It’ll be interesting to see who rises to the challenge and who struggles to earn their spot.
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Here’s today’s poll question (results and discussion will be posted in a future article):
If the Sharks use a current member of the organization as their third-line center, will it be a recent addition (Donato/Marleau) or a player with less NHL experience (Gregor, Kellman, etc.)?