It's been a busy week for Sharks fans. Training camp ended, and players were reassigned to the San Jose Barracuda, their junior leagues, or released from the team entirely. Scott Harrington signed from his PTO (something I got right in the training camp predictions article), although I have a sneaking suspicion eventually he ends up on the Barracuda once Markus Nutivaara gets back from injury. If not Harrington than Megna will likely be waived in the coming weeks. Today is a big game for Megna, as he steps in for Harrington in the second game of the Global Series against Nashville.
There's also a bit of drama regarding David Quinn's decision to not play Bordeleau or Eklund in the last preseason game in Germany (an exhibition match against Eisbaren Berlin), or in these two opening games in Europe. My thoughts are mixed. I think a role for Eklund would be in the top six players, next to Couture or Hertl on the LW spot. Meier has one spot locked down, and Quinn wants to try out Labanc and/or Lindblom on that second line. I don't think Eklund really fits with that group very well, and he didn't really show out in his preseason games to warrant a spot right away (something I got wrong in the training camp predictions article). POSSIBLY I'd try something like:
once Barabanov comes back, as I think Kunin could complement Eklund by doing some of the heavy lifting on that line. I suspect we won't see that lineup soon though, as the Sharks have to be cap and roster compliant by Tuesday, with Bordeleau and Eklund likely headed down to the new-look Barracuda. Bordeleau I feel should have gotten a shot at the third line center role, but for whatever reason the Sharks decided that Bonino should do that job, despite being really just awful at it last year. I think it might be time to accept that Bonino is a winger at this stage in his career. Or a fourth line center if you have a team that's much, much deeper than the Sharks. Anyways, I told you it was a busy week for the big club, eh?
So which Sharks prospects have I been watching? Primarily Sasha Chmelevski, Cam Lund, Filip Bystedt, and Jake Furlong. I've caught glimpses of Joey Muldowney and Reese Laubach but haven't quite caught enough to generate any concrete opinions. I'll save their check-in for another day.
Ah, our old friend Sasha Chmelevski. Does he still count as a prospect? Probably so, as his rights are still with the Sharks until he turns 27, four long years from now. He transitioned to the KHL this season after likely not being guaranteed a Sharks roster spot ahead of the 2022-2023 season. He spent three years with the Barracuda, as well as parts of two seasons with the Sharks, scoring 8 assists in 19 games in 2021-2022. To me, he looked near ready to be a full-time NHLer last season, likely in a team's bottom six. In the KHL he's been put into a much different role. Sasha has looked quite good in a top line role for Salavat Ufa, displaying high-end hockey sense and decent playmaking skills. He still skates like he hates the ice and wants to stomp it until it melts though. It's always been the biggest issue with Sasha. He's improved his acceleration since he began his professional hockey career, but he can't maintain a top speed because of his choppy stride. Still though with some soft minutes, good linemates and powerplay time he's amassed 11 points in 15 games in the KHL. It seems a little poetic that Chmelevski and Chekhovich, both late round picks in 2017, both heralded as steals for high post-draft production, are now both in the KHL instead of part of the Sharks future. It's a bit sad, as I think at least for Chmelevski, the skill is there but the opportunity seems to have slipped through his fingers. Who knows though, if he keeps up a high pace in the KHL, maybe the Sharks take another look at bringing him back.
Cam Lund has started off his college hockey career with the Northeastern Huskies with quite a bang. Lining up as the team's first line RW, and with PP2 duties (as a freshman), you can tell Northeastern's coaches have a lot of confidence in his skills. His first game he put up a goal and an assist, 4 shots and a +2 rating in a 3-2 OT win against Long Island. This included this gorgeous snipe:
I watched a bit of Lund in the USHL last year, and came away with mixed opinions. He had some good puck rushes, but seemed individualistic at times or invisible if the puck wasn't on his stick. A lot of that is still true in my eyes, but then he then flat out dominated the 3 on 3 development camp tournament,. Showcasing his speed, skill with the puck and shot, he was a consistent highlight in that format.
Much of the same has occurred in his first two games in college. He had 4-5 great rushes up ice in his second game against Vermont (against Timofei Spitserov! He was there!) that were near end-to-end. They were impressive, and he certainly wasn't afraid to use his handling, speed and size to beat his man. The issue was mostly that besides the rush offense I found his in-zone play to be a little lacking. Mostly floating, waiting for a shooting opportunity in space rather than getting into place to chain plays together. He's new to this level of competition though, so I'm going to reserve judgment on this until later on in the year. For now the highlights are: great looking shot, always trying to get into a shooting spot, good speed and hands to beat defenders at the college level off the rush. Needs to improve: in-zone playmaking, physical play, getting caught "floating" instead of defending.
Once some more tape is out there, Lund is certainly getting a full video breakdown sometime this fall/winter.
I've talked a lot about Bystedt in both his video and in the Four Nations blogpost here on the site, but he made a big jump over the past few months. After dominating the aforementioned tournament, he stepped into a third line center role for Linköping HC in the SHL. Whereas someone like Lund might look a little behind the play at times in college, Bystedt mostly seems above it in the SHL level. He looks comfortable controlling play, battling for pucks and maintaining good defensive positioning. His scanning ability is impressive, constantly checking where attackers are coming and where the play is going to go. His off-puck play has been a big driver of his success, while unlike Lund, his play with the puck is still a bit lackluster. He did have one rush up ice that led to this goal:
However, all four of his points (2G and 2A) in the 8 games so far have come on the powerplay. Two of those assists were just him winning faceoffs back to his man at the point. Important yes, but possibly a little concerning for his 5 on 5 play. When I watch him, the same issues are there. He's a bit slow to get up to speed, even if his top speed is improved, and his handling is not great. He makes long, sweeping motions with his stick to maintain possession, and if a defender can get inside he'll lose the puck. He is still making smart decisions in-zone, but I think he needs to improve upon maintaining possession at speed, or else the even strength points might not come for awhile. Again he's still very young and this is a big step up for him, so I will reserve more judgment until later (seems to be a theme of this article huh?).
Furlong didn't stand out all that much during training camp, but did look impressive in the development camp 3 on 3 games, as well as the rookie tournament in September. A smoother skater than Laroque, but with a bit less defensive poise and pace, Furlong looks to be a big part of the offense at Halifax this year. I've watched 2 games of his so far after he was sent back to juniors early in the training camp cycle. He's been fine. Halifax tends to run most of their offense off the rush, through Vidicek and Dumais (I have a feeling this is going to be another Stankoven situation in a year or two and people will wonder how he fell to the third), rather than through the defense. He's got just a single point in 3 games so far, which was a PP assist in game 2. It was a simple breakout pass that led to a goal by Huard Jr., but wasn't much else to write about. Overall the positives for Furlong for me are: decent speed, 4 way mobility, ability to hold the point and QB a PP, and a good breakout pass from his zone. He's got an issue with over-committing on pinches, and he lets attackers slip behind him too much, leading to chances against. I question some of his defensive instincts when he defends in-zone that I'll get into during his video. Furlong, Lund and Laroque are all on the fall/winter video schedule for the Youtube channel. Get excited. The defense prospects will have their own scoring tool, the DET, which will be revealed soon™.
Injuries to Michael Fisher and Gannon Laroque have held them out of their openers. I have a sense from Twitter scuttlebutt that Laroque's injury is long-term, possibly requiring surgery in the summer, and could hold him out for even more time. Sad. The summer of Laroque was going so well otherwise, as he earned an ELC from the Sharks and was named captain for Victoria. Here's hoping he's back soon. I also have only highlight tape of Laroque and no in-game tape so his video won't be out until he's back on the ice to really zero in on what makes the 4th round pick an interesting prospect. Michael Fisher I have no info on, other than he's injured and hasn't played yet for Youngstown in the USHL. Once he's back, he's on the viewing schedule for sure.
Who else...Oh Evgeni Kashnikov signed in Russia. He's definitely a defenseman. I'm sure. He's got 0 points in 14 games, and I haven't watched a second of him. I wasn't really that impressed with him last year, despite his frame and propensity for scoring the odd goal or making a nice rush up ice. It was hard to project what his game was. He didn't use his frame particularly well on defense, nor his long stick, as he choked up on it too often when trying to pokecheck. He did use his speed and frame well in the corners on offense, but again would just whip pucks on net from everywhere and hope for the best. His outlet passing wasn't great. I dunno, he seems like a guy that will probably make a career in Russia on a third pair.
Alex Young had two assists yesterday in his first game back at Colgate. I'll be sure to add him to the watch schedule as well. He's maintained good numbers and utilization at Colgate, so maybe there's something special there, but I've seen very little of him during the past two years.
Eli Barnett also is a defenseman, I'm sure of it. I think I'll wait for him to get to Vermont next season to really catch games of him though. He looked decent defensively but timid with the puck on his stick during the 3 on 3 scrimmage in July. I did really enjoy Locked on Sharks interview of him though, so check that out here.
Alright that's a lot of rambling but the last two guys are McCue and Gilmartin, both of whom aren't off to great starts in the OHL. I'm sure I'll get around to watching them again this year, but I didn't have many great things to say about either last season. McCue maybe has something if you squint and pretend, and Gilmartin if you squint, pretend and were a little buzzed already.
That's the rant.