The Sharks rookies hit the ice in San Jose Friday, Sept. 13. After a short trip to Las Vegas for some more practice and a tournament with the Anaheim Ducks rookies, they will return to San Jose to wrap up their week. Full camp begins in earnest on Friday, Sept. 20. While there were some significant shakeups this summer, in particular behind the bench and on the blue line, the Sharks have a well-established lineup and any prospects trying to crack the opening-night roster are looking at a steep challenge. With one or two possible job openings, competition for those slots will be fierce.
Devin Setoguchi is a prospect in name only. He had his ups and downs last season, but he is almost certainly going to be on the Sharks opening-night roster, and it is expected that his name will soon be moved into Hockey’s Future’s graduated section.
Roster vacancies are those left by veteran checkers Patrick Rissmiller and Curtis Brown. Rissmiller suited up for 79 games and played about 13 minutes per game, while Brown played only 33 games and 10 minutes a night. These are not giant holes to fill. The competition starts with veteran free agent Jeff Friesen, who will be in camp trying to get back to the NHL after missing a year. Prospects with an inside line on challenging him for those spots include Logan Couture, Steven Zalewski and Lukas Kaspar. Couture is 19 and so the AHL is not an option with him, so it’s either the NHL or back to the Ottawa 67’s (OHL) for him. He probably has the most talent of this bunch, but he also suffered two significant concussions last season, and the Sharks may be wary about bringing him along too soon. Kaspar was the last cut from training camp last year, and Zelewski might have the best all-around NHL-ready game. Both Brown and Rissmiller spent some time in the face off circle, and both Zelewski and Couture play center, so that might give them an edge here. In the end, it will come down to whether or not Friesen can reclaim his NHL status, and how each of these players performs this preseason. Also competing for the open positions will be veteran minor leaguers Thomas Plihal and Tom Cavanagh.
Other Sharks forward prospects in camp include P.J. Fenton, T.J. Fox, Matt Jones, Jamie McGinn, Frazer McLaren, Mike Morris, Ashton Rome. Should Friesen not make the team, the door would crack open for possibly McGinn or Morris to sneak in. Aside from Couture, the rest of these players would start the season with the Worcester Sharks (AHL) should they not make the San Jose roster.
The Sharks made some waves in the offseason at the blue line. Gone are Brian Campbell, Craig Rivet, Matt Carle and new faces Dan Boyle, Rob Blake and Brad Lukowich. The math is simple. Subtract three and add three and you’re where you started in terms of job openings: none. So unless there is an injury, the Sharks defense is spoken for. Puck-mover Derek Joslin, a 2005 fifth-round pick, will be waiting in the wings in Worcester should that injury happen.
Other defensive prospects in camp include Jason Demers, Julien Demers (no relation), Samuel Groulx, and Mike Moore. Moore will start the season in Worcester, and Jason Demers is likely to as well, though at 20 years old, he could also get sent back to Victoriaville (QMJHL). Julien Demers and Groulx will be sent back to their major junior teams, Ottawa (OHL) and Quebec (QMJHL) respectively.
The Sharks will have seven goaltenders in camp including prospects Thomas Greiss, Timo Pielmeier, and Tyson Sexsmith. Like the Sharks’ defense, the goaltending jobs are taken by Evgeni Nabokov and Brian Boucher. Greiss is the likely No. 1 in Worcester this season, and should get tested with the opportunity to handle a heavy workload. Pielmeier will be playing for the Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL) and Sexsmith the Vancouver Giants (WHL) this upcoming season.