Sharks training camp preview

By Martin Christ

With the 2006-07 season approaching, the San Jose Sharks look to grow
with the youth they injected into the team last season when seven rookies
cracked the lineup. Matt Carle, Steve Bernier, Josh Gorges, Marcel Goc,
Milan Michalek, Patrick Rissmiller and Grant Stevenson made up the 2005-06
season’s youth movement. Their collective maturation process is
expected to propel the Sharks ahead in the new season. It is unlikely prospects not in that group will break through this time around.

The Sharks did move some of last season’s regulars, but also brought in
free agents to cover any vacancies in the roster. The forward position saw
the departure of Alyn McCauley, Nils Ekman and Scott Thornton. Mark Bell
fills the spot on the top line and should be an upgrade on Ekman, bringing a
more physical style for the corner work. Free agent signings Mike Grier and
Curtis Brown (again) combine to cover the loss of Thornton and
McCauley. Brown, who first became a Shark at the 2004 trade deadline, was brought
back because of his work on the penalty kill and his ability to win faceoffs, areas the Sharks need to improve. Mike Grier will likely join Brown on
the first penalty kill unit.

The progress of Michalek and Bernier to top six forward positions led the Sharks to offer Alexander Korolyuk, formerly a top line winger with San Jose, no more than a $1.5 million one-year contract. This speaks to the extent to which the Sharks’
forwards have been upgraded since the 2003-04 season. Both Michalek and
Bernier could hit the 50-60 point range and the two second line wingers
will look for a better, healthier playoffs.

If there is no room for a veteran like Korolyuk, then the chances of the
Sharks giving Devin Setoguchi a quick start on his NHL career are slim.
Even though Setoguchi catches eyes with his talent whenever he plays, it
makes more sense for him to complete a solid year of junior with, hopefully,
his first World Junior tournament at mid-term. Setoguchi was held out of
the ongoing Pacific Division Shootout with an undisclosed injury. The
precautionary move was made to insure he is healthy for the main camp.
Setoguchi might get into a few NHL games to begin the season, and then
return to the Saskatoon Blades.

There is only a slightly better opportunity of promotion this season
for winger Lukas Kaspar and center Joe Pavelski. Kasper already has
completed a year in the AHL, but will have to beat out the likes of
Rissmiller, Ryane Clowe, Mark Smith or Stevenson for a fourth line position,
which seems unlikely. Pavelski has shown excellent progress with the WCHA’s
Wisconsin Badgers and has forgone his last two years of college to sign
a $1.5 million contract with the Sharks, a deal which tells you the
Sharks are serious about this prospect. Pavelski is from the 2003 draft
class which included Michalek, Bernier and Carle (a good day at the
draft table). At 22 years of age, he has the maturity to make the
grade, and he would help the need for more faceoff wins. But for both he and
Kaspar, a midseason call is probable, but suiting up on opening night
is a long shot.

On defense, the Sharks signed free agents Patrick Traverse and Mathieu
Biron to add some NHL experience to the blueline. With young defensemen
Christian Ehrhoff, Carle and Gorges sure to make the team the Sharks
will turn to those two free agent signings to fill out the defense corps.
This means another season of junior for top 2006 pick Ty Wishart and
offensively-minded QMJHL defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic.

Gorges uses quick changes of direction to avoid forechecking pressure
and defends well without taking holding or stick penalties. He should show
a better all-around game in the new season, taking part in a little more
offensive play though he will never be a big point producer.

Carle is not the NHL’s leading rookie of the year candidate, but he
will merit some Calder Trophy consideration. It was his development that made
trading last season’s leading scoring defenseman Tom Preissing possible. The
Sharks have used Carle on the power play, opposite Patrick Marleau on the
point, and this should continue for the full season. Around a dozen goals and
30 assists might be Carle’s totals, which would break Magnus Ragnarsson’s
team record of 39 points (71 games) for a rookie defenseman set in the 1995-96 season.
Pat Falloon’s all-time Sharks rookie record of 59 points set in 1991-92 is
probably out of reach for Carle at least this year, but his full potential may make him the
all-time top Shark defender.

In goal, some assumed that the deposed No. 1 Evgeni Nabakov would be traded now that Vesa Toskala has taken the top spot. The Sharks actually plan to split the goaltending duties between the two, again leaving little room for their collection of goalie prospects to gain NHL
experience. Nolan Schaeffer, who saw action in six games last season, will be the
first in line for promotion if an injury should befall the two incumbents. If
Dimitri Patzold looks sharper than Schaeffer, he might see his first NHL
game at some point in the season. However, if both Toskala and Nabakov stay
happy, healthy Sharks they will play every minute of 2006-07.

Top goaltending prospect Thomas Greiss will be in the No. 2 spot with the Worcester Sharks if Schaeffer is lost to waivers.

Roster of the Pacific Division Shootout

GOAL – Thomas Greiss, Taylor Dakers

DEFENSE – Ty Wishart, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Dan Spang, Jame DeLory,
Derek Joslin, Matt McCue (free agent tryout), Randy King (free agent tryout),
Graham Potuer (free agent tryout).

FORWARDS – Ashton Rome, Joe Pavelski, Lukas Kaspar, Erik Felde (free
agent tryout), Jamie McGinn, Torry Gajda, David Bararuk (free agent tryout), Justin
Bernhardt (free agent tryout), Brock Hooton, Michal Macho, Jonathan Tremblay,
Matt Syroczynski, Brady Leisenring (free agent tryout), Mike Iggulden, Tom

Sharks preseason schedule

Tue, September 19th, at LOS ANGELES 7:30pm

Wed, September 20th, at ANAHEIM 7:00pm

Thu, September 21st, VANCOUVER 7:30pm

Sat, September 23rd, ANAHEIM 7:30pm

Tue, September 26th, at VANCOUVER 7:00pm

Wed, September 27th, at CALGARY 6:00pm

Fri, September 29th, LOS ANGELES 7:30pm

Sat, September 30th, CALGARY 7:30pm

All times PST.

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