4 Observations From the Sharks’ 2022-23 Preseason

A revamped San Jose Sharks squad will seek to establish their identity early and often under new head coach David Quinn. The good news is those newly-implemented systems were on full display in their 7-3 drubbing of the Vegas Golden Knights during Friday night’s split sessions. Yes, it’s only preseason, but that game wouldn’t have been as big a deal if Vegas’ top dogs hadn’t been dominated by a rookie-laden Sharks lineup.

Whether that game was a good sign for the Sharks, a bad sign for the Golden Knights, or a mixture of both remains to be seen. One thing’s for certain, this preseason bore plenty of positive indicators that things are headed in the right direction for the Sharks. Technically, there’s still one exhibition contest remaining in Berlin, but the cuts are final. Here are three observations heading into their season opener against the Nashville Predators.

A New Sharks Identity Emerges

If there’s one thing the Sharks have made glaringly evident this preseason it’s their new aggressive identity. Even in the preseason’s small sample size, it’s clear Quinn wants his team to push the play more in all three zones. Contrary to the defensive shell Bob Boughner’s system ran, they’re attacking opponents’ time and space, while cautiously utilizing their sticks as an extra weapon. As a result, Sharks defensemen have been much more active to keep the play alive at the offensive blue lines.

The first goal against the Golden Knights brought all of Quinn’s newly-implemented coaching elements together in one play. Timo Meier closes in on the puck carrier’s time and space, a ferocious forecheck forces a turnover, and an active defense finishes it off in one fluid motion. This style plays directly to Erik Karlsson’s strengths, who will no longer be playing second fiddle to Brent Burns. If he can remain healthy, an attack-style system for his offensive prowess could see the two-time Norris Trophy winner return to his old form. In turn, this could have very positive ripple effects throughout the Sharks’ lineup.

Daniil Gushchin May Be a Diamond in the Rough

Daniil Gushchin’s hat-trick on Friday night mirrored the raw scouting report that has him listed as a pure goal-scorer with a nose for the net. Though he was re-assigned to the San Jose Barracuda of the American Hockey League (AHL), the 20-year-old showed those same instincts near the dots and around the crease all preseason. On Friday night, he especially showcased a persistent knack for finding the soft spots in the offensive zone, presenting himself as an option for high-danger scoring chances. Add in a ferocious forecheck that makes him look much bigger than his 5-foot-8, 165-pound frame and you have a player who may translate well to the NHL level one day.

Related: Sharks News & Rumors: Quinn, Lorentz, Eklund, and more

2023 or beyond would be a more realistic projection for the young sniper to see considerable NHL ice time. However, Gushchin is already showing promising signs of adjusting to pro hockey in North America.

Bordeleau & Eklund Are Still Auditioning

Just because the Sharks’ top prospects made the trip to Berlin doesn’t necessarily mean they have solidified their spots on the roster. Alexander Barabanov’s day-to-day injury may be the only reason both William Eklund and Thomas Bordeleau were penciled into the lineup. That means one of them could be the odd man out for their home opener on Oct. 14. As such, the two games overseas could determine who stays and who goes between the two top prospects.

Thomas Bordeleau, Michigan Wolverines
Thomas Bordeleau Michigan Wolverines (Photo Credit Michigan Photography)

Bordeleau has already made a strong case for himself, posting five assists in eight games at the end of last season. He showcased his ability to carry the play in that small sample size. If that’s a sign of things to come, the Sharks may end up having one of the more formidable third lines in the league. But there needs to be more consistency.

Eklund is also looking to prove he belongs in the NHL. After the 2021 seventh-overall pick posted four assists across nine games in 2021-22 before being sent back to the Swedish Hockey League (SHL) for development, the expectation for him was to dominate overseas. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen, with Eklund potting just one goal and 14 assists across 29 games for Djurgardens. However, the lack of talent around him didn’t help as they finished second-to-last with a 14-27 record. That said, both Eklund and Bordeleau will be playing their version of playoff hockey in Prague to maintain their respective roster spots upon returning home.

Sharks’ Sucess Hinges on Prospect Development in 2022-23

The Sharks’ success in 2022-23 will likely be dictated by the performances of their top prospects. If Eklund and Bordeleau exceed expectations in their first full season, their path to contention could be ahead of schedule. If either is re-assigned, there’s still a frenzy of high-end talent circling the Sharks’ prospect pool. Regardless of how the current season pans out, there are glimmers of hope on the horizon.

Substack Subscribe to the THW Daily and never miss the best of The Hockey Writers Banner

Original concept by Josh Fitzpatrick