The San Jose Sharks are entering the 2022-23 season with a slew of new faces. On top of new management, the players have also seen a shakeup, bringing hope to a rather dismal-looking season. However, while seeing new people in San Jose is always exciting, numerous players have been overlooked in the onslaught of roster changes.
The Sharks’ returning players are largely overlooked unless they fall in the category of “older player with a bad contract” or “young player looking to hold down the fort.” However, with that being said, a few players have deserved the spotlight a lot more than they often receive it. Here are a few who may finally get their moment during the 2022-23 season.
Alexander Barabanov was acquired from the Toronto Maple Leafs during the 2020-21 season. After a decent few games with the Sharks, he found his game big time last year as he was able to put up 39 points in 70 games. While his point totals were not exactly superstar caliber, it is worth noting that scoring was a massive issue for the Sharks last year. As a result, he was awarded a $2.5 million annual average value (AAV) contract for the next two years.
Barabanov had issues in the Maple Leafs’ system, but that was due to his time spent in the bottom six. He is most effective when he gets a chance to utilize his playmaking abilities, which the Sharks gave him the chance to do. Even so, fans see him as a decent player who had a decent year, when I believe last season gave insight into how dominant he can be when utilized correctly. Placing Barabanov into a top-six forward role in 2022-23 could revitalize his career big time.
While Barabanov is already 28 years old, this season will be only his third year in the NHL. He is much older than your typical breakout candidate, and that has caused him to fly under the radar reasonably quickly. However, his game continues to get better every season. If this trend continues, he could be one of the best players on the Sharks without question.
Jasper Weatherby was a fourth-round pick of the Sharks in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. Last year was his first season in the NHL, and he put up 11 points in 50 games. He was far from a standout candidate in the 2021-22 season, but that was primarily the fault of the Sharks, who used him as a fourth-line player almost all year. However, he has one factor that solidifies him as an underrated player: his goal-scoring capabilities.
Though Weatherby had only a few points last year, half of his points came from goals. The same is true of his time spent in the American Hockey League last year, where he had 15 points in 25 games. Even dating back to his time playing for the University of North Dakota, he consistently put up goals more frequently than assists. If the Sharks give him more ice time, he could show up big time for the team this season.
Kaapo Kahkonen was acquired by the Sharks at the 2022 Trade Deadline in a move that sent Jacob Middleton out of town. During his time with the Minnesota Wild, he had a .910 save percentage (SV%) but was often overshadowed by Cam Talbot. When they brought in Marc-Andre Fleury, his time in Minnesota ended, and he joined the Sharks. In 11 games, he put up a .916 SV% despite losing seven of nine games.
While the Sharks have an overabundance of goalies, Kahkonen has a real chance to outshine them all. He has been developing for a long time, and it has caused a lot of fans to write him off. That being said, goalies are unpredictable, and Kahkonen is no exception. While lots of Sharks fans have labeled him as “just another goalie in a long list of names,” his numbers show he could take over the crease. This season, he could finally live up to that potential.
The Sharks have a lot of players who have not gotten a great chance in the NHL. They will rely on these players to stand out from the crowd if they want any chance to return to the playoffs. That being said, there are a few candidates who could help change the franchise’s direction despite flying under the radar. If the organization can pull a new level out of these players, they could be heading in the right direction much sooner than many expect.