SAN JOSE — For the first time at Sharks training camp on Wednesday, there was a distinct division between the two practice groups.
The first group was led by Sharks head coach Pete DeBoer, and consisted almost entirely of players in the NHL last season, with a few exceptions. The second was led by Barracuda head coach Roy Sommer, with the vast majority of those players penciled in to play in the minor leagues.
That decision was deliberate, but is far from final, according to DeBoer.
“You can only have so many guys in a group, so there’s probably a couple guys I would have liked to have kept with our group but couldn’t,” DeBoer said. “But that’ll sort itself out over the next week. We’ll have guys moving back and forth, but it’s nice to get this group out there together and practicing at NHL speed.”
Joonas Donskoi may have been more used to that speed than some of his teammates. Donskoi participated in his first full practice on Wednesday since rejoining the team after his Finland team was eliminated at the World Cup of Hockey.
“I think it’s good to have [a] tournament like that right at the beginning of the season so it gets you going early,” Donskoi said.
With Donskoi back, the lines in the first group looked more ones the Sharks could use in an NHL game. Donskoi, for instance, played alongside Matt Nieto and Patrick Marleau.
The younger and less experienced players that remained with the group played together in the meanwhile. Micheal Haley, Barclay Goodrow, Ryan Carpenter, Marcus Sorensen and Kevin Labanc all wore the same orange jersey, and rotated in on drills together.
Labanc impressed in the Sharks’ preseason opening win on Tuesday, scoring two points, including the game-winning goal. DeBoer said the younger players like Labanc have “earned the right” to be with the main group, but added that it’s still early in training camp.
“I think the great part about where we’re at as a franchise right now is we don’t have to rush anybody,” DeBoer said.
“We have to do this the right way, when they’re ready. (Logan) Couture wasn’t ready right away, neither was (Joe) Pavelski. When they’re ready, they’ll come in, but we’re in a spot where we don’t have to force those guys [in to the NHL].”
Donskoi was a player who was ready right away last season. He made the team out of training camp over players that have been in the organization longer. His spot in the lineup seems assured, and allows the Sharks to take their time developing skilled wingers like Labanc and Nikolay Goldobin.
Just don’t tell that to Donskoi.
“[I’ve] still only [played] one year, so I think I have to earn my spot on the roster.”