The San Jose Sharks seem pretty content with their roster. In an interview with Dan Rusanowsky earlier this week, Sharks General Manager Doug Wilson intimated as much. and suggested that San Jose will look within its roster to fill any open spots.
“The young players are important. We want to be loyal to guys that have paid their dues,” Wilson said in the interview. “[The San Jose Barracuda were] the youngest team in the American Hockey League, went deep in the playoffs, won the Pacific Division, and earned that. There will be five, six rookies potentially on this team next year if they earn the spot and deserve it.
“But watching them here in the development camp and watching the work they’re putting in, we think they’re going to be close to being ready.”
Who could Wilson be referring to? The NHL defines a rookie as a player that a) did not play more than 25 NHL games in any previous season, b) did not play in six or more games in any two preceding seasons, and c) is 25-years-old or younger on September 15th that season.
So, taking Wilson and the definition literally, he cannot be referring to Ryan Carpenter, Tim Heed, Kevin Labanc, or Timo Meier. That diminishes the pool of young players that could be in the mix for a roster spot fairly significantly, but it’s still an interesting exercise to get a sense of what players could be knocking on the door.
Sorensen, somehow, fits all of the rookie criteria heading to next season. The 25-year-old only played 19 regular season games with the Sharks last season, but clearly gained Head Coach Peter DeBoer’s trust in the process. He played in all six of San Jose’s postseason games, while fellow prospects Meier and Labanc played in five and zero, respectively, despite playing more regular season games than Sorensen.
The Swedish forward is a good bet to make the roster out of camp, and can reasonably be expected to contribute at a higher rate than last season, when he scored six points in 25 regular season and playoff games. Sorensen’s 0.65 points per game in 105 games in the SHL translates to a 0.38 points per game rate in the NHL, based on Rob Vollman’s translation factors. Still, the Sharks have a glut of middle-to-bottom six forwards, and bounce-back seasons from players like Mikkel Boedker and Joel Ward may make Sorensen’s spot less secure.
Of all the players on this list, Ryan may have the clearest path to a roster spot. With David Schlemko’s departure in the Expansion Draft, defenseman Dylan DeMelo is expected to take his place on the bottom pairing alongside Brenden Dillon. That leaves the seventh defenseman spot up for grabs, and the decision is likely to come down to Ryan and fellow Swede Heed.
Ryan made major strides last season, upping his offensive production to 49 points from 21 in 2015-16, despite playing one fewer game than his rookie campaign. When Ryan was re-signed last month, Assistant General Manager Joe Will said the front office is “very excited to see him compete for an NHL spot come training camp." Whether or not they should want the 24-year-old to spend most of his time in the press box as a seventh defender is another question. If last season is any indication, though, he may be able to surpass that role.
O’Regan led the Barracuda in scoring in his first professional season, and also led all AHL rookies en route to winning the Dudley Garrett Memorial Award as Rookie of the Year. He spent some brief time with the Sharks, too, and scored his first career NHL goal in his third game with the big club.
Wilson’s specifically mentioned O’Regan in the same breath as Meier and Labanc during interviews this offseason, and it’s clear the front office views him as an important piece up front. Cracking the Sharks lineup as a center will be difficult, but O’Regan’s game is well-suited to the wing. If his scoring touch from last season translates to the NHL, the league’s 19th-best scoring team from a season ago may have no choice but to give him an extended look.
Given the rigid rookie definition, this is where the list firmly enters ‘wild card’ territory. Still, Chartier had a solid rookie season, scoring 35 points in 67 regular season games. He added another six in seven playoff games, when he was in and out of the lineup due to injuries.
Chartier was also a solid scorer in the WHL (0.94 points per game), which translates to 0.27 points per game in the NHL, per Vollman’s translation factors. That would’ve been 0.01 behind Chris Tierney and 0.02 behind Joonas Donskoi, who had a down season. He would likely be best-served by another year in the AHL, in the hopes that he can improve his offensive production. Still, he shouldn’t be ruled out making the team entirely.
Filip Sandberg and/or Radim Simek
San Jose’s European signings from May are the two biggest wild cards. The Sharks have a great recent track record signing European free agents, as Melker Karlsson, Donskoi, Sorensen, and Heed have all established regular roles or at least spent some time in the NHL.
Sandberg’s goal-scoring rates in Sweden (25 in 204 games) don’t inspire a lot of confidence, but Karlsson’s didn’t either (31 in 216 games). Given the previously mentioned glut of forwards, I’d expect Simek to have a better chance of making the team out of camp, especially if the team wants Ryan playing regular minutes in the AHL and he’s not ready for a top six role. Both players fit the profile of recent European signings that have had success, though, and their previous first division professional experience could give them an edge in camp.
Which rookie is most likely to make the team?
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