Even though training camp and the preseason are in full swing, the San Jose Sharks roster will not be final until almost opening night. Some players are obviously locked in, such as Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture, but not everyone from last year has a guaranteed chance. Some of the younger players in the organization are on the bubble and will either make the opening night roster or be sent back down to the San Jose Barracuda.
There are a few players - Kevin Labanc, Timo Meier, and Marcus Sorensen - who are likely, but not guaranteed, to crack the opening night line up. All of these players spend time on both the Sharks and the Barracuda, and also had some success in both levels. Though all the players are waiver exempt, if they continue to impress, they might not spend that much time in the AHL.
Last year, Labanc spent the most time with Sharks, playing 55 games, compared to only 19 games with the Barracuda. He had eight goals and 12 assists for 20 points with the Sharks. He played on lines with Couture, Pavelski, and Thornton, and earned the SAP “Sharks Rookie of the Year.” Labanc hit a wall mid-season, but he focused on making it full time with the Sharks over the summer and is fighting for a roster spot.
Meier is another player who is very likely to make the opening night roster. He played 34 games with the Sharks and 33 games with the Barracuda last year. Meier only scored three goals and had six points with the Sharks; however, with the Barracuda he had 14 goals and nine assists was one of the Barracuda’s top players when down in the AHL. Unlike Labanc, Meier was trusted in the Sharks’ line up for playoffs, dressing for five games. Though he didn’t end up on the score sheet, his physical play stood out and showed that he’s ready to compete at a higher level.
Sorensen, like Meier and Labanc, played with both teams. He played 19 games with the Sharks and 43 games with the Barracuda. Scoring only four points (one goal, three assists) with the Sharks, he became a consistent player on the fourth line later in the season. As with Meier, Sorensen earned DeBoer’s trust and played in six playoff games, earning a goal and an assist. At 25, he’s also the oldest of the three, making this preseason more of a make-or-break situation for him.
Since the Sharks mostly focused on re-signing key pieces, and didn’t sign any big free agents, they’re sitting on two or three roster spots that are available for the younger forwards to claim.
The depth of the Barracuda line up means they aren’t the only ones eyeing those spots. Players like Barclay Goodrow, Ryan Carpenter, and Daniel O’Regan are all hoping for their shot this year. There’s a chance for them to impress the coaching staff during camp, but we still may only see them playing only a handful of games in the regular season.
Goodrow only played three games last season, mostly called up due to injuries. If he doesn’t make the roster out of training camp, his future will be incredibly uncertain, as the 24 year-old is no longer waivers-exempt.
Carpenter is another player who played a limited amount of games with the Sharks. He was a steady player with the Barracuda scoring 39 points in 54 games, and going on to be a leading scorer in the Calder Cup playoffs with 17 points in 15 games. The clock is also chasing Carpenter - at 26, he’d be one of the oldest players returning to the Barracuda this year.
O’Regan, unlike Goodrow and Carpenter, is still on his entry level deal and only was a rookie in the AHL last year. He was a very good player in the AHL, winning Rookie of the Year Award and scoring 58 points in 63 games with the Barracuda. But he is still a young player in the organization and underwhelmed in the few games he spent with the Sharks last season. More steady linemates and getting off of the fourth line could aid in his development, making him more of a contender.
Doug Wilson has made it clear those open roster spots are there for the Sharks rookies to earn. Whether it is one of the players mentioned or a dark horse candidate who impresses during training camp, we are going to see some young faces on the 2017-18 San Jose Sharks.