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Top 25 Sharks Under 25: Can No. 6 Dylan Gambrell take the reins at 4C?

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A hole just might’ve opened for the Denver product.

SAN JOSE, CA - APRIL 05: Dylan Gambrell #14 of the San Jose Sharks in action against the Colorado Avalanche at SAP Center on April 5, 2018 in San Jose, California. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

After signing an entry-level deal in March last season, Dylan Gambrell got some seasoning in the NHL near the end of the regular season, playing in three regular season games. The plan for him seemed to be to start with the Barracuda the next season to get adjusted to the professional game.

But last Thursday might have changed those plans.

Erik Karlsson will be making his way to San Jose. Among the other forwards now starting their careers with the Ottawa Senators such as Rudolfs Balcers and Josh Norris, was Chris Tierney, opening up a big hole on the fourth-line center position, as it seems newcomer Antti Suomela may be eyed to fill in on the third line. As it stands, 4C could be anyone’s spot — it could be the big Dane and our No. 20 Alexander True; it could be the good, but inconsistent No. 17 Maxim Letunov; or perhaps Doug Wilson might turn his eye to the sparse free-agent market and give a tryout to someone like Nick Shore.

Either way, Gambrell will have to fight for a spot in that hole. His three games with the mother club were not particularly impressive, failing to record any points. That shouldn’t be too much of a concern, though, with limited ice time on the fourth line in a small sample size of three games.

Doug Wilson and company are pretty high on Gambrell, as shown by what Wilson had to say about the kid from Bonney Lake, Washington after his signing.

“Dylan is one of the top college players in the country, who has proven through his many accomplishments that he can compete at the highest level,” said Wilson. “We believe his speed, combined with his high-end hockey IQ, make him ready to be an NHL player. We are confident that, with his skill-set, he will make an impact with our team.”

Gambrell’s offensive production was pretty much consistent in his time with the University of Denver, putting up just over a point per game. However, there was just a teeny drop in said points per game, with 1.05 in his final year compared to his 1.11 in Denver’s Frozen Four-winning campaign back in 2017. There was not a season in which he didn’t finish in the top three for scoring for the Pioneers, ranking second in his freshman year with 47 points, then third for his sophomore and junior campaigns with 42 and 43, respectively.

Gambrell was also a huge force in driving the play of the Pioneers: Evan Oppenheimer’s special betweenness scores for Denver U shows that he was dominant during 5-on-5 play, putting up a magnificent .220 in his championship season and .152 in his final season of collegiate play.

Wherever Gambrell starts this season, he should be quite effective during even strength play. Emmanuel Perry of Corsica ranks him with a 47.45 percent chance of making the NHL, with a projected 0.19 WAR/82 (wins above replacement).

What we like

Gambrell is a very good skater, drawing comparisons to our very own Joonas Donskoi by some Denver fans last year. His hockey IQ is another big plus as he prepares to enter a jumbled Barracuda team. Chris Legg of Dobber Prospects said in his July 2018 update that “[Gambrell’s] speed and maturity in his game...will make the Sharks comfortable playing him in defensive situations.”

Areas of improvement

Gambrell’s total offensive upside is still somewhat of a question mark, as he will have to prove that he can produce at the professional level. Perry’s NHLe metric would put Gambrell on pace for around a 15-point NHL season if he retains his scoring rate from his final year at Denver.

Highlights

Gambrell and noted U.S. Olympian Troy Terry meshed very well playing together. This nifty backhand move from Gambrell emphasizes it.