Last year, the San Jose Sharks’ young forwards were given a shot to prove what they could do in the NHL in disjointed, inconsistent line ups. This year is going to be different. Leaving the young forwards in the line up, it will be reinforced with seasoned veterans, with flexibility to slide young players throughout.
Sharks forwards scored a total of 151 goals in the 2020-21 season, ranking 24th in the NHL. It was an improvement from the previous year, but it was nowhere near what they were capable of producing.
The projected lines for 2021-22 are:
Timo Meier — Logan Couture — Jonathan Dahlen
William Eklund — Tomas Hertl — Rudolfs Balcers
Matt Nieto — Nick Bonino — Kevin Labanc
Andrew Coliango — Lane Pederson — Alexander Barabanov
The core trio of forwards of Logan Couture, Tomas Hertl and Timo Meier will remain intact and look to be the leaders of this group. The top-six is packed with a lot of scoring talent and a few new faces. Jonathan Dahlen has connected well with Meier on the top line during the preseason. The 23-year-old former Vancouver Canucks prospect is overdue for his NHL debut. William Eklund, the seventh-overall pick at the 2021 Draft, is a pure top-six talent that will be an eventual face of the franchise.
Exciting young forwards Eklund, Balcers Dahlen add a lot of new speed and talent to the forward group. Centered by Couture and Hertl, they’ll bring new energy to the offense, as seen from their performances in the preseason. Eklund (6 points), Balcers (4 points) and Hertl (4 points) led preseason scoring. Dahlen and Meier each added 3 points.
The Sharks’ projected third line will also include a lot of playmaking ability and speed from Matt Nieto and Kevin Labanc, who are still fairly young with plenty of NHL experience. The line will also now have a consistent center with veteran Nick Bonino filling that role.
Speaking of veterans, the Sharks added Andrew Cogliano to bring more depth that many of the young forwards last year will not be able to provide. Bonino and Cogliano are going to bring more depth scoring to the bottom-six, but they also add a veteran presence for the younger forwards they will be playing with, like Alexander Barabnaov and Lane Pederson.
The Sharks will not have some of the same members from last year’s offense, but it is likely that there will be new players ready to step up. The line up looks more balanced than previous years, where they either had to rely too much on their veterans (who then fell short, or were injured) or their young players (while not putting them in the best position to succeed). But with the more even mix of forwards, the Sharks are looking to get one step closer to being a top offensive team in the NHL.