Mitchell re-invigorated with new linemates


Mitchell re-invigorated with new linemates

GLENDALE It was one of the biggest highlight-reel moments of the season, and it came courtesy of an unusual suspect.

Torrey Mitchells goal with less than two seconds left in the second period in Dallas was dazzling. The forward, who has scored just seven times this year in 61 games, received a pass from the neutral zone from Joe Thornton with the clock winding down and the visitors trailing by a goal. He cut to his right, and then quickly shifted his weight the other direction in making defenseman Alex Goligoski look foolish. He finished it off with a sneaky short-side backhand that beat goaltender Kari Lehtonen.

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Dont really have an explanation, it just worked out, Mitchell said on Friday about his goal. It felt good, and that was obviously a timely goal at the end of the period.

The Sharks seemingly carried the momentum into the third period, taking their first lead just 25 seconds after the faceoff on Patrick Marleaus 27th of the season, before the disappointing end.

But the loss doesnt diminish the fact that Mitchell, who has two goals in the last three games, seems re-invigorated on a line with newcomers Daniel Winnik and Dominic Moore.

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That line is starting to feel comfortable with each other. There are some good pieces there speedy pieces, good defensive pieces. Theyve been able to chip in offensively, and I like the way the three of them have been playing, Todd McLellan said.

New blood often brings new energy, and not necessarily with those players themselves. Mitchell seems to sincerely enjoy playing with his new linemates, and it shows.

Theyre doing a good job, theyre easy to play with, theyre fun to play with, and they have a lot of energy. We obviously have a lot of guys pushing for the third line role, too, so its keeping us honest and keeping us showing up every night, knowing we basically have to fight for our position. Its been good for us, and its been good for me.

Thats led to an uptick in production on the scoresheet, but theres more to it than that. Hes gaining the confidence of his head coach, who scratched him from the lineup on two separate occasions, most recently on Feb. 21 at Columbus.

Two situations this year where hes come out of the lineup, and hes done what a good player will do. Hes responded, McLellan said. Now, a real good player is going to maintain that. Hes getting that opportunity now, and I think Torrey Mitchell is a real good player. Lets see if he can do it, and maintain it.

It appears that McLellan is happy with that trios defensive play, too. Winnik, although he has yet to score, has been solid in his own zone and along the boards. Moore is also playing well as the center on that line, which lately, has been drawing the assignment of keeping the oppositions top line at bay.

At home, where McLellan has the last change, they were out there against Edmonton's dangerous Jordan Eberle-Sam Gagner-Taylor Hall line. On Thursday against the Stars, Mike Ribeiro, Michael Ryder and Loui Eriksson entered with a combined 31 points in the last eight games, but had trouble generating offense while matched up primarily against that line.

Mitchell embraces that challenge.

You want to be careful, because you want to stay on your toes and contribute offensively as well. But obviously, if thats our role for that game is to shut down that other teams top line, then thats fun for us, Mitchell said. Its exciting going into the game knowing you have an opportunity to shut down Gagner, or whoever it may be. Its good. I like that. Its fun.

Five months after taking puck to face, Sharks' Logan Couture 'still pretty sore'


Five months after taking puck to face, Sharks' Logan Couture 'still pretty sore'

Nearly five months after taking a puck to the mouth that resulted in major damage, Logan Couture is still dealing with the aftereffects of his surgically repaired mouth, which now features several false teeth.

Appearing on the NHL Network this week, Couture was asked how he’s feeling with less than one month to go before the Sharks open training camp on Sep. 14.

“There’s good days and bad days,” Couture said. “My bottom teeth are still my real teeth. They’ve tried to keep them so I don’t lose them. I don’t know if I’ll be able to, they’re still pretty sore. My top teeth are all fake now – my front six, I think. So, it’s different. It just feels different in my mouth. 

“But everything else with my face and all that is healed. I’m lucky that it’s an injury that didn’t affect my training, and hopefully won’t affect me going forward.”

Couture was injured on March 25 in Nashville. He was set up just outside the crease in the offensive zone when a Brent Burns point shot hit a stick before squarely battering the now 28-year-old’s mouth.

After missing the final seven games of the regular season, Couture returned for the Sharks’ playoff opener. He managed to play in all six games of the first round loss, posting two goals and one assist for three points, although he struggled at times and was seemingly targeted by the Oilers.

Couture is currently in his hometown of London, Ontario where he’s staging a casino event for brain research. Fellow Sharks Chris Tierney and Dylan DeMelo will take part, as will other NHL stars like the Kings’ Drew Doughty.

Analysis: Sharks will need results from recent draft classes


Analysis: Sharks will need results from recent draft classes

It was late in the lockout-shortened 2013 season when Sharks general manager Doug Wilson really started to prepare for the future. Douglas Murray was dealt to Pittsburgh for a pair of second round selections. Ryane Clowe packed his bags for Broadway, in exchange for a second and a third round pick from the Rangers. Michal Handzus went to Chicago for a fourth rounder.

Wilson’s logic was sound, as it typically takes two-to-four years before draft picks have a chance to make an impact at the NHL level. The general manager figured that by then, players like Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau either wouldn’t be a part of the team anymore or would be slowing down. Restocking the cupboards was essential.

From 2013-15, the Sharks made 24 selections over the next three NHL entry drafts, including seven total picks in the top two rounds. Some players have shown promise. Others haven’t. A few aren’t in the organization anymore. That’s the nature of the business.

The way the 2017-18 opening night roster is shaping up, though, now is the time that some of these young players in the system simply have to step up. Marleau and his 27 goals last season are gone, Thornton’s numbers are down and he’s coming off of major knee surgery, Joe Pavelski is now 33 years old, and the team’s offense depth is suspect at best. There have been no notable additions in the offseason.

Frankly, this season could be viewed as a referendum on the team’s amateur scouting staff, including longtime director Tim Burke. Wilson handed Burke and his staff a wonderful opportunity to provide the organization with fresh talent with the team approaching an organizational crossroads.

What has transpired so far is a bit concerning, as already two of the team’s first round picks from that span ended up being nothing more than trade bait.

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Mirco Mueller, chosen 18th overall in 2013, was a huge disappointment in San Jose. It’s been well documented that he was mishandled by the organization when he was rushed to the league in 2014-15, but even this past season, regular observers of the Barracuda had Mueller as nothing more than the AHL team’s fourth-best defenseman. He’s now in New Jersey, swapped for a pair of draft picks.

The scouting staff was so high on Mueller on draft day that Wilson traded a valuable second round pick to Detroit to move up just two places to select him. With those acquired picks, the Red Wings took Anthony Mantha 20th overall and Tyler Bertuzzi 58th overall – two forwards that have shown a whole lot more NHL potential than Mueller (especially Mantha, who has 39 points in 70 career NHL games so far).

Perhaps more concerning, though, is that the Sharks 2013 draft class as a whole is looking like a dud. Second round pick Gabryel Boudreau suffered a wrist injury and is no longer in the organization anymore, but he was trending downward even before he got hurt. None of the remaining players selected from rounds four-through-seven look to be NHL quality, either.

The next year brought Nikolay Goldobin, chosen 27th overall after the Sharks traded down in the first round, and he ended up being the key piece in the Jannik Hansen acquisition from Vancouver. Goldobin showed some flashes of offensive talent during his time in the organization, but his lack of hockey sense and on-ice work ethic helped lead to his exit. Whether Goldobin becomes an NHL regular, even with a fresh start in Vancouver, is highly uncertain.

Had the Sharks stayed at 20th overall, they could have selected Nick Schmaltz (20th overall), Robby Fabbri (21st overall), or David Pastrnak (25th overall). Instead, they moved down and took Goldobin, making it back-to-back first round failures.

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Still, unlike 2013, other players from Goldobin’s draft class have shown some promise. Second rounder Julius Bergman was a steady blueliner for a good Barracuda team last season, and although he’s probably not NHL-ready yet, he could be on the right track. Late in the draft the team found Kevin Labanc in the sixth round with the 171st overall selection, and Labanc had some nice moments with the Sharks last season. His shot and his hands make him a solid prospect, although Labanc still probably has to get a bit bigger and stronger to play in the NHL full-time.

Noah Rod (second round, 53rd overall) and Rourke Chartier (fifth round, 149th overall) are also still developing, with Rod playing against men in the Swiss league the past few seasons and Chartier a valuable player for the Barracuda last year.

In 2015, the draft provided the Sharks with Timo Meier at ninth overall, as the club drafted in the top 10 for the first time since 2007. At this point, Meier is far and away the best prospect in the organization, and he’ll likely be relied upon to play a top nine (or even a top six) role for the Sharks this season.

The 2015 draft brought other decent prospects, too. Defenseman Jeremy Roy was selected 31st overall, and after suffering a serious knee injury in juniors this year, he’ll get a chance to play for the Barracuda this year. Fourth rounder Adam Helewka and fifth rounder Rudolfs Balcers have also developed nicely since draft day. It’s still a bit too early to evaluate that draft as a whole.

It should also be mentioned that while their draft day record may be suspect the past few seasons, the Sharks have brought in European free agents like Melker Karlsson, Joonas Donskoi and Marcus Sorensen. Karlsson has developed into a versatile, hard-working forward; Donskoi has shown flashes of offensive brilliance despite a disappointing second year in the NHL last season; and Sorensen looks primed to make the opening night roster after his speed and tenacity shined through during the Sharks’ first round series loss to Edmonton.

The Sharks scouting staff has helped to keep the team competitive for a long time, and they’re as big a reason as any that the team has missed the playoffs just once in the past 11 seasons. But this is also a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately business, and now is the time that the Sharks need to see some results from players that were chosen by Burke and company.