Sharks-Predators: What to watch for

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Sharks-Predators: What to watch for

NASHVILLE, Tenn. When the San Jose Sharks battle the Predators tonight, the game will feature the team with the best shot differential in the league against the team with the worst.

San Jose leads the league in shots per game (38.8), as well as shots against per game (25.3). The Predators? Its the exact opposite, as they are last in the league in shots (22.1) and shots against (33.9).

Of course, you can look at stats all day and they dont mean a thing in the standings. The Sharks (3-3) and Preds (3-3-1) each have three wins and three regulation losses.

All those numbers power play percentage, faceoffs, and all that type of stuff when they post the standings in the newspaper they dont talk about that at all. They talk about winning games and losing games, said Todd McLellan. Thats what were here to do.

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Marc-Edouard Vlasic said: Its a good stat, but were 3-3, so the shots weve been giving up have been good scoring chances. But, it also means were playing tight defensively, so it is a good sign.

McLellan conceded that the shot differential, if it keeps up, should help down the road.

All those little things lead, over time, to more wins than losses, I believe. But right now weve got to put more wins on the board.

Key players returning for Preds: Nashville should get a much-needed boost on offense tonight when Mike Fisher makes his season debut. Fisher, who was acquired via trade last season from Ottawa, has been out since left shoulder surgery in the offseason.

Furthermore, defenseman Francis Bouillon is also likely to play. Hes been sidelined since January with a concussion.

Just as the Sharks did when Martin Havlat got in the lineup, McLellan expects Nashville to get some energy from two good players returning.

They are both veterans that have played a ton of games in the league and they are excited about getting back in the lineup, he said. I think theyll have an impact on the game. They are two very talented players, and well have to be aware of them.

One guy who knows Fisher well is Havlat, as the two played parts of four seasons together with the Senators.

For sure, hes one of the hardest working guys in the league and one of the fastest ones, said Havlat. Hes got a great shot, too, so its nice to see him back.

The Predators could use a jolt, especially offensively. They have just 15 goals in seven games, and managed just four on a recently completed three-game road trip in Western Canada.
Mitchell still out: McLellan wouldnt confirm it, but Torrey Mitchell skated for about a half hour later than his teammates at the morning skate at Bridgestone Arena, so he wont be playing tonight. All signs point to the Sharks using the same lineup as they did in Saturday against Boston, meaning Jim Vandermeer and Justin Braun will be the third pair on defense.

The good news on Mitchell, though, is that he should be good to go by Fridays game in Detroit. He was able to partake in contact drills on Tuesday something he wasnt able to do the day before.

Definitely a good shot for Friday, he said. I feel really good.
Odds and ends: This is the first of four meetings between the Sharks and Predators. They split the four last season, although both of San Joses wins came in overtime. Pekka Rinne will faceAntti Niemi in net. Both goaltenders are coming off of strong games, as Rinne made 33 saves for a shutout win in Calgary Saturday while Niemis 37 saves helped the Sharks to a 4-2 win in Boston the same day.

Sharks have bevy of young defensemen to replace Schlemko

Sharks have bevy of young defensemen to replace Schlemko

CHICAGO – If there were a best-case scenario for the Sharks regarding the expansion draft, it probably would have been the Vegas Golden Knights selecting Mikkel Boedker, and the three years and $12 million remaining on his contract.

Instead, the Golden Knights swiped David Schlemko. While the 30-year-old was a nice third pair defenseman in his only year with the Sharks, it was probably the second-best case from San Jose’s perspective. The team should be able to fill the vacancy internally without too much difficulty. Schlemko had two goals and 18 points in 62 games last season, and has three years left on his contract at $2.1 million annually.

“I think it’s worked out well for all parties involved,” said general manager Doug Wilson. “You go into expansion, you know you’re going to lose a player. David came in and played well for us. We signed him as a free agent, so we didn’t have to give up an asset to get him. So, we think we moved through the expansion phase with the good young players coming in that are ready to play and compete for that spot. That’s probably as good as we could have expected to come out of expansion, in that position.”

If there are no other major moves on the Sharks’ blue line this offseason, the spot to play alongside Brenden Dillon will be there for the taking in training camp. There’s no reason, of course, to break up the top four of Marc-Edouard Vlasic-Justin Braun, and Brent Burns-Paul Martin.

Dylan DeMelo would figure to have the inside track on the job, but there are others like Tim Heed and Joakim Ryan, each of whom signed two-year contract extensions on June 17. They served as the AHL Barracuda’s top defense pair for most of the season.

The 24-year-old Ryan, a sixth round pick in 2012, posted 10 goals and 49 points in 65 games last season in the AHL. He was recalled once by the Sharks but did not play. Heed, 26, is an offensive defenseman that tallied 14 goals and 56 points in 55 games with the Barracuda and played in one game with the Sharks on Jan. 11 in Calgary. Ryan is a left-handed shot; Heed, like Schlemko and DeMelo, shoots right.

Regarding Ryan, Wilson said: “He’s right on track. He’s the type of guy that – if you look around the league at the number of young defensemen that are making an impact – he thinks and plays the game the right way.”

“Watching [Ryan and Heed] play together, I would say they were arguably the best defense pair in the AHL last year.”

There are other defensemen to monitor, too. The Sharks signed soon-to-be 25-year-old Czech Radim Simek to a one-year contract on May 23, beating out several of other NHL teams to acquire his services. 

“He’s a puck-moving guy,” Wilson said. “He’s got a little bite to him, too. Not tall, but thick and strong. We think he’s a guy that has the skill set to step right in and play. We’ll see how much time it takes him to adjust to the smaller rink.”

And don’t forget about Jeremy Roy, either. The first pick of the second round in the deep 2015 draft (31st overall), Roy is expected to join the organization next season, likely starting his pro career with the Barracuda after recovering from a significant knee injury that ended his junior season in late October.

“He had a major repair, but he’s back healthy,” Wilson said. “We’ll see him this summer, and he’s a puck-moving guy. … Injuries you can’t control, but we have high expectations for Jeremy.”

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Vegas shipped Schlemko to the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday for a fifth round pick in the 2019 draft.

Sharks prepare for 2017 NHL Draft with eight picks in hand

Sharks prepare for 2017 NHL Draft with eight picks in hand

CHICAGO – The glass-half-full observer looks at Sharks’ recent draft record and sees some late round picks that could be on the cusp of making the NHL on a full time basis. 

Defenseman Joakim Ryan (7th round, 2012), center Danny O’Regan (5th round, 2012) and forward Kevin Labanc (6th round, 2014) have all exceeded expectations so far. Dylan DeMelo (6th round, 2011) could also be included in that group.

The glass-half-empty observer, though, sees that the Sharks have traded away a pair of recent first rounders that didn’t pan out. Nikolay Goldobin (27th overall, 2014) was dealt to Vancouver in late February for Jannik Hansen and a fourth round pick, while Mirco Mueller (18th overall, 2013) is off to New Jersey for a pair of picks in this year’s draft.

It’s all part of the uncertainty of selecting what are mostly teenagers in the annual NHL Entry Draft, which takes place at Chicago’s United Center this weekend. The Sharks’ first pick during Friday night’s first round sits at 19th overall, and they have seven more selections on Saturday when rounds two-through-seven take place.

Doug Wilson is used to picking in the mid-to-late first round, as the Sharks have missed the playoffs just once under his 14-year watch.

“I think we always take the best player available,” he said. “I think it’s a good draft. … We feel pretty comfortable at 19 we’ll get a pretty good player.”

The Sharks have never selected 19th, and Wilson left open the possibility that they could move up or down.

“People move up and down all the time. We’ve got a history of doing that so teams do reach out to us,” he said.

The Sharks moved up to pick Mueller in 2013, sending a second round pick to Detroit to jump ahead two places in a deal that now looks regrettable. The next year, they moved down seven spots before selecting Goldobin.

Less than a week ago, the Sharks didn’t have any picks in the second, third or fourth rounds. But in dealing Mueller (and a fifth rounder this year) to the Devils, they acquired second and fourth round picks from New Jersey (49 and 123 overall). They also have a pair of sixth round picks and three in the seventh round.

While this year’s draft isn’t thought to be especially strong, Wilson still expects there to be some good players available after the first round. Getting some assets in exchange for Mueller, who had been passed over in the organization, was critical.

“I think it was important for us to fill in the grid like we did. I think it’s a good draft,” Wilson said. “Realistically, it’s probably not a Connor McDavid-Auston Matthews type draft, but there are some very good players in this draft that will go on and have very good careers.”

As for losing Mueller and Goldobin recently, the general manager seemed to say that that those are the breaks when you’re a team doesn’t make one of the first few selections.

“First of all, you’ve got to clarify where we pick and have picked. You’re not talking about top five picks or lottery picks, so often – and this is not to take away from Mirco and Goldie, because they’re really good players and good kids – you move players when you’re trying to win or trying to make things happen,” he said. 

“Historically, our scouts have done an outstanding job, one of the best records for a scouting staff in the league, since 2003 in particular. But, you can’t be afraid to be bold and move things.”

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Although the Sharks have never made a pick in the 19th overall spot, they’ve been around it. Players include Tomas Hertl (17th overall, 2012), Marcel Goc (20th overall, 2001) and Marco Sturm (21st overall, 1996). 

Some notable players around the league taken 19th overall include Andrei Vasilevskiy (Tampa Bay, 2012), Oscar Klefbom (Edmonton, 2011), Nick Bjugstad (Florida, 2010), Chris Kreider (Rangers, 2009), Ryan Getzlaf (Anaheim, 2003) and Keith Tkachuk (Winnipeg, 1990).

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The Sharks will hold their annual development camp from July 3-7 at their practice facility. It includes a scrimmage at SAP Center on Thursday, July 6.