Sharks' Winchester a study in perseverance

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Sharks' Winchester a study in perseverance

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SAN JOSE -- When Brad Winchester came to San Joses training camp back in September, it was on a Pro-Tryout basis, meaning there was no guarantee he would make the team, or that the Sharks would even offer him a two-way contract.

Thats somewhat difficult to imagine now, where more than halfway through the season, Winchester is one of 10 Sharks to have played in every game.

Its a really good thing for Brad as an individual, head coach Todd McLellan said. Initially with the draft (Year 2000) and picked where he was (35th overall) it became a little easy for him. But since leaving Edmonton and moving on to a number of different organizations hes really had to scrap for his career, for his ice time, hes done nothing but that here.

It was both a great fit, and a great find, in terms of the San Jose perspective.

Far as it goes for our organization, its always great to be able to find assets and not have to give anything up to get them, McLellan said. Brad was a great recruit by our management staff, and Im really glad that they brought him in, because he fits our team really well.

Winchester doesnt exactly relish in the fact that his journey this season has been amazingly positive. I asked him frankly about it this morning.

Each night youre coming to play, Winchester said. And certainly my mindset hasnt changed since day one.

He uses his size, hes got a very good shot and a very good set of hands to go with it, McLellan said. In the games played against the boards, and in front of the net, the scrums and the battles for loose pucks, hes very effective for us. So we want that to continue.

But its not always about playing with the puck. Most recently, Winchester dropped the gloves after Dane Byers of Columbus illegally shouldered teammate Andrew Desjardins in the head. He instinctually wasted no time in responding physically with Byers, if nothing else, to send a message.

Were teammates and were like brothers, Desjardins said Tuesday. So obviously thats a thing, but its hard to say you expect it. But he would do it for me ... and I would do it for him.

Winchester credits his consistency and success alongside linemates Desjardins and Andrew Murray to one thing.

Its been a lot of work, Winchester said. Working in practice, working with video. When you play with guys you get chemistry and talking through where guys want the puck. What the strengths are of each other, and playing to those.

As for settling in and enjoying his time so far, Winchester only has great things to say.

Its a great organization, he said. I love being here in San Jose. Its a great place to be and just its exciting and I feel awesome to be here.

Said McLellan: Sometimes when you jump around from team to team, you dont really find a home. Hopefully hes working towards finding his home here.

Follow Brodie Brazil in real time: @brodiebrazilcsn

Sharks' Vlasic joins Canada for World Championships

Sharks' Vlasic joins Canada for World Championships

Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic will compete in the upcoming IIHF World Championships for Team Canada, it was announced on Friday.

The tournament runs from May 5-21 in Paris, France and Cologne, Germany. 

Vlasic, 30, a native of Montreal, has played in the tournament twice before in 2009 and 2012. He also represented Canada in the 2014 Olympic Games, helping it to a gold medal, and the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, which Canada also captured.

In 75 games with the Sharks this season, Vlasic posted 28 points (6g, 22a) and a +4 rating. He was second on the team in shorthanded time on ice (2:04 per game) and blocked shots (146).

A pending restricted free agent in 2018, Sharks general manager Doug Wilson called getting Vlasic signed to a long-term deal an offseason priority for the club. The two sides can begin negotiations on July 1.

“Vlasic [is] arguably one of the best defensemen in the league,” Wilson said. “[He] is still one of the most underrated players in the league in the outside world.”

The Sharks lost in the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs to Edmonton, although Vlasic and partner Justin Braun helped to keep Connor McDavid in check at even strength. The league's leading scorer had just one even strength point in the six-game series, an empty net goal with less than one second left in Game 6.

Boedker tops list of disappointing Sharks depth forwards

Boedker tops list of disappointing Sharks depth forwards

SAN JOSE – The Sharks didn’t make any blockbuster moves last summer, content to make another run in 2016-17 with largely the same group that came within two wins of capturing the Stanley Cup.

They still acquired a notable player, though, when Mikkel Boedker was signed on July 1 to add an element that the Sharks knew they needed more of moving forward – speed. Boedker was expected to make the team faster, after the Sharks were exposed for not having enough of that against Pittsburgh in the NHL’s final round, as well as play in a top six role. 

At the time, it was hailed as a slick, under-the-radar move that wasn’t going to change the dynamic of the club but could help push it over the top.

When Boedker was a healthy scratch in games three and four of the first round against Edmonton, the evidence became clear, though, that this was a decision that fell flat on its face. 

Frankly, Boedker – who is signed for three more years with a $4 million salary cap hit – brings back visions of Sharks bust Marty Havlat. You know the skill is there, but the desire to use it on a nightly basis while showing any semblance of a battle level is lacking. 

Should the Sharks give Boedker another chance next season, or should they do everything in their power to try and move him? That’s a question that will likely be debated in the front office over the next several weeks.

On get-away day on Monday, indications were that the Sharks were planning on sticking with the 27-year-old, who finished with 26 points in the regular season (10g, 16a) and added one goal and one assist in four games in the playoffs.

“He has the things we’re looking for: his career scoring average, his speed, [penalty killing] ability,” general manager Doug Wilson said. “Did he meet the expectations that he had for himself [or] that we had for him? No. Can we get that out of him? Pete [DeBoer] believes we can.”

DeBoer has known Boedker since he played for him in 2007-08 in Kitchener (OHL). Despite scratching him in the playoffs, DeBoer said he saw “huge improvement” in Boedker throughout the course of the season after the forward spent nearly all of his NHL career in Arizona.

“There was an adjustment. He’s played 6-7 years a certain way in the NHL,” DeBoer said. “We’ve asked him to play differently here, and there was an adjustment.”

Boedker still believes that he can be a fit in San Jose.

“I think it will be and it can be,” he said. “It’s learning period, but you’ve also got to look in the mirror yourself and see what you can change and what assets you need to bring. I’ve learned a lot, and I’m ready to do that.”

The list of Sharks depth forwads that had frustrating seasons hardly begins and ends with Boedker, though.

Veteran Joel Ward’s production dipped from 43 points last season to 29 in 2016-17, although that probably isn’t too surprising considering he’s 36. Tomas Hertl is proving to be a streaky player, too, although his season was interrupted by another a knee injury.

The bigger disappointment came from players like Chris Tierney and Joonas Donskoi, who both made big impressions in the 2016 playoffs but struggled to produce consistent offense this year. Both were mentioned by name by DeBoer on Monday.

There are some promising youngsters in the pipeline like Timo Meier, Kevin Labanc and Marcus Sorensen, but it’s still too early to project any of them as can’t-miss scorers at the NHL level.

“I think we’ve got a large group of guys that I like, but need to step up,” DeBoer said. “Is Sorensen [like] Donskoi next year, where he takes a step back, or [does he take a] step forward? We’ve got a lot of guys that there’s a lot of potential there – Chris Tierney. 

“There’s a lot of those guys, but they need to have big summers and take a step, and show that they’re not just one season or one month players.”