Wingels primed to build on last season

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Wingels primed to build on last season

SAN JOSE There probably arent too many players in the league that are as frustrated as Sharks forward Tommy Wingels must be. For the first time in his career, the forward is assured of a place on the NHL club when training camp begins. Rather than getting ready for a slate of preseason games, though, the NHL's doors are currently closed for business, preventing Wingels and the rest of the team from the normal fall routine.

Wingels somewhat surprisingly made the opening night roster last year, but was quickly reassigned to Worcester after just five games. He returned in January, and scored his first career NHL goal on Jan. 15 against the Blackhawks in his home state. A pair of upper body injuries, including a shoulder, sidelined him for 15 games total in the second half of the season.

When he was in, though, Wingels showed the kind of reckless abandon that hockey management, coaches -- and fans -- love. The 6-foot, 195-pounder finished with 102 hits, fourth on the team, despite playing in just 33 games. He ended the year with three goals and six assists, and one assist in five playoff games against the Blues.

Hes now among a group of younger players on the Sharks that will be counted on to take that proverbial next step and contribute on one of the teams scoring lines.

Wingels knows it, and is looking forward to the challenge.

My last year was pretty good, but I personally feel like I can build on it. Like you said, I think theres that expectation from the team for me to do that, he said. Thats a challenge I have for myself. I think youre going to see a lot of guys, most of the guys here, build on what they did last year -- whether its guys who didnt do as well as they would have liked, guys who were injured, or guys who are just ready to take that next step.

Have a conversation with Wingels about the NHL lockout -- or anything, really -- and youd swear you were speaking with a longtime league veteran rather than a player who has yet to play even a full season in the pros.

But the 24-year-old Evanston, Illinois native, who was one of three Sharks to attend the NHLPA meetings in New York nearly two weeks ago, is supremely eloquent and thoughtful when describing the state of collective bargaining negotiations from his perspective.

You want to play as many years in this league as you can. In that sense, you want to be as informed as you can about the nature of the league and where its going; the shape it will be five or 10 years from now, Wingels said on Tuesday at Sharks Ice. Careers are short, so in one sense youve got to worry about now, but at the same time youve got to worry about future years and players that are coming up behind you.

As a young guy now, I try to ask a lot of questions, to guys who have been through it before and guys that are leading the charge now. The best thing you can do is stay as informed as you can. This is our livelihood here, so I dont see why guys wouldnt be informed.

NEWS: NHL, NHLPA returning to talks Friday

Although the uncertainty of the next CBA and salary cap limit played into the Sharks relatively dormant offseason, the expectation that players like Wingels will continue to improve and have a direct impact on the club has just as much to do with their lack of free agent activity.
That indirect vote of confidence from the Sharks' brass sits fine with Wingels.

As a younger player, thats what you want to see. Youve got confidence in your game, and when you play with great players, you expect a lot out of yourself. I know young guys like myself, TJ Galiardi, James Sheppard and guys that are newer in this league, the first couple years I think your development comes pretty quickly. There is a process of getting your feet wet and feeling out the league, and then your confidence and game takes over from there.

There are a number of factors that played into San Joses uneven regular season and first round ouster last season. A horrid penalty kill and untimely goals allowed by the goaltender are among them.

But, so was a lack of scoring from anyone other than the top two lines or the power play. After the club traded Jamie McGinn to Colorado on Feb. 27, the Sharks third and fourth lines rarely found the scoresheet. In the final 21 games of the season after that deal, the Sharks bottom six combined for just nine goals total while at even strength.

Wingels, who didnt score a goal himself in his final 21 combined regular season and playoff games, thinks he can help.

Id like to score some more goals, he said. Like you said, this team was missing that last year. If we could have found 20 or 30 goals collectively from a few guys, we would have been in a lot better shape. Thats something I want to contribute. At the same time, I think a lot of my game is played without the puck -- forechecking, being physical, playing well defensively. I think when I do all those things combined is when Im most effective, and the goals start coming.

For now, though, Wingels waits, along with the rest of the league. Hes considering going to Europe if the lockout drags on, but said he doesnt have a sense yet of which country he might end up in.

Its disappointing and frustrating, he said. You work all summer and prepare to start playing here, and you want to play games. We play this game because we love it, because the games are the most fun and best part about it. So, its disappointing, but theres an onus on you to stay and shape and be ready. Things can progress quickly, and I think thats what were all hoping.

When it does begin, Wingels wont take his assurance of a roster spot for granted.

You still have to have that chip on your shoulder, he said. Nothing is given to you, and ice time -- youve got to earn that. In that sense, my mentality wont change.

Sharks conclude NHL draft with five more forwards in the system

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Sharks conclude NHL draft with five more forwards in the system

CHICAGO – After nabbing a center in the first round on Friday, the Sharks added four more forwards and one defenseman to conclude the second day of the annual NHL Entry Draft on Saturday, held this year at United Center.

The Sharks weren’t explicitly trying to restock their forward cabinet, according to general manager Doug Wilson and scouting director Tim Burke, although the club did make two separate moves in surrendering some later round picks to move up in the fourth round (to take center Scott Reedy) and sixth round (to take left wing Sasha Chmelevski).

First, though, it was defenseman Mario Ferraro in the second round at 49th overall. The offensive defenseman was a player that the Sharks targeted, using the pick they acquired from New Jersey last Friday as part of the trade for Mirco Mueller.

“He’s got a lot of speed, offensive guy, exciting,” Burke said. “Puck-moving type of guy.”

Wilson said: “We’re very pleased with the d-man. He’s a very dynamic, athletic guy, great skater. He was a guy that we moved up a little bit aggressively to get because that round, you could see people going after who they wanted. He is a guy that we identified.”

After moving up from the fifth round to the fourth round last Friday, again because of the Mueller trade, the Sharks jumped up 21 more spots in the fourth round by obtaining the Rangers pick at 102nd overall for the 123rd and 174th selections.

Center Scott Reedy is a player that Burke has high hopes for, projecting the Minnesota native as a “second line right winger [with] high-end potential.” Burke pointed out that Reedy, who is friends with first round pick Josh Norris, occasionally played on the same line with Norris for each of the last two seasons with the U.S. Under-18 team.

“He’s a big, strong forward that can play both positions (center and right wing),” Burke said.

Right wing Jacob McGrew, an Orange, CA native, went to the Sharks in the fifth round despite missing all of his first season in junior with a lower body injury suffered in training camp with Spokane (WHL).

“We knew about him before he went up there,” Burke said. “He’s a California kid. … If he was healthy he probably would have gone earlier.”

The Sharks again moved up to snag Huntington Beach native and center Chmelevski at 185 overall, and made their sixth and final pick in the 212th position by taking left wing Ivan Chekhovich in the seventh round. Both players look to have some offensive skill, based on their numbers and Youtube highlights.

Burke was surprised that both players were around so late.

“I thought they had pretty good years and they kind of slipped in the draft,” he said. “We weighed that versus some other more project-type guys, and we thought they had more offense and finish to their game. They just kept sliding, so we took a chance on them.”

Wilson said: “We moved up for the guys we wanted, and then there were some skilled guys at the end that we were surprised were still there. … We’ll go back and take a look how it all went, but we feel, I think, really good about where we ended up with this.”

Sharks coach DeBoer had 'good relationship' with Kovalchuk

Sharks coach DeBoer had 'good relationship' with Kovalchuk

CHICAGO – Ilya Kovalchuk is still reportedly mulling over a return to the NHL, four years after he surprisingly walked away from a monstrous contract with the New Jersey Devils to play in the KHL.

The Sharks have been linked to Kovalchuk, in large part because of Pete DeBoer, who was Kovalchuk’s most recent head coach. In 2011-12, Kovalchuk was a dangerous scoring winger under DeBoer, helping the Devils reach the Stanley Cup Final.

It was apparently a good working relationship between the player and the coach for the two seasons they were together, DeBoer said on Friday at the NHL Entry Draft at United Center.

“I loved Kovy in New Jersey,” DeBoer said. “We went to a Stanley Cup Final together. He was a huge piece for us there. I really enjoyed coaching him. I haven’t seen him in four or five years now. I’m sure there’s still a lot of game left there.”

DeBoer said he’s had no contact with the 34-year-old Kovalchuk, who would have to be traded by New Jersey before signing a new contract with any other NHL club. Still, it seems like the Sharks’ coach might welcome a reunion with Kovalchuk, who posted 78 points in 60 games with SKA Saint Petersburg last season, and has 816 points (417g, 399a) in 816 career NHL games with Atlanta and New Jersey.

“I had a really good relationship with him. I had a lot of respect for him as a player and a person,” DeBoer said.

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DeBoer seemed as uncertain as everyone else as to whether Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau will return to the Sharks or move on to other clubs as free agents.

But, naturally, it’s on his mind.

“You think about it all the time,” DeBoer said. “They’re obviously important pieces in the history of the franchise, and in our group. I also understand the business side of this, and there’s always tough decisions to make. The way I approach these type of things is I’m going to go to Canada and relax, and Doug [Wilson] is going to make those decisions. I’m sure we’ll have a good group come training camp.”

“We’ve got a really good core group of guys and some tough decisions that have to be made. The one thing Doug and his group has shown over the years is their ability to stay competitive, to find a way even after making tough decisions. I have all the faith in the world in that, and I’m excited about training camp.”

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The Sharks lost David Schlemko in the expansion draft earlier in the week. Vegas then flipped him to the Canadiens for a fifth round pick in 2019.

“I think for David, it’s a great opportunity for him, especially going to Montreal,” DeBoer said. “For us, it’s an opportunity for a young guy to jump in. The one thing we have in the organization is some depth. There’s a lot of guys knocking on the door, and guys hungry to grab that job.”