The Big Four
The San Jose blue line will feature youngsters like 22-year-old Matt Carle and 20-year-old Marc-Edouard Vlasic once again as the two go into their sophomore seasons after wildly successful rookie campaigns. Vlasic was second on the team last year behind the departed Scott Hannan with 22:11 of ice time per game, and it will be interesting to see how he comes back without his primary defense partner back in the fold. Vlasic was also a plus-13, tops among all San Jose defenders.
Carle emerged as a scoring threat from the blue line and finished his rookie year with 42 points, eighth among all first-year players. Both youngsters will get veteran support from Craig Rivet and Kyle McLaren, who are both smart, tough, durable defenders that combined for a plus-11 rating last season averaging over 20 minutes per game.
Get the point
Carle scored eight power-play goals last season, but his real talent is dishing the puck, rather than blasting away. He had 31 assists last season and should continue to develop into a talented power-play quarterback. Vlasic also has offensive skill and scored two extra-man goals last season.
In the Wings
Derek Joslin -- The 20-year-old former fifth-round pick (2005) made pro debut at the end of last season following the OHL season. … Played in three regular-season games with AHL Worcester and then four in the playoffs, where he was a minus-5 with two penalty minutes.
Dan Spang -- Drafted in the second round by the Sharks in 2002 (No. 52 overall), Spang has played the last two years in the AHL following a four-year career at NCAA powerhouse Boston University. Played in 48 games last year with Worcester as a 23-year old and showed some playmaking ability with 21 assists from the blue line.
Ty Wishart -- Signed to a contract in March, the 6-foot-4, 19-year-old was taken by the Sharks No. 16 overall in 2006. Could compete for a spot on the Sharks defense after the team has had success with youngsters like Carle and Vlasic. Last season, his third season with Prince George of the WHL, scored 11 goals and 49 points in 62 games. In the playoffs, scored 11 points in 15 games.
Marc-Edouard Vlasic -- Was the youngest defenseman in the NHL last season as a 19-year-old when the season started and went on to shine in his rookie season, averaging 22:11 of ice time per game. He also finished his first season a plus-13, with 26 points in 81 games. But it will be worth monitoring how he handles the departure of Scott Hannan, with who he played most of the season. Hannan was a steadying, veteran presence for the youngster, and with Hannan in Colorado this season, Vlasic might be more prone to mistakes commonly made by younger players. Or then again, he could continue to be remarkable on the blue line.