Who's No. 1?
Evgeni Nabokov might just be one of the most underrated players in the NHL. His seven shutouts last season were tied for third with Miikka Kiprusoff, right behind Martin Brodeur’s 12 and Dominik Hasek’s eight. He was also in the top-10 in the NHL in goals-against (2.29), but with another able puckstopper on the roster last season, he made only 50 appearances.
With Vesa Toskala off to Toronto, Nabokov will surely get more games this season -- if he can just stay healthy. Last season, the 32-year-old was slowed by groin, neck, abdominal and shoulder injuries for most of the year. But he was key to San Jose’s success down the stretch when, in his final 15 appearances of the regular season, he went 11-0-3 with a .935 save-percentage and 1.80 GAA.
Nabokov is an elite goalie with superb reflexes and quickness between the pipes, and with a solid team in front of him again,should be among the top puckstoppers in the NHL. While skill and ability will never be a concern with Nabokov, the injuries he suffered last year, notably the groin problems, are particularly nagging for goalies.
Without a guy like Toskala waiting in the wings this season the Sharks are hoping those injuries are a thing of the past, especially with an increased work load waiting for Nabokov, who hasn’t logged a 60-game season in five years.
The Sharks are set in every other corner of their roster except here. One of the biggest questions facing the club going into training camp, with few roster spots up for grabs, is who will win the backup job behind Nabokov.
Prospects Dimitri Patzold and Thomas Greiss are considered the early favorites to win the job. Neither player has ever played in the NHL, so the Sharks are really hoping Nabokov doesn’t need much relief this season. Chances are, the Sharks may have a few guys make their NHL debut between the pipes this season.
In the Wings
Taylor Dakers -- San Jose’s fifth-round pick in 2005 spent the last four seasons with Kootenay of the Western League where he went 33-10-4 last year with a 2.16 GAA and .919 save-percentage as an amateur. The 21-year-old will probably need some seasoning in the minors before making the jump to the NHL.
Thomas Greiss -- Third-round pick in 2004 made his North American debut last season, splitting time between AHL Worcester and ECHL Fresno. … In 43 games in the American League, the 21-year-old went 26-15-2 with a 2.61 GAA and .912 save-percentage.
Tyson Sexsmith -- San Jose’s third-round selection in this year’s draft, the 18-year-old won the Memorial Cup last season with Vancouver. … Went 31-12-8 last year with the Giants with a 1.79 GAA and .915 save-percentage.