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Mikkel Boedker set to make Sharks debut

Speedy forward excited for opportunity with Western Conference champions

by Eric Gilmore / Correspondent

SAN JOSE -- Forward Mikkel Boedker was an impending unrestricted free agent when he watched the San Jose Sharks reach the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in history but lose to the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games.

Boedker, one of the NHL's fastest skaters, said he came away impressed by the Sharks but understood a key reason why they lost.

"Both teams played really well, and obviously the little bit faster team won," Boedker said.

The Sharks wasted no time trying to boost their speed after losing to Pittsburgh. On July 1, the first day of free agency, they signed Boedker to a four-year contract. He'll make his Sharks debut when they open the regular season against the Los Angeles Kings at SAP Center on Wednesday (10:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN). Boedker will skate on the second line with center Logan Couture and Joonas Donskoi.

"He's a skilled guy and wants to create offense all the time, so I like that style," Donskoi said after practice Tuesday. "It's just fun to play with guys like that who have speed. Everybody talks about his offense, but I think he's defensively good. He's not sacrificing defense at any time of the game. He's good all-around."

Boedker, 26, was selected by the Arizona Coyotes with the No. 8 pick in the 2008 NHL Draft and played 78 games the following season as a rookie. He spent parts of eight seasons with the Coyotes until being traded to the Colorado Avalanche on Feb. 29.

New Sharks defenseman David Schlemko, who also signed with San Jose on July 1 as a free agent, played with Boedker for parts of seven seasons with the Coyotes.

"He's a world-class skater," Schlemko said. "I wouldn't want to handle him 1-on-1 when he's coming down the ice with all that speed. He's a veteran player now. He's a smart player. He can defend, he can kill penalties."

Boedker played for Team Europe at the World Cup of Hockey 2016 and didn't report to Sharks training camp until Oct. 4 after losing to Team Canada in the final. Most of his new teammates played for San Jose last season, which was coach Peter DeBoer's first with the Sharks. Boedker has had just over a week of training camp to catch up.

"It was definitely a lot [to learn] in a short period of time," Boedker said. "There's still some stuff where I have to think twice about it, but it comes pretty fast. It's not the most complicated thing in the world. I think it's gone pretty well. Obviously it's a learning curve and you got to take it step by step."

DeBoer, who coached Boedker in 2007-08 with Kitchener of the Ontario Hockey League, said he has "caught on quickly."

"He's a smart kid," DeBoer said. "I've had him before. He played for [Arizona coach] Dave Tippett before, who has a lot of similar philosophies. I've worked with Dave. So I don't think that transition is going to be big. I think it's just chemistry with his linemates. They've only played one game together, so that takes some time to develop sometimes."

Boedker had a combined 51 points last season with Arizona and Colorado, matching his career-high set in 2013-14. DeBoer and Sharks general manager Doug Wilson believe that having two elite centers in Joe Thornton and Couture should help Boedker take his game to a higher level.

"An NHL center is an NHL center, but there are always the elite centers in the League," Boedker said. "I think San Jose definitely has two, if not three of them. It's a good opportunity. I think you always want to get chemistry with the guy you're playing with. I've had that in the past, but obviously it's exciting to play with guys like that. They're on Team Canada and they're obviously leaders on the team. So it will be really exciting."

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