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Blichfeld better prepared to compete for job with Sharks this season

Forward led WHL with 114 points after being returned to junior team

by Ross McKeon / Correspondent

SAN JOSE -- Joachim Blichfeld is coming off a standout season in the Western Hockey League but knows he still has a lot of work to do before contending for a roster spot with the San Jose Sharks.

"I want to get stronger," Blichfeld said at the end of San Jose development camp in June. "I'll be playing with men now."

The forward from Frederikshavn, Denmark had 114 points (53 goals, 61 assists) with Portland last season, winning the Bob Clarke Trophy as the leading scorer in the WHL and the Four Broncos Memorial Trophy as most valuable player.

But Blichfeld (6-foot-2, 180 pounds), who has drawn comparisons to Dallas Stars forward Corey Perry for his ability to score from the dirty areas and ability to agitate opponents, understands there is room for improvement.

"I'll work a lot on my skating because that buys me more time and space," Blichfeld said. "I can use my shot more. When I get some free space, I tend to be dangerous in front of the net."

Blichfeld, who turns 21 on July 17, will work with his skating coach in Finland and practice with NHL defensemen Miro Heiskanen (Stars) and Henri Jokiharju (Buffalo Sabres), and forward Kristian Vesalainen (Winnipeg Jets). Blichfeld should be better prepared mentally and physically for NHL training camp this season than last, when he was returned to Portland despite having 114 points (52 goals, 62 assists) in 119 games the previous two seasons in junior hockey.

"Of course, it was disappointing getting sent back," said Blichfeld, a seventh-round pick (No. 210) by the Sharks in the 2016 NHL Draft. "But looking back on it, it was probably the best thing for me. I would definitely say I'm in a better position now than I was after coming into camp."

Blichfeld impressed the Sharks with his attitude and on-ice results last season.

"Joachim is the perfect example that actions speak louder than words," San Jose director of scouting Doug Wilson Jr. said. "He wasn't happy we sent him back and showed us by being a leading scorer and winning those honors and has put himself in the conversation at the NHL level in the future."

Though the Sharks have openings on their roster after veteran forwards Joe Pavelski (Stars), Gustav Nyquist (Columbus Blue Jackets) and Joonas Donskoi (Colorado Avalanche) signed elsewhere, Blichfeld must prove he is ready to make the jump to the NHL.

"He's a great example of a kid who faced hockey adversity, took it and ran with it," Wilson Jr. said. "When we talk about him being a top player in the future, he knows he can do it."

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