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Sharks OK with Gambrell giving it college try

Center prospect will remain at NCAA champion Denver this season to hone development

by Eric Gilmore / NHL.com Correspondent

SAN JOSE -- A lot has changed for center Dylan Gambrell since the San Jose Sharks selected him in the second round (No. 60) of the 2016 NHL Draft.

Gambrell arrived at the Sharks development camp last month, stronger and faster than he was at his first camp. He also came with an upgraded resume, which includes an NCAA Tournament championship with the University of Denver.

Gambrell scored two goals and had six shots in a 6-1 win against Notre Dame in the semifinal, then had an assist and a plus-two rating in Denver's 3-2 victory against Minnesota-Duluth in the championship game two days later.

"It was so much fun," Gambrell said. "We had such a great group of guys. Everybody was so close. To come out on top like that, it was awesome.

"I love the big moments. More exciting. I play better as well. A little more urgency in everybody's game, so it's a lot more fun to play."

Gambrell faced a tough decision after development camp: whether to sign his first professional contract with the Sharks or to return to Denver for his junior season as a key member of the defending NCAA champion.

After weighing the pros and cons, Gambrell decided to stay in college.

"When it came down to it, there was no wrong decision, I think," Gambrell told the Denver Post. "Obviously, we're at a great place in Denver. We have a phenomenal coaching staff. Our team is right up there with the best, obviously. But for me, it was a great opportunity in San Jose. It's what you work for as a player your whole life. You want to make it to the NHL. I took a lot of advice, talked to a lot of people. I took my time with the decision because I didn't want to rush it and have emotions taking over.

"Developmentally, it will be great for me to have another good year with my great linemates, Troy Terry and Jarid Lukosevicius. To be able to play with them again, and play for [Denver coach Jim Montgomery], it's only going to make me better. I think that's what it came down to."

Gambrell, who will turn 21 on Aug. 26, has 89 points (30 goals, 59 assists) in 90 games for Denver, an indication of his offensive skills.

"Just a real skilled heady type player that has really good vision," said Roy Sommer, coach of the San Jose Barracuda of the American Hockey League. "They throw the term out there 'hockey sense,' but he seems to have a lot of that. What's intriguing about him to me is he's really good in traffic. He kind of darts in and out.

"Good skater, high skill set, can move a puck and he's got a good shot. He's around the net a lot. And he's a centerman. He looks like kind of a natural centerman."

During the Sharks prospect scrimmage at SAP Center on July 6, Gambrell scored two goals, including one in a 3-on-3 overtime.

Gambrell won a battle for the puck along the right boards, skated through the right circle, toe-dragged and scored from the slot for his OT goal.

"I cut back there and, just looking at the net, it looked like there was quite a bit of room," Gambrell said. " I had a guy driving back door, so I think the [defenseman] kind of went with him, so I just tried to make a move to the middle, make the goalie kind of shift over."

With a year more of schooling, the Sharks hope Gambrell might be able to teach NHL opponents a few things one day.

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