Training camp opens on Friday for the San Jose Sharks and the battle for roster spots should make for an interesting three weeks. Who plays in San Jose, who plays in Worcester, who goes back to junior and who plays where are all topics for discussion.
Up front, fans can rest assured of the Sharks firepower with Captain Patrick Marleau
and Joe Thornton
re-signing this summer. However, whether they will center two separate lines or skate alongside each other, still has to be determined.
That being noted, the two have roster spots locked up. Along with the two All-Stars, Ryane Clowe
, Milan Michalek, Patrick Rissmiller, Curtis Brown, Marcel Goc, Jeremy Roenick, Jonathan Cheechoo and Mike Grier are all NHL regulars. That totals 10 forwards in position already (although what position each plays is another story for another day) who spent all of 2006-07 on an NHL roster).
If the Sharks keep two extra forwards and one defenseman on their 23-man roster, although Team Teal has gone with eight blueliners in the past, that would leave four forward roster spots up for grabs.Joe Pavelski
and Steve Bernier both spent most of last year with the big club, performing very strong at times, but both also spent time in the AHL and will have to prove their mettle to keep challengers away.
Among younger prospects, targeting those who have finished their junior eligibility,or are seasoned from the AHL, Lukas Kaspar, Torrey Mitchell
, Tomas Plihal, Craig Valette, Graham Mink and Devin Setoguchi have eyes on the big prize.
Then again, there is always the possibility that a young forward like Logan Couture
or Jamie McGinn will explode on the scene like Milan Michalek and grab a roster spot. Over the years, the Sharks have shown the best players make the team and that will still be the case in 2007-08.
Fans watching for roster battles should pay special attention to the blueline. Veterans Kyle McLaren, Craig Rivet and Christian Ehrhoff have track records and past performances letting you know they will be there night in and night out.
What follows is a group of seven defensemen that all have NHL experience and would prefer to keep the charted flights of the NHL versus the bus rides of the AHL.
Leading that charge is the NHL’s All-Rookie defensive pairing of Marc-Edouard Vlasic
and Matt Carle. Vlasic proved, in an unexpected rookie campaign, that he can be one of the better defensive defensemen in the NHL. This year he will look to keep that roll going and chip in a bit more offensively, while avoiding the sophomore slump.
Carle came as advertised, strongly reading plays and showing tremendous offensive upside, setting the Sharks rookie record for points by a blueliner. However, one year does not make a career, and both will need to show the talents from year one throughout training camp.
Joining the youngsters in battling for NHL spots are Doug Murray and Rob Davison from last season’s roster. Each of the blueliners would like to not only maintain their NHL positions, but are hoping to move into a regular spot in the rotation. Both Murray and Davison bring strong physical elements to the game and can hit and drop the gloves when called upon.
Further complicating the chase are new-comers Brad Norton (yes, he is related to former Shark Jeff Norton), Alexei Semenov and Patrick Traverse. All three have been NHL regulars at one point, but tasted life in the AHL during the 2006-07 season. That should make them very hungry entering camp. Semenov (six-foot-six) and Norton (six-foot-four) provide hulking size on the backend, while Traverse would definitely be the most offensively gifted of the fivesome.
However, this is where it could become even more complicated. What if a young prospect like Derek Joslin or Ty Wishart holds their ground and demands a roster spot? The good news for young campers is the Vlasic model of crashing the party is fresh in everyone’s mind and they know good efforts won’t go in vain.
In net, another test will be waged between two German trained netminders. Evgeni Nabokov is firmly entrenched in the number one slot, however, someone must man the back-up role. Thomas Greiss
and Dimitri Patzold split the duties in Worcester last season and both performed well. Now one will be the number two in San Jose, with the other running the show in the American Hockey League.
Patzold has the most experience of the two, being three years older. In 2006-07, Patzold finished 10-8-3 with a 3.35 goals-against-average, while Greiss finished 26-15-2 with a 2.61 GAA. Both have displayed excellent athletic ability and progress and the on-ice battle should be as good as any position, if for no other reason, the finalists have essentially already been decided.
The closeness of the position battles mean that every practice, scrimmage and preseason game could be the difference between San Jose or Worcester for several players and that will clearly bring out their best efforts.
TRAINING CAMP OPEN TO THE PUBLIC
The San Jose Sharks are scheduled to practice and scrimmage on the South Rink at Sharks Ice at San Jose on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The entrance for fans to the South Rink will be at the hangar doors at back end of the rink closest to Muni Stadium.
Fans will not be permitted to enter through the main entryway due to previously scheduled events. For more information check back on www.sjsharks.com. All schedules and practices are subject to change.