After spending a half season in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League and then briefly being a free agent (but not without plenty of suitors), there’s no doubt center Kyle Wellwood has experienced a very interesting year.
“I would say most of the year has been pretty hectic,” Wellwood said. “I’m glad to have this resolved and know where I’m going to be playing. Being in Russia can be a difficult experience sometimes and it was for me. I was happy to get home to some NHL teams that were looking for you to come in and help them.”
The time away from the world’s premier hockey talent made Wellwood appreciate the National Hockey Leage a little more.
“I certainly missed it,” Wellwood said. “Playing in the KHL was good hockey, but it’s not nearly the same as the NHL. Just practicing here in St. Louis was nice and I’m certainly looking forward to playing in San Jose and getting back to the top level.”
Wellwood had chosen to sign a contract with St. Louis after returning from Russia, but because of his time in Europe, he needed to clear waivers.
“We weren’t sure,” Wellwood said about whether he could make it through waivers. “They had (right wing Marek) Svatos who had to do the same thing (and eventually was claimed by Nashville). I was looking forward to playing for St. Louis, but getting an opportunity to play for an elite team like San Jose is really exciting and I couldn’t be any happier.”
The lure of the Sharks roster and there deep playoff run last year has Wellwood thrilled about coming to California, even though he’s very unfamiliar with the skaters.
“I don’t know any of the players personally, except maybe Jamal Mayers through the NHLPA,” Wellwood said. “I know the team has some amazing talent up front and on defense and their goalie was able to win the Cup last year. It’s exciting to come to a team that almost went to the Finals last year.”
Wellwood is a Shark now, but he was definitely in a Blues state of mind when he heard about being claimed.
“I was actually on the ice for the pregame skate today in St. Louis. They’re playing L.A. tonight,” Wellwood said. “It was going to be my first game and I got called off the ice. That’s how I found out.”
He previous travels this year aren’t relevant now as Wellwood is hopping a plane to San Jose Tuesday evening.
“I’m flying in tonight and I’ll practice with the team tomorrow,” Wellwood said. “I hope I have a good practice and they can fit me in (against) Vancouver. That’s certainly exciting to go back to Vancouver and play them right away. I’m sure the fans will get a good laugh out of that. I have a lot of respect for the management there and my old teammates. It was just a wonderful experience there. I’m hoping it will be the same in San Jose.”
Wellwood is hoping to provide a little offensive pop as well. The Windsor, Ontario product’s best NHL point scoring season was 2005-06 when he registered 45 points, but he once led the entire OHL in offensive production.
“The last couple of years I just focused on faceoffs, playing smart defense and handling the puck in good situations,” Wellwood said. “I wasn’t very dangerous offensively. What I’m working on is getting back to making plays offensively and being more of a passer again.”
THE NUMBERS GAME
Eager will be No. 55, while Wellwood will wear No. 20. Since Eager is now No. 55, defenseman Mike Moore
, who’s currently in Worcester, will change his sweater number to 52.