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Handemark Steps In, Middleton Bulks Up



Welcome to Day 2 of San Jose Sharks’ training camp!

These were actually the Sharks’ first official on-the-ice sessions since the pause in the 2019-20 NHL season on Mar. 11. It’s been nine months!

Here were the on-the-ice groups, these will change a little from day to day.

A couple interesting notes: Patrick Marleau said he practiced next to center Dylan Gambrell and John Leonard in Group 1 this morning. Noah Gregor also played center in that group.

This corroborates what Bob Boughner said last week, about Gambrell and Gregor being in the mix for the very open third-line center competition. The injured Alex True will also be right there as well when he begins training camp, hopefully in a matter of days.

Also, a worthwhile sidebar for San Jose fans hungry for some Sharks action:

Today, Martin Jones spoke about his off-season preparations, Patrick Marleau talked about how this lay-off compared to the 2012-13 and 2004-05 lockouts, Fredrik Handemark gave his first impressions of NHL hockey, Jake Middleton revealed how he changed his game this off-season, and Bob Boughner gave us some insight on why Gambrell might have a leg up in the 3C competition, along with why he might be going with Marc-Edouard Vlasic-Erik Karlsson as a pairing again. Also, we make a guess on what the Sharks’ power play units will be.

Marleau Looks Back, Why Will This Year Be Different for Jones?

Boughner on Vlasic-Karlsson, Why Gambrell Might Have Leg Up for 3C

Middleton Bulks Up

Jake Middleton is coming into camp 10 pounds heavier.

“It was one of the things that I worked on over the summer. There was a lot of reflection that I was able to do throughout this extended off-season,” Middleton, now 221 pounds, revealed. “One of things I really wanted to do was put on some mass.”

It’s part of what the 25-year-old hopes will separate him from the competition for San Jose’s sixth and seventh defenseman roles. The 6-foot-3 defender is counting on the extra mass to make him harder to play against.

“It’s just a physical presence that you’d like to bring. An intimidating factor.”

That’s an element Ryan Merkley and Brinson Pasichnuk, perhaps Middleton’s most immediate competition, may not have as much of.

The 2014 seventh-round pick is also looking for better injury luck this season. Two minutes into his first game of the year, on October 4, 2019, he suffered an upper-body injury because of a Ryan Reaves hit. Later in the season, he was hobbled by an ankle injury.

Between the Sharks and the Barracuda, Middleton played just 42 contests last year.

“Being able to play heavier while also playing fast was something I really worked hard on this summer,” the defenseman said, before quipping, “I hope I look as quick as I usually do.”

Handemark Steps into the Circle

What do the San Jose Sharks have in Fredrik Handemark?

“I see myself as a two-way centerman. Try to use my big body and protect the puck in the offensive zone, down low,” Handemark said in his introduction to San Jose media. “Try to be good at the faceoff circle. Take responsibility in the d-zone.”

This jibes with what Swedish hockey expert Uffe Bodin told us about Handemark over the summer:

How Will Fredrik Handemark Help the Sharks?

Handemark is in the mix, along with Gambrell, Gregor, True, Joel Kellman, Sasha Chmelevski, and Maxim Letunov for the open third and fourth-line center roles. His 6-foot-4 frame and faceoff acumen — he led the SHL in Face-off Percentage in two of the last three years — are what separate him from the crowd.

So what was Handemark’s first impression of North American hockey?

“High pace. A lot of skating. A lot of new things to learn for me.”

Ironically, a lack of pace and foot speed were common criticisms of Handemark in Sweden. We’ll see if he’s up to speed shortly.

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