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Game Preview/Lines #50: Jimmy Bonneau on What to Expect from Chekhovich



Credit: San Jose Barracuda

San Jose Sharks (20-24-5)

Colorado Avalanche (31-12-4)

Avs get major reinforcements back tonight

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Morning Skate

San Jose Hockey Now reported on Wednesday that Ivan Chekhovich would make his NHL debut this year, and lo and behold, two days later, the San Jose Sharks’ 2017 seventh-round pick is here.

Game Preview/Lines #49: Will Chekhovich, Melnichuk Play for Sharks This Year?

Expect to see an elusive offensive threat and smart, efficient defense from Ivan Chekhovich, according to Barracuda assistant coach Jimmy Bonneau.

“He’s a player who finds a way to get lost,” Bonneau told San Jose Hockey Now Thursday. “Then you’ll see a quick touch, a quick bang-bang offensive play that has more flash. He’s good at keeping his blade open and finding some ice to get that shot off, whether it’s in the higher slot area or he gets himself lost on the back post.”

Bonneau feels that Chekhovich should also be able to hold his own away from the puck.

“He’s smart enough to get the system details and play in there,” Bonneau said. “Obviously, he’s not a massive guy. He’s not a grinder type. He’s not an extremely physical player, but he’s smart enough in situations and in the system to be efficient.”

Chekhovich is set to debut on the San Jose Sharks’ first line with Logan Couture and Rudolfs Balcers in Colorado tonight. Bonneau said he’s seen improvement in Chekhovich’s decision-making.

“I think he’s been stronger on pucks,” Bonneau noted. “Making simpler, but much better puck decisions through the neutral zone and on the rush.”

Chekhovich had exciting quick flashes with the Barracuda at the end of his first two seasons in the San Jose Sharks system. He made his professional debut in the 2017-2018 campaign, racking up three goals and six assists in six games. After scoring 105 points to finish off his junior hockey career, Chekhovich had four points in a five-game Barracuda stint at the end of the 2018-19 season.

However, Chekhovich struggled in his first full AHL season in San Jose. He only recorded 12 points in the shortened, 42-game 2019-20 season.

“Last year was a bit of a rocky start,” Bonneau said. “The American league can be like that. Adaptation can take 10, 15, 35 games. It can take a hundred … you can’t go to judgment too early on some things.”

Chekhovich admitted this morning: “I actually had a terrible season in the last year. I lost my game. I wasn’t sure what I was doing on the ice.”

With the delay to this year’s North American seasons, Chekhovich returned to Russia and made his KHL debut. Scoring 17 goals and 17 assists through 43 games with Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod, Chekhovich has come back to San Jose a new man.

“This year, I started in the KHL,” Chekhovich said. “I finally found my game; I was 100% sure what I’m doing on the ice.”

Initially, however, Chekhovich had a quiet return. He set up the opening goal in his first game Mar. 23, but went pointless for the next seven games. Bonneau and head coach Roy Sommer blamed the slow start to quarantine delays and the re-adjustment to the North American rink.

Now, Bonneau said Chekhovich’s shot and “scoring instinct” have begun to emerge. Chekhovich has put up one goal and five assists in his last nine games.

“It was really just closing quicker,” Bonneau said. “Maybe he tried to make a little too many plays … It’s the risk-versus-reward decisions, in taking some time with his puck management. I think that’s been much better lately.”

That decision-making will be tested tonight in the big show. It’ll help if Chekhovich gets some rest.

“I didn’t really sleep today,” a visibly excited Chekhovich said this morning, of his impending NHL debut. “I still can’t believe it.”

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