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Johan Hedberg Stands Up for Martin Jones

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Credit: Gunnar Nordstrom

It’s amazing to think how many NHL-caliber starting goalies were in the San Jose Sharks system during the 2000-01 season.

In San Jose, Evgeni Nabokov was authoring a Calder Trophy-winning campaign, backed up by the previous season’s number-one, Steve Shields.

For the AHL’s Kentucky Thoroughblades, future Vezina Trophy winner Miikka Kiprusoff and Vesa Toskala shared the crease.

And because Kiprusoff and Toskala took all the reps in Kentucky, the Sharks organization lent Johan Hedberg to the IHL’s Manitoba Moose.

For the 27-year-old Hedberg, who had yet to play an NHL game, this would prove to be most fortuitous.

Being the man in Manitoba allowed NHL organizations, chiefly the Pittsburgh Penguins, to watch him closely. And Hedberg’s Moose-themed mask was about to launch a phenomenon.

A day before the 2001 Trade Deadline, San Jose sent Hedberg and Bobby Dollas to Pittsburgh for veteran defenseman Jeff Norton.

At first, Hedberg thought Penguins fans were booing him, which was confusing because he finished the regular season 7-1-1 and had just shut out the Washington Capitals in Game Three of the 2000-01 Eastern Conference quarterfinals. Then he realized — they were chanting “MOOOOSE!!!”

“Moose mania” would run wild in Pittsburgh. The highway exit for the nearby town of Heidelberg was artfully changed to “He-d–berg”. The Penguins gave away 17,000-plus foam antlers before a second round playoff game.

 

The magic wouldn’t last — Pittsburgh lost in the Eastern Conference Finals — but the Moose endured, moving on to Vancouver, Dallas, Atlanta, and New Jersey over a 12-year NHL career.

In 2015, Hedberg found his way back to San Jose, when incoming head coach Peter DeBoer asked him to become the goaltending coach.

Under Hedberg’s tutelage, first-time NHL starter Martin Jones initially flourished, leading the 2015-16 Sharks to the Stanley Cup Final and enjoying consecutive top-10 Vezina Trophy finishes. But over the last two seasons, Jones tied for the worst save percentage in the league — ironically, with ex-Los Angeles Kings teammate Jonathan Quick.

San Jose’s deficiencies, from the goal on out, would result in the firings of DeBoer and Hedberg, along with assistant coaches Steve Spott and Dave Barr, on December 11, 2019.

However, instead of seeking another goaltending coach gig, Hedberg is taking the opportunity to re-make himself as a head coach. In 2020-21, the rookie head coach is hoping to bring Mora IK out of HockeyAllsvenskan and back into the SHL.

San Jose Hockey Now caught up with the affable Hedberg, who’s back in his native Sweden, for an exclusive interview. We touched on the Moose’s colorful career, which included playing with Gordie Howe, before digging into what’s happened to Jones and San Jose over the last two seasons.

Sheng Peng: Before we get to the heart of the interview, I wanted to ask you a few questions about your playing career — October 1997, you’re beginning your North American career with the IHL’s Detroit Vipers.

Were you the back-up goalie during the game that 69-year-old Gordie Howe played?

Johan Hedberg: I was, yeah.

SP: So your first professional game in North America was Gordie Howe’s last — what was that like?

JH: It was quite an experience. Gordie ended up playing [two] shifts. He played his first shift, almost scored. The defenseman got the puck and shot it off Gordie and almost into the net. It was quite an interesting start to my North American career. It got more normal after that.

SP: It was opening night too. A sell-out. Did you kind of think, oh, so this is what North American hockey is like?

JH: Yeah, we got 70-year-olds playing. (laughs) Everybody knew it was kind of a one-game thing. It was fun to be part of it. But you kind of wanted the game to get started in a real way too.

SP: What was Gordie like?

JH: I don’t really remember. He spoke to everybody. Seemed like a very, very humble man. I think he was just happy to be part of a playing atmosphere again. He was quite chatty on the bench, I remember.

SP: Remember anything he said?

JH: No, I really don’t. It’s too long ago. I’m too old now. I’m like Gordie now. (laughs)

SP: Next, is it true, because you were always Tommy Salo’s back-up on Sweden’s national teams, that he called you the “Norwegian Killer”?

JH: That’s true. I used to get the one game in the tournaments. I got Norway. He thought it was quite funny.

SP: Finally, your last professional season, you signed a try-out with the New York Rangers. Marty Biron beat you out for the back-up job.

That season, Biron played just two games before retiring, one of them was Tommy Hertl’s four-goal game, when Hertl scored his famous between-the-legs goal. Did you ever think that could’ve been you in net — are you grateful that Marty beat you for the job?

JH: Well, that wasn’t exactly what happened. I signed a tryout with the Rangers because Marty didn’t show up for camp. He wasn’t sure if he was going to keep playing or not.

I went there for a week. But Marty came back and I felt like I didn’t have the fire that I needed to have. So when he came back, I kind of decided I was going to call it quits and start working for the Devils, which I had an offer to do.

But yeah, I know exactly the game you’re talking about, it kind of finished off Marty’s career. (laughs)

SP: So if it had been you in net, and you said you had lost your fire, Tommy might have scored like six goals?

JH: Probably. There’s a good chance he would have. (laughs)

SP: Okay, let’s talk about coaching goaltenders. You developed in the Sharks system, coached by Warren Strelow. Can you point to one thing that you took from Strelow, that you applied to your goaltenders in Albany or San Jose?

JH: The consistency [needed] to build the foundation of your game, understand your own game. The daily routines, how to prepare and train.

Warren was really, really good at picking up tendencies in your game when you started to slip on things. I could have a great game, I thought, but he would come in after the game, say congrats, good game, but tomorrow, we need to pick this up. I see your footwork isn’t exactly where we need to be. You weren’t tracking the puck the the way you should do. He would get on things before they became a real problem.

So that’s something I tried to stay on top of with the goalies I worked with. When things started to slip, try to fix them before it becomes a problem.

SP: Between Peter DeBoer getting hired in May 2015 and your official hiring in July, the Sharks traded for Martin Jones. Did Pete or Doug consult you before the trade? First-time NHL goaltending coach, first-time NHL starter, how did they know it was going to work?

JH: Well, you never know if anything is going to work out well. They had a good book on Marty. They had seen him play with the Kings, seen him in the minors. I know all the scouts were really high on him.

So when I got the job, I was really excited to get the chance to work with him. I loved the foundation of his game, his athleticism.

I think everybody was pretty, pretty sure that Marty would be a good choice.

SP: Martin, at this point, was an unproven NHL starter. What do you think you added to his game, that helped him break out in the 2015-16 season?

JH: I don’t think it was so much what I contributed. He had his game figured out, he’s very strong technically, he’s got a very strong head. It’s more how your team is playing, how he got a chance to play consistently instead of being behind Jonathan Quick.

You don’t really, at least I don’t think you can change much at this level. When you’re at the NHL, you’re pretty much a finished product.

But I think the one thing that he improved on from the beginning were his puckhandling skills, something that we required with the way Pete DeBoer wanted to play. You need a puckhandling goaltender.

SP: Martin was swimming along in his Sharks career until the 2018-19 season. What can you point to as being the biggest difference between Martin Jones from 2015-18 to Martin Jones from 2018 to now?

JH: I think he’s a great goaltender. A lot of goaltending has to do with the big picture. It’s such a situational thing where you need to be put in situations where you can succeed. I don’t think Marty has lost his game, in any way, shape, or form. In my eyes, he could definitely be a Vezina Trophy winner in any given season, given the right circumstances.

I have the highest thoughts of him as a goaltender now, as I did five years ago. He’s just as good.

SP: A constant debate over the last two seasons was who was to blame for the rising goals against — was it more the goaltending? Was it more the team defense? Was it a little bit of both? Obviously, you’re biased, but how did you see all this?

JH: I think everything plays in. We had a great team. We were really close to winning it all. We had a couple good runs in the playoffs. We did a lot of things right.

But at times, maybe we did get away from our systems, our way of playing, that hurt everybody. Not only the goalies, but the team overall.

There’s no finger pointing in any way. I take the blame if my goalies weren’t performing. That’s my job to keep them sharp. So I would hold myself accountable for it.

SP: I have to ask then, what, if anything, would you have done differently as San Jose’s goaltending coach?

JH: What I would have done differently? I don’t know. I don’t think I would change much.

I think I had a pretty good idea what I wanted to do and how I wanted to work with him. I think I did that. Most of the time, I think the results were pretty good. At times, they were not as good.

But it’s a sport. Things happen so quickly. A lot of things have to do with confidence.

I don’t think I can say that I would’ve changed the way that I coached the guys I had to work with. Probably would do the same thing again.

SP: Through all this, you and Martin accomplished incredible things together: The Cup Final, a couple top-10 Vezina finishes, Martin’s resurgence against Vegas to finish off that series then his work against Colorado. Strelow said his goalies were like his kids, so looking at it that way, what Martin Jones moment are you most proud of?

JH: Well, first of all, I never looked at it like he and I accomplished. He accomplished. I’m there to support him.

But I think the way that he handled the playoff series against Vegas, how he turned that around. That’s probably the most impressive thing. Things were going really rough for us. Things weren’t going his way either. He took charge of the situation and turned the whole series around.

The mental strength that he showed there was very, very impressive to me.

SP: Can you give us an inside look of how he turned it around? Fan were calling for his head. The media was on him. The Vegas crowd was rabid.

JH: He did two things. He kind of slowed down his game a little bit. Early in that series, he was chasing the puck. Playing a little too aggressive.

He pulled his game back where he’s more comfortable, play a little bit deeper in his crease, let the game come to him instead of chasing it. That’s a lot of it, has to do with confidence, feeling that you’re making the right reads.

He pretty much figured out I got to play my game, regardless of what people are saying around me. I’m gotta trust what brought me [here].

It’s something he should take with him for the rest of his career.

SP: Did you watch any Sharks games after they let you go? Did you see anything different from Jones?

JH: I watched probably three or four games. No, I didn’t think he changed his way of playing. He tried to play the way he wants to play. You’re not gonna change Martin Jones, you gotta do this or that. He’s too smart and too strong in his foundation to go change his game. And there’s no reason to.

SP: What makes you confident that Martin Jones can come back strong next year?

JH: Like I said, he’s a great goaltender. He’s got a great foundation, great head. He’s got all the make-up of an elite goaltender.

SP: You’ve taken a new challenge, you’re now the head coach of Mora IK in Sweden. Is there anything that you learned from Pete in particular that you plan to incorporate as a head coach?

JH: Oh, absolutely. Most of what I will incorporate in my coaching was learned from Pete. A lot of the preparation, professionalism, details of the game, the planning, everything that we did on a daily basis, I will base my coaching upon.

Obviously, you need to find your own own way, but I learned so much from Pete and the coaching staff I was with here in San Jose. That’s why I feel confident I can take on this challenge.

SP: Mora IK’s big rival is Leksand. You have a relationship with Leksand spanning to the ’80s, you played juniors for Leksands IF, professionally for them, you even served on their board recently.

So what’s it like to take the job of coaching your biggest rival, is it like Pete taking over Vegas?

JH: Yeah, it is. When they first started talking about it, I was like I don’t know if I really can do this.

But the more I spoke to the people I’m working with and getting to know the organization better, I felt really strong about it.

It’s fine, it’s only been positive reactions from all my Leksand people. They think it’s a fun challenge and they’re happy I’m doing this.

SP: One day, if and when you return to the NHL, would you like to come back as a head coach or a goaltending coach?

JH: I haven’t really thought that far. Right now, I’m just happy to be home and take on this challenge. Would that bring me back to North America? I don’t know. At this moment, I don’t really plan on that.

Welcome to your new home for San Jose Sharks breaking news, analysis and opinion. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and don't forget to subscribe to SJHN+ for all of our members-only content from Sheng Peng and the National Hockey Now network.
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Mike

Not to be too harsh on Hedberg, but based on his responses I can see why he was let go. If his response to a goalie falling off in seemingly every category is to just throw his hands in the air and say “maybe he’ll be better next season, can’t really do much about this” I’d want to bring in somebody else too.

Great questions Sheng! I’ve loved your work and I’m really looking forward to seeing where this goes

[…] • Catching up with Johan Hedberg. [San Jose Hockey Now] […]

[…] • Catching up with Johan Hedberg. [San Jose Hockey Now] […]

[…] • Catching up with Johan Hedberg. [San Jose Hockey Now] […]

[…] • Catching up with Johan Hedberg. [San Jose Hockey Now] […]

Kamesh Krishnamurthy

Great stuff! Really looking forward to this site moving forward. A quick request if possible- i personally prefer the audio/video to a transcript. Would you consider making that available in addition to the transcript?

Analytics

Deep Dive into San Jose’s Prospects, Part 6: NHL Regulars?

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Lean Bergmann, San Jose Sharks
Credit: San Jose Barracuda

As we climb the ladder of San Jose Sharks prospects, we inch ever closer to those who stand a reasonable chance of playing for the big-league club. One of these next three prospects has already logged a few NHL games. All three of them offer promise for the same combination of things that help any prospect: Draft capital, scouting profile, production progression, and lack of competitive options in the Sharks pipeline.

It’s not reasonable to expect any of these players to become top-of-the-lineup material. Their trajectories arc toward complementary players at the professional level, but those are roster spots best filled with young players on cheap deals. This group of three players has a good chance to fill exactly that role even if it’s no certain thing. Welcome — to the borderline NHL regulars group!

Before you dig in, check out the rest of this deep dive into the San Jose Sharks prospects — this series began before the 2020 Draft, so it’s focused on non-2020 Draft prospects.

If you’re new to these, you can check out the introductory explainer article here — this will have all the definitions you need to know.

Part 2 looked at prospects — Jeremy Roy, Jeffrey Viel, and Jasper Weatherby — whose time is already up. And indeed, that’s the case for Roy, at least in the San Jose organization. Roy’s entry-level contract expired two weeks ago, and the the Sharks declined to offer him a new contract, making the 2015 second-round pick a UFA.

Part 3 examined players — Jonathan Dahlen, Thomas Gregoire, Jayden Halbgewachs, Nikolai Knyzhov, Maxim Letunov, Scott Reedy, and Danil Yurtaykin — who likely have just one more year left to prove themselves. Halbgewachs was recently signed to a two-year contract, which Letunov got one year.

Part 4 analyzed prospects — Zachary Gallant, Vladislav Kotkov, Jake McGrew, and Kyle Topping — who still have time left but are otherwise unlikely to become NHLers.

Part 5 focused on some of the more intriguing youngsters in the San Jose Sharks system: Zachary Emond, Joseph Garreffa, Santeri Hatakka, Krystof Hrabik, Timur Ibragimov, Zach Sawchenko, and Yegor Spiridonov.

So who are the Sharks prospects that I project to be borderline NHL regulars?

Lean Bergmann – W

Lean Bergmann played 12 games with the Sharks during the 2019-20 season. He finished the season with the big club, playing four of the team’s last seven games. In those four games he averaged just 7:54 of ice time and took just two shots on goal. 

Advanced metrics that adjust for a player’s context don’t show Bergmann in a very bright light, either. It’s too hard to take much away from a sample size of just 96 minutes of ice time, but his impact on even-strength expected goals for & against and shots for & against were all one standard deviation or more worse than average. That’s a difficult feat to accomplish given that the model in question pulls everything back toward average to begin with. 

It shouldn’t be terribly surprising that Bergmann struggled in the NHL. He was forced into a situation few 21-year-olds would envy: A team that had lost its high-end forward depth and would struggle immensely to begin a season that ended with a new head coach behind the bench. 

Lean Bergmann San Jose Sharks

Even without that context, it’s difficult to expect much from a prospect who never really got going until his age-20/21 season. As a 17- and 18-year-old in the USHL, Bergmann failed to crack the half-point-per-game mark before returning to Germany. There, he impressed, with a 0.58 point-per-game campaign. 

According to Elite Prospects, Bergmann’s scoring rate ranks ninth among 222 DEL forwards to play at least 20 games during a U21 season since 2000-01. We should note, however, that of the eight forwards ranked above him, most either scored at a higher rate at the same age or even earlier. The closest trajectory to Bergmann’s own was that of Marcel Müller. Müller played one game for the Maple Leafs but otherwise spent the better part of two North American seasons with the AHL Marlies. 

So why is Bergmann exciting? Not much exists in the way of scouting reports for the undrafted free agent. Those that are floating in the internet ether describe a combination of size, toughness, and shooting ability. 

Chris Legg of Dobber Prospects writes of someone who, for his size, “can really dangle and shoots the puck with authority.”

In an interview with The Athletic’s Kevin Kurz, Barracuda General Manager Joe Will spoke of a forward who “showed character, skating, and good physio” despite a lack of production. 

A more in-depth scouting report at McKeen’s Hockey describes a player who, “has very quick hands for someone his size, and…can effectively utilize his size and strength to create offensive chances for himself.”

Usually, scouting reports that focus on size and strength aren’t incredibly encouraging. Bergmann, however, has already logged NHL time with the Sharks’ current head coach, however brief. He has skill to go along with his frame, and another year in North America should help him further acclimate to the smaller rink. According to Elite Prospects, Bergmann did score in the top one-third of 20- and 21-year-old forward seasons in the AHL since 2000-01. 

Right now, there are probably two or more spots in the San Jose Sharks’ bottom-six up for grabs. Bergmann may not necessarily have an inside track to one of them, but he has the profile and existing NHL experience to earn himself another stint with the big club whenever the 2020-21 season begins. 

Dillon Hamaliuk – W

The best thing going for Dillon Hamaliuk is his second-round draft capital. Nearly three-quarters of skaters drafted in the second round play at least one NHL game. A majority of them make it to 10 games. Part of that statistic has nothing to do with the player. NHL teams try their darndest to make expensive investments pan out: Just look at the opportunities the Sharks have given Dylan Gambrell relative to Noah Gregor. 

That something out of a player’s hands is the core reason he might make the big leagues isn’t a glowing endorsement. There’s more to the big forward’s chances than draft position, though. Byron Bader’s prospect model compares players’ scoring rates to those of thousands of other drafted players. After his draft season, Hamaliuk had a 45 percent chance to become a regular NHLer. 

Dillon Hamaliuk San Jose Sharks NHLe

Only about 40 percent of second-round skaters go on to play 80 NHL games, which we’ll consider makes them “regular.” If we knew nothing but the winger’s scoring rates at the time of the draft, we could safely assume he was following the trajectory of so many other second-round picks before him to the NHL. 

Jeremy Davis, formerly of Canucks Army, also built a prospect evaluation model. Davis ranked Hamaliuk as the 2019 draft’s 30th-best prospect. He was involved in more than 21 percent of his team’s 5-on-5 goals but had just a 19 percent chance of making the NHL. This discrepancy hints at Hamaliuk’s play behind the raw scoring totals. 

The season before his draft year, Hamaliuk’s impact on his team’s scoring network was poor. In other words, he was overly reliant on strong teammates for his scoring. We can excuse him for that as a young rookie playing in a tough WHL. The concern is that his inability to score without strong teammates has stayed with him.

Highlight reels, which are supposed to highlight a player’s ceiling, quickly become repetitive. Hamaliuk is scoring goals, often from up close and after rebounds and around the blue paint. He is rarely making a pass or creating a play. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Every team needs finishers. His brand of scoring probably just means he’ll need a sharp center to play with if we are to expect exciting goal totals moving forward. 

He makes the most of his teammates’ playmaking, however. InStat has tracked shot and expected goal differential since September 2018. Hamaliuk has been on the wrong side of the shot share ledger more often than not. Where he thrives is being on the ice for a high volume of expected goals. 

That isn’t a surprise. To quickly peruse a handful of scouting reports, I fed them to a word cloud generator. 

Dillon Hamaliuk San Jose Sharks Scouting Report

(Word cloud algorithm and image from Jason Davies)

You can see that some of the most prominent words in his reports have to do with strength, power, and the net front. There are also adjectives, including “decent,” “effective,” “solid,” and “good.” Those aren’t necessarily bad things, but they aren’t effusive reviews, either.  

The 2019-20 season was a challenge for Hamaliuk. Per Sheng Peng, he came down with mono in November and his scoring rates understandably fell. Per Elite Prospects, the power forward scored 0.7 points per game in September and October. In November and December, he scored just five points in 14 games. 

In Peng’s interview, Doug Wilson Jr. mentions that Hamaliuk was finally back and healthy three weeks before the interview, which would have been about the beginning of February. During the 15 games between February 2 and the end of the season, Hamaliuk scored 11 points, back at his 0.7 point-per-game rate from earlier. It’s good to see him rebound. It’s hard to get excited about a 19-year-old not cracking the point-per-game threshold in junior hockey. 

Hamaliuk’s statistical and scouting profiles point to someone who is good once the puck is in the offensive zone but who may not be helpful getting it there. His calling cards are his size and strength, which aren’t scouting terms that typically portend high-level success. His second-round draft position and the Sharks’ love of power forwards should provide Hamaliuk ample opportunity. Realistically, his NHL career arc is one of an effective bottom-six player.

Alexei Melnichuk – G

San Jose signed Alexei Melnichuk to a two-year entry-level deal in May this year. The Russian goaltender turned 22 one month later and is poised to play spoiler to the other goaltending prospects in the pipeline. 

It’s difficult to get a good read on goalies because there is so little information available about those who do not play in the NHL already. The best approach for Melnichuk might be to compare him to another goaltender whom he followed up the ladder in the St. Petersburg program: Igor Shestyorkin (Shesterkin).

Shestyorkin made his triumphant arrival at the NHL level this season for the New York Rangers as a 24-year-old. Melnichuk served as Shestyorkin’s understudy in the MHL, VHL, and KHL, tracking about two seasons behind Shestyorkin.

For example, Shestyorkin played his first KHL games during his age-17/18 season. Melnichuk didn’t see KHL time until he was 19. Here’s a comparison of the two goalies save percentages in the leagues in which they played the most games in a given season. 

Shestyorkin’s save percentages are much stronger than the Sharks’ free agent signing up until this past season.

This year, Melnichuk’s 0.930 in the KHL was very similar to Shestyorkin’s 0.933 during his age-20/21 season. The major difference? Shestyorkin accomplished this while playing nearly twice as many games. 

If the Rangers’ new No. 1 didn’t make the leap to the NHL until his age-23/24 season, it’s hard to believe Melnichuk will arrive much sooner. This is a very rough estimate, of course, but if Melnichuk is tracking about two seasons behind his older compatriot, then the earliest we should expect him in a San Jose Sharks uniform is the 2023-24 season. 

It’s exciting to have a young goalie with a track record of professional success. If Shestyorkin can be a star in the NHL, maybe Melnichuk can be an average goalie? That’s an ideal situation for an undrafted addition at a position of need.

Looking Ahead

This series covers 33 San Jose Sharks prospects in total, and doesn’t include 2020 Draft picks.

After this installment, eight skaters — about 25 percent of the total prospect pool — remain. Byron Bader’s database of historical draft picks says about 25 percent of all skaters (no goaltenders included) chosen in the Draft become NHL regulars. That places Bergmann and Hamaliuk right on the cusp of future NHL regular material. Melnichuk is in a different category, but his relatively promising track record and immediate access to the San Jose Barracuda’s crease give him a strong chance, as of this writing, of becoming an NHL regular.

There’s nothing certain about this group of players, but it feels safe to call them future borderline NHL regulars.

Welcome to your new home for San Jose Sharks breaking news, analysis and opinion. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and don't forget to subscribe to SJHN+ for all of our members-only content from Sheng Peng and the National Hockey Now network.
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Locked On Sharks

Get to Know Thomas Bordeleau

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Thomas Bordeleau

Kyle, Erik, and JD look at San Jose Sharks second-round draft pick Thomas Bordeleau. We dig into his statistical profiling and what draft scouts are saying about him (10:00). Then we talk about what he needs to work on before getting to the NHL (14:00) and compare a hard shot vs. an accurate shot (18:30). We then project his timeline for reaching the San Jose Sharks. Check out the podcast on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

 

 

Keep up with all things San Jose Sharks here:

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Welcome to your new home for San Jose Sharks breaking news, analysis and opinion. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and don't forget to subscribe to SJHN+ for all of our members-only content from Sheng Peng and the National Hockey Now network.
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San Jose Barracuda

BREAKING: Ivan Chekhovich Will Play in KHL for ENTIRE Season

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Credit: San Jose Barracuda

San Jose Hockey Now has learned that Ivan Chekhovich will skate for HC Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod for the entirety of the 2020-21 KHL season.

Chekhovich will not be returning to North America when 2020-21 San Jose Sharks training camp opens.

The Sharks retain Chekhovich’s rights; this is a full-season loan.

The prospect will attempt to find his game in his native Russia after a difficult 2019-20 with the San Jose Barracuda.

Coming off a 105-point QMJHL campaign in 2018-19, Chekhovich was expected to adjust quickly to professional play. Instead, his production and time on ice sagged in his first full professional season. The 2017 San Jose Sharks seventh-round pick scored just four goals and 12 points in 42 games, and according to InStat Hockey, was San Jose’s least-used forward, averaging under 12 minutes per night.

Exclusive: San Jose Barracuda Time on Ice Revealed

He was also healthy scratched on multiple occasions, as recently as two games before the pause.

Co-head coach Mike Chiasson revealed on March 7th: “I think it’s a compete thing for him right now.”

It was truly an up-and-down season for the offensive winger. Despite his general lack of productivity, Chiasson and co-head coach Jimmy Bonneau had praised Chekhovich’s coachability and work ethic in February and January:

“I can’t find my game, honestly. It’s not the game I want to see,” Chekovich said candidly in January. “Everybody expects way more from me. It’s kind of pressure.”

So now Chekhovich, like fellow San Jose Sharks prospect Jonathan Dahlen, will get a chance to find his scoring touch at home. Dahlen struggled too in the AHL in 2018-19 before returning home to Sweden to play for Timra IK. After leading Allsvenskan in scoring in 2019-20, Dahlen is on fire once again, putting up 12 points in just 5 games so far this year.

“The idea is to play rather than sit around,” Chekhovich’s agent Mark Gandler told San Jose Hockey Now.

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