Why is Karlis Cukste re-joining the San Jose Sharks organization?
Earlier today, the San Jose Barracuda announced Cukste’s signing, confirming Sunday’s San Jose Hockey Now report.
This appears to be an odd couple at first, considering the Sharks had drafted Cukste in the fifth round in 2015, but then declined to offer the 6-foot-4 defenseman an entry-level contract two weeks ago.
Cukste explained to San Jose Hockey Now: “San Jose is a first-class organization. Top to bottom, it’s filled with great people that I have been fortunate enough to get to know over the years.
“Also, whenever I’ve been in San Jose, you can feel that the city supports their local hockey teams, creating a welcoming atmosphere for the players. I’ve had nothing but friendly interactions with the local people in San Jose.”
The recent Quinnipiac University alternate captain also shed some light on why the San Jose Sharks organization might have passed on giving him an ELC: “Over the years, skating has been an area that both San Jose and I have felt needs improvement. It’s been a point of emphasis in my training regimen for the past three years or so.”
Regardless, the Sharks saw enough potential in Cukste to bring him back into the fold. As SJHN has previously noted, it’s not unprecedented for an unsigned San Jose draft pick to advance from the AHL team to the NHL: Colin Blackwell (2011 Draft Pick #194), Philip Varone (2009 #147), Frazer McLaren (2007 #203), and Kris Newbury (2002 #139) have gone the long way to the bigs.
“We’ve been impressed with Karlis’s development since he was drafted,” Barracuda GM Joe Will said in a statement. “He has been a dependable defenseman for quality teams. Karlis’s blend of size, character, and awareness give him the tools to continue his development at the pro level.”
Of course, the San Jose Barracuda isn’t beginning their season anytime soon, December at earliest. Where will the 23-year-old blueliner, who’s currently back in his native Latvia, play until then?
Cukste was reportedly practicing with the KHL’s Dinamo Riga about a month ago, but it doesn’t appear as if he’ll be joining his hometown side.
“It’s highly unlikely that I will be loaned to Dinamo Riga at this point of time,” Cukste told SJHN. “I will know soon [where I’m going].”
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