SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — If I told you one of these San Jose Sharks’ squads won 7-2, you would’ve guessed Group 2, right?
This is how #SJSharks will line up for tonight's scrimmage — some changes from yesterday's groups.
Jones-Korenar v. Dubnyk-Melnichuk.
We'll see about lines later, but Meier-Couture-Labanc, Kane-Hertl-Leonard, Nieto-Gregor-Donato remain intact. As do 44-65, 38-88. pic.twitter.com/YXUkJndg1A
— Sheng Peng (@Sheng_Peng) January 10, 2021
I mean, sure, Group 1 has Logan Couture and Timo Meier, but Group 2 has, well, most of the Sharks stars: Tomas Hertl, Evander Kane, Brent Burns, and Erik Karlsson.
But that’s why, as they say, you play the game. Team Teal (Group 1) blasted Team White (Group 2) 7-2 in the final scrimmage of the pre-season.
While this scrimmage wasn’t streamed, San Jose Hockey Now was on site, streaming large chunks of the game on Facebook Live — check out the video here and make sure to “Like” SJHN on FB!
A couple things stood out: Bob Boughner has promised very active defenseman in the offensive zone and a lot more speed on the power play. That’s what I saw, and not just from the usual suspects like Karlsson and Burns.
For example, I saw Nikolai Knyzhov and Brinson Pasichnuk below the dots. Granted, Pasichnuk was a big scorer at ASU; on the other hand, the last time Knyzhov scored more than two goals for a team in a season, he was playing for a 16U AAA squad…in Phoenix. Thank you, Elite Prospects!
The operative question might be, why in the world would you ask a stay-at-home defenseman like Knyzhov to leave home?
Knyzhov says he gained 20 pounds of muscle this off-season…that'll help
— Sheng Peng (@Sheng_Peng) January 11, 2021
It’s to create confusion and can be effective: I wrote in May 2019 about how the St. Louis Blues befuddled the Sharks in the Western Conference Finals by “weaponizing” Robert Bortuzzo and Joel Edmundson.
As for the power play, I saw pre-zone entry movement that hasn’t been commonplace on recent San Jose Sharks man advantages, but that I have seen in Rocky Thompson power plays with the Chicago Wolves:
To address a common complaint, there will still be drop passes — plenty of them — but there’s no doubt that the San Jose Sharks want to attack with a greater variety of looks and more quickness.
Noah Gregor Excels Again
I asked Mario Ferraro a tough question: Which young San Jose Sharks forward has impressed him most or been the “toughest” to defend? It sounds like a straight-forward enough question, but guys don’t want to slight other guys on their team by not mentioning them.
However, this was a scenario where I thought Ferraro’s first words would be telling, and they were: “[Noah Gregor] really impressed me, his speed and hockey sense.”
“Gregor’s line has been real solid all camp,” said Boughner.
We saw a little bit here:
Just missed Nieto goal! Happened right after this: Good Nieto-Ferraro battle. Then on Nieto goal, Gregor battled stretch pass down, gave it to Nieto 4-1 pic.twitter.com/cgPlF2l7Dd
— Sheng Peng (@Sheng_Peng) January 11, 2021
Unfortunately, I turned off my camera for the ensuing Matt Nieto goal, but it was a thing of beauty from Gregor — a White defender tried an aerial pass to clear the zone, but Gregor batted it down at the blueline and gave it to Nieto for the counterattack strike.
Who Is Fredrik Claesson?
A couple hours before the scrimmage, CapFriendly broke that the San Jose Sharks had signed left-handed defenseman Fredrik Claesson.
SJ #Sharks have signed UFA defenceman Fredrick Claesson to a 1 year / 2-way deal for the 2020-21 season.
Minor: $200,000 ($300,000 guaranteed)https://t.co/5XWimDfdZ2
— CapFriendly (@CapFriendly) January 11, 2021
Is this insurance for Radim Simek?
It seems like it: Both are left-handed, and since Simek first complained in training camp about his recurring knee trouble, he hasn’t played in a scrimmage. According to Boughner, he did skate in half of Saturday’s practice and SJHN can confirm his participation in today’s morning skate.
Anyway, Claesson is better served as insurance.
“I would assume he’s some kind of insurance,” Swedish hockey expert Uffe Bodin offered. “Defensively sound and a good skater, but he doesn’t have much to offer offensively.”
An NHL scout agreed: “He competes hard, defends fine. Just doesn’t play well with the puck.”
He added: “He’s not very good; he’s very erratic. He’s not even a good No. 7 — I’d want a better No. 7.”
The 28-year-old does have 155 NHL games with Ottawa, the Rangers, and New Jersey under his belt.
We’re not even sure when Claesson will join the San Jose Sharks or Barracuda in Arizona: According to Boughner, the Swedish defenseman is working through immigration right now.
Who Stays, Who Goes?
I guessed 14 forwards would make the San Jose Sharks’ opening roster and last night’s scrimmage didn’t change my mind:
Defense is obviously murkier because Simek is doubtful for Thursday night’s season-opener. But if Simek is ready to go, I’ll say Erik Karlsson, Brent Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Mario Ferraro, Simek, Brinson Pasichnuk, and Jake Middleton make the team. If not Simek, pencil in Knyzhov.
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