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Preview/Lines #15: Ducks Have Two-Year Head Start on Sharks With Rebuild, And It Shows

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Credit: Hockey Shots/Dean Tait

For several reasons, the San Jose Sharks might look south at the Anaheim Ducks with some jealousy.

Obviously, there’s the record. Both San Jose and Anaheim are in the midst of rebuilds, but the Ducks are 7-6-0, while the Sharks are 2-11-1.

Of course, Anaheim started the rebuild sooner than San Jose. The Ducks have been picking in the lottery since 2019, while the Sharks didn’t begin to do that until 2021.

In 2019, Anaheim used the ninth-overall pick on star center Trevor Zegras. San Jose didn’t have a first-round pick that year, not selecting until No. 48, Artemi Kniazev.

In 2020, the Ducks tabbed budding defenseman Jamie Drysdale sixth-overall. The Sharks had traded what would become the No. 3 pick and Tim Stutzle to the Ottawa Senators for Erik Karlsson. With the 31st-overall selection, they went with Ozzy Wiesblatt.

That’s a huge head start.

So San Jose Sharks head coach David Quinn wasn’t making excuses when he compared both rebuilds today, “They might be a little bit, I don’t want to say ahead of the curve, but they altered their approach sooner than we did. They’ve done a heck of a job drafting.”

Still, it’s hard not to look south and hope San Jose gets there sooner than later.

Maybe a Leo Carlsson might be waiting at the end of the rainbow.

“We watched him at the World Championships and you knew he’s gonna be a really good player. There’s a reason why he was drafted so high,” Quinn said of the second-overall pick of the 2023 Draft. “With that size and skill-set, he had a chance to step in and make an impact and he certainly has done that.”

Of course, it doesn’t escape notice that the top-three picks of the Draft, in order, Connor Bedard, Carlsson, and Adam Fantilli are making an immediate NHL impact, while the Sharks’ fourth-overall pick Will Smith is still in college.

But of course, it’s too early to bemoan San Jose’s fate. At the end of the rainbow, Smith might still be an impact player.

Also, it’s also too early to assume that the three teens will keep up their production for the marathon of the season. As of Nov. 11, Bedard had seven goals and four assists in 12 games, Carlsson had six goals and one assist in nine games, and Fantilli had three goals and five assists in 14 games.

Quinn was talking about Carlsson, but he may as well have been talking about No. 1 and No. 3. The bench boss, of course, shepherded the arrivals of top picks Kaapo Kakko and Alexis Lafreniere as 18-year-olds with the New York Rangers.

“I think games 40 and 50, he’ll start really feeling the grind of the National Hockey League,” Quinn said. “It’s not an easy league to play in at 18, no matter how much talent you have. It’s a man’s league and your body certainly isn’t up to snuff with what most players in this league are.

“Sometimes talent can get you through it, but it’s the rare [teenage] player that can go start to finish in this league and have an impact, but he certainly is off to a great start.”

San Jose Sharks (2-11-1)

Quinn also mentioned that because of injuries, there could be other changes to the Sharks’ line-up today.

Anaheim Ducks (7-6-0)

Here’s how the Ducks lined up in their last game on Friday:

Where to Watch

Puck drop between the San Jose Sharks and Anaheim Ducks is 5:00 PM PT at Honda Center. Watch it live on NBC Sports California. Listen to it on the Sharks Audio Network.

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