It’s a more confident Artemi Kniazev this year.
That’s something for the San Jose Sharks to look forward to as they try and rebuild a defense decimated by the loss of Brent Burns.
The 2019 second-round pick made his AHL and NHL debuts last year after a productive career with the Chicoutimi Sagueneens of the QMJHL.
However, it wasn’t a smooth transition to pro for the Russian rearguard. In his first 24 games with the San Jose Barracuda, the offense-first blueliner had just one goal and one assist. He finished the year with a bang though, piling up six goals and 20 assists in his last 36 contests.
Kniazev was putting up points for a bad team though: He tied with teammate Joachim Blichfeld for the worst plus-minus in the AHL with a -47.
Now that’s not a be-all, end-all stat, but safe to say, Kniazev has some work to do killing plays on the defensive end, and that’s exactly what ex-Barracuda head coach Roy Sommer indicated last year:
But there’s also no doubt that Kniazev is a real talent, which he saw in the first game of the San Jose Sharks’ Rookie Faceoff, a 3-2 OT victory over the Anaheim Ducks.
Kniazev is probably ticketed for the AHL this year, but he’s in a prospects group with Ryan Merkley, Nick Cicek, and Santeri Hatakka who could seize a job with the San Jose Sharks.
San Jose Hockey Now caught up with new Barracuda head coach John McCarthy and the recently-married Kniazev — congratulations! — to talk about the 21-year-old’s next step.
McCarthy, on what’s he liked about Kniazev so far:
He’s a smooth skater. I think that’s the strength of his game is that he can get around the ice very efficiently.
I think assertiveness [is better], I would say offensively and defensively.
That’s what you want to see in a second-year player, sometimes a first-year player comes in and they’re testing the waters a little bit. Whereas, see somebody with a little more confidence, a little more swagger, a little more I know what I’m doing, and I’m just going to do it and people can kind of read off me. I think he showed that a little bit last night.
The way he’s just carrying himself, which is just kind of a little more confident, it’s a good stride for him.
McCarthy, on Kniazev’s defensive improvement over the summer:
The theme with him last year was he was hesitating, that’s why he wasn’t killing plays.
It kind of speaks to his confidence this year, hey, I’m just gonna go. I’m going, I’m closing, I’m gonna end this play.
Kniazev, on what he focused on in his training this summer:
[Try to not] get really tired. Keep the pace.
Kniazev, on his improvement killing plays:
It comes with good physical shape, so I might lose less battles and can play harder
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