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Sharks Locker Room: San Jose Has One Building Block in Eklund, Who’s Next?

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Credit: Dean Tait/Hockey Shots

Maybe the future is bright for the San Jose Sharks?

In a season from hell, William Eklund has shone all year, a beacon of hope from Day 1 of training camp to now.

Among the Sharks’ youngest NHL-ready prospects, he’s the only one who’s been here since the beginning of the season. Through thick and thin, Eklund has consistently created offense for a mostly punchless attack in his first full NHL season.

And he was at it again, dropping a hat trick on the St. Louis Blues for a 3-2 OT victory, also Los Gatos native Devin Cooley’s first NHL win.

That hat trick got the 21-year-old to the 40-point mark, just the second Shark to get there so far this season, after team leader (in more ways than one) Mikael Granlund.

“Eklund with the hat trick, wow, that guy is special,” Cooley gushed.

It’s not just about the points either. All season, Eklund has shown both a defensive conscience and mental toughness in a truly challenging campaign for any player, young or old.

Of course, Eklund is just one building block. He’ll need help in the coming years from the Sharks’ other young guns, which he got tonight. Henry Thrun was second among Sharks’ defensemen with 25:01 played. Thomas Bordeleau had a gutty assist and was dangerous all night. Prized NCAA free agent Collin Graf was solid in his NHL debut.

And SAP Center was rocking, a little like it used to, a lot like you hope it is in the near future when the likes of Will Smith and (hopefully) Macklin Celebrini and more get here.

“The Shark Tank was really good today. It was amazing to see all the fans,” Eklund said of the announced 15,603 crowd. “It was a great win today.”

Collin Graf

Graf, on biggest difference he noticed, going from NCAA to NHL:

The strength is definitely different. Obviously coming from college [to] against grown men and adults, I think that was sort of expected. But that was the biggest thing.

Graf, on what he’s looking to improve from his San Jose Sharks debut:

Just try to be more comfortable. Make a play, don’t just throw it off my stick as quickly as I can because I’m nervous. Try to hold on and make a better play.

Devin Cooley

Cooley, on a game to remember:

It was such an unbelievable feeling. If you would have told me two months ago that I’d be sitting here in my hometown and talking to you guys after my first NHL win, I would have been like you guys are crazy. Not a chance. It’s insane. I feel so good right now.

Cooley, on a playing a calmer game than before:

We’ve been working, me and [Thomas Speer] and talking to [Mackenzie Blackwood] too, like just trying to like fully change my game and be a lot better at filling space and using my body and not being so crazy and low. This is the first game that I actually felt really comfortable.

I feel like I have all the tools. With the right coaching, I feel like I could be a really good goalie.

Tonight, just all the work that we’ve been doing, felt like it started to come together. Especially like a lot of their shots were from the outside. Because our team did an amazing job of boxing guys out.

When things are on the outside, like more of an angle, that’s when you want to seal more and use your body more and so I saw a lot of those shots.

Cooley, on his emotions after the Blues tied the game late:

I kept telling myself to stay in the present. “There is no future…there is no future. Don’t even think about it.”

Of course, once they scored with like two minutes left, I was like oh my gosh, are you kidding me? Then we got the penalty in overtime, and I’m like, not again. (laughs) I was like, whatever. Doesn’t even matter. Just focus on one shot at a time and I’m so glad we were able to kill off that penalty. The PK was great all night. Eklund with the hat trick, wow, that guy is special.

Cooley, on his emotions and energy when Eklund scored the winner:

Just goosebumps. It was unbelievable, I’m sure my mom was bawling her eyes. It was funny, I was so excited, I was looking up at the roof. I went to go hug Eky and I completely missed him. (laughs) Oh, he’s behind me. It was awesome.

William Eklund

Eklund, on what Kunin means to the San Jose Sharks:

He’s bringing it everyday. He’s really good in the locker room. He always comes here, he always works. Every guy sees that and everybody, we tried to do [as he does]. Because he always comes and competes everyday. It’s huge for us to have him here.

David Quinn

Quinn, on Calen Addison’s ejection:

I’m not out there. I don’t hear everything that’s said. I thought it was a little quick.

Quinn, on Kunin’s fight with Justin Faulk, after Kunin’s big hit on Jake Neighbours:

I said between the second and third, we need more people doing that. I’m not saying fighting. I mean playing with an edge and being all in. To me, it can’t always be him. Right? It’s got to be other people.

On top of being a good player, that’s what makes him such a valuable player for us, or any team that he’s on. He’s been that way his whole life.

It’s him every night every night. Every time we need it, it’s him.

Don’t underestimate the impact he had on this game, even though it may not have been on the scoresheet.

Quinn, on Graf’s debut:

I thought always in the right place, poise with the puck, smart, good stick. It’s not always about wowing everybody in the National Hockey League. It’s about, I’ve said this, how bad is your bad? Or it’s okay to go out there, not a lot happened. That’s gonna happen in this league… I liked what I saw.

Quinn, on the Sharks’ very successful power play recently:

[Brian Wiseman] has done a phenomenal job with it. We’re a very young power play.

To be able to be where we are in the league is a real testament to the job he’s done.

These guys are coachable.

Quinn, how important a win like this is for the younger players to show them this is what can happen when you do things right:

It goes a long way, right? You gotta have some success in order to verify what you’re doing.

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