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Pederson, Young Sharks Show Promise



Credit: AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

There might not be a more roundly unpopular San Jose Sharks player than Lane Pederson.

There is no shortage of Sharks fans on Twitter happy to remind you that Pederson has gone goal-less this season – in now 27 games, no less – and that’s even with an extended stint on San Jose’s second power play unit. In fact, Pederson is one of just three forwards in the NHL who have gone without a goal in 25-plus appearances, along with Riley Nash and Tyler Pitlick.

And hey, it’s not just the fans. A scout flat-out told me a month ago that Pederson belongs in the AHL.

So it’s great to see a much-maligned youngster like Pederson put together an outstanding game at this level, remind everybody that he indeed possesses NHL-caliber talent.

“It’s the best I’ve seen him look,” head coach Bob Boughner remarked of Pederson’s performance in a 4-1 San Jose Sharks’ victory over the Anaheim Ducks.

The 24-year-old played just 10:47 – and still went scoreless – but it was an impactful 10 minutes. Here are a few clips:

Pederson (18) is a solidly-built 6-foot-0, 192 pounds who makes the bigger Cam Fowler (4) look small in this puck race.

There’s a reason why the San Jose Sharks sent out a fourth-rounder, albeit a 2024 pick, to Arizona this past summer for Pederson. We saw that why here, and there was more to come.

A fourth line is often charged to provide energy, and Pederson’s group, which included Jeffrey Viel (63) and Jonah Gadjovich (42) overwhelmed the grid tonight.

Pederson makes Vinni Letteri (28) look bad, Viel earns a chance, and Gadjovich buries Fowler.

Before last night, Pederson’s last NHL game was Feb. 20. He was waived, unclaimed, but re-discovered his game with the San Jose Barracuda, notching six goals and four assists in just 11 AHL contests.

“It’s been the best thing for me,” Pederson admitted about getting sent down. “Kind of the message was go down there, find that swagger again, find your game, the reason why the Sharks brought me here.”

Pederson embraced getting big minutes with the Cuda: “Confidence is the big thing. Just carrying the puck again, feeling the puck, not rushing or panicking or worrying. Just play my game, getting comfortable, getting confidence, getting back to having fun.”

This wouldn’t be the first penalty that Pederson would draw tonight. Just like against Fowler earlier, Pederson’s size/speed put the pressure on Josh Mahura (76) on the forecheck.

Pederson didn’t get credit for drawing this delay of game penalty on Kevin Shattenkirk (22), but his work was instrumental in causing it.

It starts with being in the right position to intercept the Sam Carrick (39) pass to Isac Lundestrom (21). Then Pederson tucks a subtle-but-skilled pass under Lundestrom’s stick to Ryan Merkley (6). Merkley drops it back, and Pederson distributes it beautifully again, making a soft lob past the defender that Gadjovich can handle.

The Ducks manage to get ahold and rim the puck, but Pederson is all over Lundestrom on the wall, fighting off Zach Aston-Reese (16) too. Vlasic recovers and fires it at Lukas Dostal. Shattenkirk gets it and hearing Gadjovich’s footsteps, clears it over the glass.

“I’d be lying if I said the first half of the season went the way I would have liked it to,” Pederson acknowledged. “A lot of it was overthinking, trying not to make mistakes, almost working too hard to try to be perfect. Instead of playing, taking what’s front of you, and just reacting.”

This penalty doesn’t happen without Pederson’s heightened reactions and would lead to a Timo Meier strike that would give San Jose a 3-1 lead.

Frankly, Pederson looked like a brand-new man tonight, playing fast and with authority.

The pass to Gadjovich on entry was the perfect combination of soft enough to handle, hard enough to be received in stride.

“He looked a lot more confident. He was making plays, moving his feet, drew a penalty,” Boughner explained. “He played extremely well. He played with a great pace.”

Boughner was wrong – Pederson drew two penalties, and as noted, starred in forcing the Shattenkirk delay of game.

Look, Pederson may never be half the player that Calder candidate Trevor Zegras (46) here is destined to be. Or half the player that tonight’s hat trick hero Meier is.

But for a night, Pederson was an impact player in the NHL. The trick is repeating this and against better competition than the rebuilding Ducks.

“One of the things that we talked about this morning, it’s not just being happy to be here, happy to be in the line-up, but to seize the opportunity,” Boughner told the youngest Sharks this morning. “I thought a lot of those guys did.”

He wasn’t talking about just Pederson, but also Viel, Gadjovich, Merkley, Scott Reedy, Sasha Chmelevski, John Leonard, among other Sharks youngsters.

For the last three seasons, the San Jose Sharks have been too top-heavy – be it with their line-up and the salary cap – but what’s doomed them, perhaps more than anything, is a lack of a depth underneath to make up for an aging core’s decline.

Could Pederson and company’s performances be the harbinger of a deeper San Jose Sharks squad next year? It’s just one night. But more nights like this, and the answer will be yes.

Boughner suggested as much, hoping that tonight would be a blueprint for the years to come: “Collectively as a group, [the youngsters] played very well. They all contributed.”

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