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Scout Thinks Gawanke Can Make Immediate Impact on Sharks

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Credit: Manitoba Moose

Don’t count out Leon Gawanke from making the San Jose Sharks.

I spoke with an NHL scout recently, albeit one from outside the San Jose organization, who expects the AHL lifer to start the season with the Sharks.

“Gawanke can score 30 points in the NHL this year,” he said.

While that’s not a number to crow about, it could well lead San Jose Sharks defensemen in the coming campaign. Last season, after the recently-traded Erik Karlsson’s league-leading 101 points, the next Sharks blueliner Matt Benning followed with 24.

Without Karlsson, it’s an open field for a Shark to add some offensive punch from the blueline.

If the 24-year-old rookie can hit say 30 points and help out on the power play in his NHL debut, the Sharks will probably be pleased with the Artemi Kniazev-for-Gawanke swap that they made earlier this summer with the Winnipeg Jets.

The 6-foot-1 German rearguard was tied for the AHL lead among defensemen last year with 20 goals for the Manitoba Moose. This was a culmination of a four-year run, mostly in Manitoba, where the 2017 fifth-round pick went from four goals in his rookie season, to 20. So there’s some offensive talent there.

Ex-Toronto Marlies assistant coach Jack Han, who coached against Gawanke and the Moose in the AHL, agrees.

“I would try him out on a second [power play] unit,” Han said. “Right-handed, good shot, good skills, but again, very unproven at this level.”

Han was envisioning a five-forward San Jose No. 1 power play unit, and Gawanke quarterbacking the second group.

Jack Han Thinks ‘Pieces Are There’ for Successful Sharks Power Play

“He’s got an NHL-caliber puck game. Great passer. Intelligent. Skilled. Very good offensively,” another scout said of Gawanke in July.

But?

“His skating is just average,” he said. “He’s a poor defender too.”

Scouts on How Gawanke Can Help Sharks (+)

We’ll see if Gawanke can overcome those shortcomings and help the San Jose Sharks. He’s got some believers.

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