Where in the world are the San Jose Sharks right now?
13 Sharks players have been loaned out to active European clubs — and more to come.
Will Lean Bergmann, as rumored, suit up for DEL’s Adler Mannheim? What’s going on with Russians Vladislav Kotkov and Maxim Letunov? Will 2019 second-round pick Artemi Kniazev play in the KHL for the entire 2020-21 season? Is there a chance that Timo Meier will play in Switzerland?
But before we get to these questions, let’s track where the Sharks are swimming around the globe.
In Russia, Ivan Chekhovich, Artemi Kniazev, Alexei Melnichuk, and Tony Sund are skating for various KHL sides. In Sweden, Fredrik Händemark is suiting up in the SHL; meanwhile, Jonathan Dahlén, Joel Kellman, and Marcus Sörensen are toiling in Allsvenskan. In Denmark, Joachim Blichfeld and Alex True are headbanging in the Metal Ligaen (Metal League). In Finland, Timur Ibragimov and Antti Suomela are playing in Liiga. Finally, in the Czech Republic, Josef Korenar is guarding the crease in Czech Extraliga.
Most of these players are Europeans who went back to their native countries at the time of the pause.
Let’s get the biggie out of the way.
“Timo will not play in Europe,” Meier’s agent Claude Lemieux told San Jose Hockey Now.
A Swiss team had inquired in September, but the San Jose Sharks declined then.
But a month and a half later and with no confirmed start date for the 2020-21 NHL season, I thought it worth asking again.
Lemieux also confirmed that Meier is still in Europe and will remain there for the time-being.
Artemi Kniazev, at first glance, is a curious case.
Kniazev’s QMJHL team has actually dropped the puck on their 2020-21 season. But instead of having him skate for the Chicoutimi Saguenéens, the San Jose Sharks loaned the 19-year-old defenseman to the KHL’s Ak Bars Kazan.
Kniazev, however, has yet to play for the top KHL side — and I’m not sure if he will.
Instead, Kniazev will suit up for Team Russia at next week’s Karjala Cup. Russia is sending a U20-only team to this tournament — in fact, they’re the only country sending a U20 squad — in preparation for the World Juniors.
A source tells SJHN that it would be best for Kniazev to prepare with the national team prior to World Juniors. This, of course, will also improve his chances of selection. After Kniazev’s likely participation in the tourney, the plan is for him to return to Chicoutimi.
In effect, San Jose has loaned Kniazev on a short-term basis to Team Russia.
On the other hand, Kniazev’s countryman and former Chicoutimi teammate, Vladislav Kotkov, would love to leave Russia as soon as possible.
Kotkov was dealt to the QMJHL’s Saint John Sea Dogs in late August, but he’s yet to make his Sea Dogs debut.
A source has indicated that visa problems are preventing Kotkov from gaining entry into Canada at this time.
The 20-year-old is actually eligible to be an AHL regular this year, but it appears that the San Jose Sharks want him to spend his overage season in juniors. It’s a strategy — “overprepare” a prospect for professional ranks by having them spend an extra year in an amateur league — that the Sharks have employed to positive effect with the likes of Blichfeld and Noah Gregor, among others.
Another set of problems is preventing Lean Bergmann from making his long-expected debut for the Adler Mannheim. As far back as August, it was confirmed that Bergmann has been working out with the DEL side.
An Adler Mannheim source, however, noted there are some “minor” insurance issues to resolve before Bergmann can officially join the team. All this won’t stop Bergmann from representing Team Germany in next week’s Deutschland Cup.
Finally, a source told San Jose Hockey Now that Maxim Letunov has been training in Arizona and is unlikely to be loaned out. It appears, based on Letunov’s recent social media, that he and Nikolai Knyzhov are hanging out.
San Jose Hockey Now is still digging for exact updates about Radim Simek, Danil Yurtaykin, and Knyzhov. Simek, according to social media, appears to be back in the Bay Area.