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Sharks Dev Camp: Ozzy Talks Training with Jumbo, Gushchin on Why He Wears No. 66



Don’t sleep on Ozzy Wiesblatt.

While 2021 first-round pick William Eklund and 2020 second-round pick Thomas Bordeleau garner the headlines at San Jose Sharks development camp — well-deserved, mind you — 2020 first-round pick Wiesblatt spent his entire summer in the Bay Area, getting ready for the upcoming campaign with team strength and conditioning coaches Mike Potenza and Stephen DiLustro.

In May, Wiesblatt told San Jose Hockey Now and Locked On Sharks that his No. 1 goal for the 2021-22 season was to “make the Sharks.”

The 19-year-old winger is certainly putting in the work toward that goal.

“I think for myself, being a little bit undersized, I wanted to work on my speed. I wanted to work on my strength and my shot,” Wiesblatt shared on Day 2 of San Jose Sharks development camp. “You can always get better in all areas. Those three things, I really tried to focus on.”

Making San Jose his home away from home has its benefits: Wiesblatt had a chance to train with Joe Thornton when the San Jose Sharks legend visited old haunts earlier this summer.

Wiesblatt beamed: “That was really cool to pick his brain. He’s been in the NHL longer than I’ve been alive. He knows one or two things.”

Thornton’s NHL debut was on Oct. 8, 1997. Five years later, Wiesblatt was born on Mar. 9, 2002.

Wiesblatt added: “He taught me a ton. From nutrition to doing extra workouts, it’s not an easy league to make, not an easy league to stay in.”

Wiesblatt had his share of San Jose Sharks veterans to learn from this summer: He also trained with Logan Couture, Brent Burns, and Erik Karlsson, among others.

Could they be his teammates sooner than later?

Where Will Gushchin Go?

In the big picture, it’s an unimportant question.

But I’m fascinated with the fact that Danil Gushchin chose to wear No. 66 for a USHL team which uses both the Pittsburgh Penguins’ color scheme and jersey template. I’ve wondered for a while: Was this Gushchin’s homage to Mario Lemieux?

For Gushchin, there’s more to No. 66 than that.

“My dad has a friend. He played hockey bandy. He was a superstar in hockey bandy. And he was No. 66,” Gushchin said. “I was No. 11. But when I [went] to my next team when I was younger, somebody had that number. And so my dad [asked] if I wanted to try No. 66.”

And he’s been No. 66 ever since. Well, except for dev camp — he’s sporting No. 75 here.

So will Gushchin wear No. 66 in the NHL? It won’t be received kindly by traditionalists, if we remember the controversy when Joshua Ho-Sang rocked it.

But that’s getting way ahead of ourselves.

More importantly, where’s Gushchin playing this year? Will he finally make his OHL debut? The 19-year-old was ticketed for the Niagara IceDogs last season before COVID-19 canceled the league’s year. Or will he get one step closer to the NHL and suit up for the San Jose Barracuda?

We likely won’t know the answer to that until after training camp, when the San Jose Sharks will have a better sense of where the offensive dynamo’s game is.

But the Russian winger does have a couple things on this side.

First, he knows what he has to work on to crack pro hockey.

“I need to improve in my D-zone,” he acknowledged.

Second, Gushchin has a good friend to show him the ropes. He’s been training with fellow San Jose Sharks prospect Ivan Chekhovich this summer.

“He’s a good guy. He’s my friend. We practice everyday, go hang out, go to restaurants, go watch movies,” Gushchin offered. “He’s helped me with everything.”

Something Historic?

If the San Jose Sharks have their way, Wiesblatt will be starring with top picks Eklund and Bordeleau in teal for the next decade or so to come.

So maybe 2021 Sharks Development Camp is shaping up to be historic? This appears to be the first time that Wiesblatt, Elkund, and Bordeleau have met.

What did Wiesblatt think of his fellow top prospects?

“I think Eklund has amazing speed, so agile, and a great shot. He’s gonna be a great player for a lot of years to come,” Wiesblatt volunteered. “Bordeleau, his hockey sense really sets him apart.”

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