David Quinn wasn’t impressed with how most of the San Jose Sharks performed in a 4-2 pre-season loss to the Anaheim Ducks last night.
“I thought a bunch of guys were just okay,” Quinn said, of a show-me contest where it took just 13 minutes for the Sharks to fall behind 3-0.
That’s not great news for on-the-bubble roster players like William Eklund, Jacob Peterson, Oskar Lindblom, Leon Gawanke, and Nikolai Knyzhov. Tristen Robins and Nick Cicek also received faint praise.
For Quinn, he mentioned only two players as standing above the rest last night, Mackenzie Blackwood and Shakir Mukhamadullin.
Blackwood’s inclusion might be a surprise, considered the quick three goals allowed and an unremarkable 21-of-24 saves line.
Here’s how Quinn saw it: “You’re just looking for his intentions and where he is. A lot of times, I don’t even look at the goal. I look at his positioning, his alertness, his athleticism, his anticipation, and if he’s doing all those things well, they’re gonna go in every now and then. I thought he was pretty good in all those areas tonight.”
As for Mukhamadullin, he was noticeable all night at both ends of the ice.
Of course, his power play set-up of William Eklund was attention-grabbing.
🚨 WILLIAM EKLUND 🚨 pic.twitter.com/w1oyOXtUrt
— Sharks on NBCS (@NBCSSharks) September 27, 2023
But what got my attention is how quick the 6-foot-4 defender can be.
Mukhamadullin (85), the left-side defender, is right on top of Jacob Perreault (64). Then, loose puck, even though he starts at a standstill, his quick first step allows him to at least contest Sam Carrick (39), who’s in stride. Hampering Carrick helps Marc-Edouard Vlasic come over to kill the play.
Once again, Mukhamadullin victimizes fellow 2020 first-round pick Perreault, forcing an off-side with his surprising speed and reach.
“I thought he’s been good. He can skate. Sees the ice well. Has a long stick. Defends well. Plays hard. He’s got a lot of skill,” Vlasic, who’s been paired with Mukhamadullin all camp, said.
Perhaps a little more offense will swing the odds in sports betting Ontario Canada.
Vlasic added, joking not joking about the language barrier with the Russian native, “It’s tough communicating with him. But it’s been a lot of fun. Good young talent.”
Quinn didn’t really want to entertain the thought of the 21-year-old breaking camp with the San Jose Sharks, and I get why. If Mukhamadullin was a forward, I’d say put him on the big club, but it’s tough to throw an inexperienced defenseman into the NHL pressure cooker like that.
“I haven’t had that type of discussion, but he certainly has impressed me,” Quinn said. “Really encouraged about what I’ve seen in training camp and certainly very excited what his future holds.”
As well as he’s playing, I still think it’s best for Mukhamadullin to play most of the season with the Barracuda.
With some filling out, all the hockey tools and brains appear to be there for Mukhamadullin to be an impact NHL player.
We’ll see what the rest of camp brings though – the young defenseman hasn’t disappointed yet.
As for everybody else?
I liked a lot of what Eklund did, including how hard he played off the puck.
— JD Young (@MyFryHole) September 27, 2023
But I get what Quinn was saying too. Besides his power play strike, Eklund’s offensive impact was muted in the first two periods. The Sharks had just 18 shot attempts at 5-on-5 through 40 minutes – they matched that figure in just the final frame.
“I thought he got better,” Quinn said of Eklund. “I thought his third period was his best period. I thought his first two periods were just okay.”
It’s hard to put San Jose’s lack of offense all on one player, of course, but Eklund was the first-line winger last night, so there are expectations.
In general, Quinn thought his team wasn’t assertive enough offensively, didn’t get inside or attack the small rink enough.
Eklund agreed, saying of his final frame: “I think I attacked more, the goalie a little bit more.”
Encouragingly, Quinn did use Eklund on the penalty kill, and says that’s the plan during the regular season.
“I think it’s an opportunity for him to gain more minutes,” Quinn said.
Robins was a late entry into the line-up for Mikael Granlund, who’s dealing with a minor injury. The 2020 second-round pick also played in the San Jose Sharks’ pre-season opener.
“He was better tonight,” Quinn said. “I thought he had a little bit more jump in his game, making better decisions.”
I was looking for Peterson to make some plays, and he didn’t really last night.
“Just okay,” Quinn said of Peterson’s performance. “I thought a bunch of our forwards were just okay. We’re just gonna have [to have] way more of a desire to get on the inside. It got better as the game went on, but we were a little too soft offensively.”
This was an organizational theme all yesterday — Quinn was harping on this at practice with the non-game day group too.
“That was a problem for us last year. It’s something that we’ve got to have in our game,” he said. “You can’t create offense in this league if you’re not willing to pay a price to get on the inside. We want to get in that small rink and own it.”
On the blueline, Leon Gawanke started the game next to Mario Ferraro, and Nick Cicek was next to Nikolai Knyzhov.
But Knyzhov-Cicek were on the ice for two of Anaheim’s goals, and Quinn flip-flopped Gawanke and Cicek.
“I just thought Knyzhov and Cicek were struggling together,” he remarked. “So we made the change. And I thought there was a bit better balance in the pairings.”
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