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Quinn on Zetterlund, Okhotiuk: ‘They are going…to be successful during the playoffs.’



Credit: AP Photo/Steven Senne

Trading Timo Meier was one of the biggest jumpstarters to Mike Grier’s lengthy roadmap to a full rebuild of the San Jose Sharks.

And the Sharks believe the pieces they received in return for the three-time 30-goal scorer can be crucial parts of their future.

In return for Meier, San Jose received two pieces that have already made an impact at the NHL level.

Fabian Zettlerlund already has a share in the team’s lead in goals (6) as a 24-year-old in his fourth season.

Nikita Okhotiuk, 22, has shown signs of promise on the back end.

And Sharks coach David Quinn believes they can bring more to the table once they reach their primes.

“On top of their talent, it’s their make-up,” Quinn said. “These guys are ultra-competitive, they’ve got an edge to them and they are going to be guys who are going to be successful during the regular season, but when they play playoff hockey, they are going to be able to be successful during the playoffs.”

He elaborated: “There are two different types of players. Some guys can be real good players during the regular season, yet when the playoffs start, the whole game changes and [certain] guys aren’t as effective. But I think these two guys have an edge to them. They’re competitive, they’re great teammates, and they’ve got physical skills.

“But they’ve also got the make-up you want when you’re looking to build an organization.”

They have already started to see signs of that type of play out of Zetterlund.

On top of his team lead in goals, he plays a direct, physical style that should be a playoff fit.

“Zetterlund has had a really good year,” Quinn said. “He has been one of our best players over the first 20-plus games.

His six goals this season match his career high, which he hit with the Devils in 45 games last year before finishing the season with no goals in 22 games after being traded to the San Jose Sharks initially.

But a combination of confidence and trust from the coaching staff has him scoring at an even higher rate this season.

“I just try to take every game for what it is,” Zetterlund said. “I take shift for shift, try to do my best to produce offense, be strong on pucks, and use my shot too. It’s worked out well so far.”

Okhotiuk, meanwhile, has only scratched the surface for what his potential impact could be.

The 6-foot-1 defenseman missed the first few games of the season with a lower-body injury suffered during the preseason.

Since returning, he has five assists in 13 games while providing a physical presence from the blueline.

“We’ve spent a short period of time with him, so I think we’re still trying to figure out what his ceiling is,” Quinn said. “But this guy is a National Hockey League player. He can pass the puck, he’s coachable, he’s a great teammate, there’s a lot of things I like about him. Eventually, it’s all gonna come together, and you see stretches of it. Now, we just need it to be a little more consistent.”

While his physicality is his main trait, his skill with the puck has been a big surprise to those in the Sharks organization.

“I’ve heard about his physicality and his edge, but what has surprised me is his puck play. It’s better than I anticipated,” Quinn said. “You have to have some level of skills in puck play to play at this level, you can’t just completely play with an edge, but he has the ability to make an outlet pass and he sees the ice well.”

And Ohkotiuk only wants to keep building that skill up.

“I think I gotta get better with the puck still,” he said. “I wouldn’t say I’m great with the puck, so I just have to try and develop every day, learn something new and gain some confidence.”

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