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Mukhamadullin on Where He’s Improved, Quinn on Why He’s Excited

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The San Jose Sharks are finally giving top defenseman prospect Shakir Mukhamadullin his shot in the NHL.

Mukhamadullin, who was acquired in the Timo Meier trade last year, received his first call-up to the big club on Thursday after putting up five goals and 26 points in 39 games in the AHL.

Sharks Recall Mukhamadullin

With the Sharks playing just down the road, it did not require a big scramble for the 22-year-old to get to practice the next day.

“Tomorrow, I go practice with the NHL,” Mukhamadullin told his mother, father and brother over the phone after he found out about the call-up on Wednesday night. He told them to keep the news quiet.

With Mario Ferraro and other defensemen out with injuries, Mukhamadullin will get a chance to make an impact at the NHL level.

“He’s played better and better as the year has gone on and he’s done a really good job down there,” San Jose Sharks coach David Quinn said. “It’s an opportunity for us to give him an opportunity to see what he can do at this level.”

What’s improved?

“I think playing over here, getting adjusted and acclimated to this style of hockey certainly takes a little time,” Quinn said. “His confidence has grown as the season has gone on, which has allowed him to be a more productive player offensively. His stats are pretty good for a rookie defenseman in the American Hockey League.

”Every area of his game has improved.”

He added: “There’s a lot that excites me. His size, his fluid skating, his passing. There’s a lot to like about him.”

Mukhamadullin, making his pro North American full-season debut this year, noted, “I work a lot on [defense]. It’s faster and more pressure and more battling [here]. Just working on corners, battles, boxouts.”

Even his English speaking has improved, as evidenced by shades of comfort and personality through a few one-liners throughout his first scrum after the call-up on Thursday.

Nikita Okhotiuk, who came to San Jose with him in the Meier trade, has been one of his closest friends and a built-in English tutor as Mukhamadullin adjusts to life in North America.

“He’s my brother here,” Mukhamadullin said with a chuckle. “It’s fun. I called him right away when I told him I got the news that I was coming. We talk about America, American hockey, he gives me some life advice. He’s just saved me.”

If Mukhamadullin debuts in the San Jose Sharks’ next game against the Buffalo Sabres, his wife Diana will also be there to support him.

Hopefully, that will calm the prized prospect in his NHL debut.

“There are going to be a lot of nerves, and for him, he just needs to relax and do all the things he’s done to put himself in the position he’s in,” Quinn said.

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