ONTARIO, Calif. — Could Thomas Bordeleau get moved to wing to start the season?
San Jose Sharks head coach David Quinn is open to the idea: “If he’s playing well enough to make it [on the Sharks], we’ll put him on the wing. I got no problem with putting him on the wing. I think he’s a good enough player where he can adapt.”
This could make the path for Bordeleau to start the season in the NHL a more likely reality.
As a center, Bordeleau would have to break into a group that includes Tomas Hertl, Logan Couture, Nick Bonino, and Nico Sturm. Unless the Sharks are open to moving Bonino to wing once again, that’s a tough group for Bordeleau to break into, with Hertl and Couture being your de facto top-six pivots and Sturm your likely 4C.
At wing, however, there are more spots available and a little less competition, especially with Alexander Barabanov and Oskar Lindblom nursing day-to-day injuries.
Whatever happens on Saturday, when the San Jose Sharks are projected to cut their roster down from the current 48 to 27 for their trip to Europe, there’s no doubt that Bordeleau, already an impressive prospect, has continued to open eyes during the Rookie Faceoff and training camp.
During the Rookie Faceoff, an NHL scout called him one of the tournament’s top-five players. And count Quinn as one of Bordeleau’s admirers right now.
“I had him in May at the World Championships,” Quinn, who helmed Team USA in that tournament, said. “I already see an improvement of someone who understands what he’s going to have to do to have success at this level.”
I will say, I was very concerned with Bordeleau’s puck management last year and during the Rookie Faceoff. I’ve seen less issues with that in Bordeleau’s two preseason games so far.
Quinn also wants Bordeleau and fellow top prospect William Eklund to improve on their play without the puck.
“I know how to do it and it’s just kind of a process of just when and how to execute it, [have that] experience and mentality. It’s gotten better and better,” Bordeleau said. “Just kind of staying on the right side of the puck at all times. It’s, in the D-zone, always having a guy, knowing where your guy’s at, not puck-watch too much, and not commit yourself or jump for offense too quickly. Just make sure you’re in a good position. You get it out of the zone before you’re obviously thinking about offense.”
“They continue to do the things that we’re trying to get them to do,” Quinn noted after last night’s 3-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings at Toyota Arena.
But is that enough for Bordeleau to start the season with the San Jose Sharks? I’m starting to think so.
“[Thomas] was very good on the power play and some things that people may not recognize,” Quinn said yesterday. “I mean, his 50-50 puck battles and faceoffs are really good.”
Bordeleau looked very comfortable on San Jose’s top power play unit with Tomas Hertl, Timo Meier, Kevin Labanc, and Derrick Pouliot last night, notching a goal.
Bordeleau opens scoring on PP pic.twitter.com/ddgaYSmlHI
— Sheng Peng (@Sheng_Peng) September 29, 2022
And Bordeleau’s PP chemistry with Eklund was on full display in the pre-season opener:
But the skill stuff is obvious with Bordeleau. And since the Sharks made him the 38th pick of the 2020 NHL Draft, everybody’s known about his faceoff acumen.
But Quinn is also recognizing a back-up game for Bordeleau, stuff that can help you win games when you can’t just hoodwink Logan Thompson, when he cites the 20-year-old’s ability to win puck battles.
Last year, Bordeleau actually ended up, small sample size alert, second among Sharks forwards at 3.73 Puck Battle Wins Per 20 at 5-on-5. He was also first with 1.57 Stick Checks Per 20.
“The data suggests that Bordeleau could be some better puck management away from a regular and substantial NHL role,” I wrote.
He’s carried that puck battle tenacity into this preseason.
Nice bit of puck protection from Bordeleau (17) against a legit NHL defender in Roy (3) pic.twitter.com/Xy2P1tCqkI
— Sheng Peng (@Sheng_Peng) September 26, 2022
“It’s definitely kind of just the mentality first. Also, I’ve always had a low center of gravity. Obviously, I’m not big, so just getting low and being strong on my edges. I think it’s just how I’m going to win battles,” Bordeleau said. “Otherwise, if I try to hit the body or try to bury the guy, it definitely won’t work. So, I gotta get low and keep my center of gravity around the puck and I’ve been trying to do that a little bit more. Trying to be a little bit more confident doing it. I’m just kind of getting started a bit on how to do a little better game-by-game.”
Here’s Bordeleau (17) lifting Selke candidate Phillip Danault’s (24) stick yesterday to win the puck back to the point (00:15).
Bordeleau is making a strong case that he’s more than a one-trick pony. And he’s got to be that, if he can’t start this season at his natural position.
“Good hockey players can play anywhere,” Quinn said. “A lot of wingers in the National Hockey League have been lifelong centers. So it wouldn’t be a surprise.”
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