With yesterday’s news that Nikolai Knyzhov might be out a little longer than expected, there’s more of a spotlight on young San Jose Sharks blueliners Ryan Merkley and Santeri Hatakka.
Can either – or both? – prospects make the jump to the NHL?
“I like what I see,” Boughner said of Hatakka yesterday. “He definitely has the feet to play at this level right now. It’s a matter of feeling comfortable, keeping up the pace, adjusting to the timing.”
It’s a tall order to ask a rookie 20-year-old defenseman to get up to NHL speed in the two or so weeks from now to the season opener on Oct. 16, but it’s good to know there isn’t much question about the youngster’s physical attributes.
Meanwhile, the polarizing Merkley impressed assistant coach John Madden on Sunday. Madden was coaching the split-squad team against the Anaheim Ducks, while Boughner handled the Vegas Golden Knights.
“That’s the best I’ve seen him play,” Madden said of the 2018 first-rounder. “I thought he made some real good skill plays, real heads-up plays. I thought he battled hard in his own zone. I know that he caught a couple of guys by surprise with some of the plays he made. I thought he ran the power play excellent. It was a real positive for him tonight.”
Boughner agreed: “I watched the tape [against Anaheim] and he had a pretty strong game. He’s learning his way around a little bit at this level now. I think he feels more comfortable.
“I talked to him today. Playing a big strong team today in LA, it’d be a good test. There’s some big bodies there and some physicality. It’d be good to see him compete with the size.”
Besides Merkley and Hatakka, some other San Jose Sharks prospects will be getting a long look in elevated roles tonight: 2021 first-round pick William Eklund will skate with Tomas Hertl and Rudolfs Balcers, while Jonathan Dahlen will once again line up with Logan Couture and Timo Meier.
Also interesting: Forgotten prospect Joachim Blichfeld will get a chance with Nick Bonino and the stage is set for Jasper Weatherby to continue to impress in his quest to take the fourth-line center job from Dylan Gambrell.
“They’re all in position to get opportunities,” Boughner said.
With Weatherby in particular, look for how he works with veteran Andrew Cogliano.
Boughner shared yesterday, on what he wants from his fourth line this year: “Someone who’s going to be able to play between [Matt Nieto and Cogliano], guys like that, who are going to have high pace to their game, energy.”
Both Nieto and Cogliano are high-energy speedsters, can the bigger, slower Weatherby play fast? We’ll get a taste of that tonight.
San Jose Sharks
This is how the San Jose Sharks will line up against Los Angeles:
#SJSharks lines, d-pairs in AM skate
(they were mixing & matching d-pairs, don't hold me to these)
Reimer expected to start
— Curtis Pashelka (@CurtisPashelka) September 28, 2021
Boughner confirmed that Hatakka would be paired with Karlsson, Merkley with Vlasic.
Reimer says he should split time with Melnichuk tonight
— Sheng Peng (@Sheng_Peng) September 28, 2021
Los Angeles Kings
Zach Dooley of LA Kings Insider projects that the Kings will be fielding a very young line-up tonight:
F: Pinelli, Doty, Sodergran, Burke, Madden, Dudas, Wagner, Lizotte, Andersson, Byfield, Tkachev, Vilardi, Iafallo
D: Strand, Wolanin, Spence, Bjornfot, Roy, Clague,
G: Sparks, Quick
WHERE TO WATCH
Puck drop against Los Angeles is 7:00 PM PT at SAP Center. Listen to it on the Sharks Audio Network.
Sheng’s Travel Fund
Help fund Sheng's travel! Every dollar goes to the cost of getting to and from Sharks road games.