There’s no way to beat around the bush on this one. The San Jose Sharks’ penalty killing units have scored more goals than the power play. It’s baffling, but given the way they’ve played, not completely surprising.
In what seems to be a continued narrative from the preseason, San Jose dominated possession for much of Wednesday night’s home opener against the Anaheim ducks, but failed to put the puck in the net and lost the game 5-2 as a result.
We know the basics about recent Sharks addition Antti Suomela. He lead last year’s Liiga in scoring with JYP Jyväskylä, but after San Jose beat numerous other teams to sign this undrafted free agent, what exactly can he contribute to the squad?
Just entering his physical prime at 24 years old, this season is the perfect opportunity for Finnish born and trained centre Suomela to earn himself another, more lucrative, NHL contract. Playing around fifteen minutes a night in 59 regular season Liiga games, Suomela notched 21 goals and 39 assists, putting himself top of his team, and the league for points. He had an uneventful playoffs, but helped his team to a Champions Hockey League championship with a much more pedestrian 6 points in 12 games.
Suomela has appeared in five preseason games with San Jose, developing chemistry with fellow Finn Joonas Donskoi. At camp he’s been noticed for his lower body strength, but physicality is an aspect of his game criticised before he came to North America.
His game itself offers a quick wrist shot and the hand eye coordination for some pretty nifty tip in goals. He has the wheels (speed) and the hands to keep up with the North American game. Playing well in front of the net allowed him to pot a decent chunk of his Liiga goals and he receives passes well. You can watch his 16-17 highlights here:
The first preseason game against Anaheim, Suomela matched up against Getzlaf, so his -1.88% Corsi relative is understandable, considering he’s a 3/4C who has never played a regular season NHL game matching up against a seasoned NHL 1C. The line of Labanc-Suomela-Donskoi held up pretty well versus the Getzlaf line, but it wasn’t their best.
In the 4-1 win over Anaheim on the 18th, the Labanc-Suomela-Donskoi line dominated on the stats sheet, but didn’t fare well four nights later against the Vegas Golden Knights, where the roster was much closer to what we’re going to see on opening night. It was a poor preseason showing, where Timo Meier led the team with 4 shots on goal.
The final preseason game saw him on a line with a demoted Evander Kane, matching against Vegas’ Marchessault-Karlsson-Smith line. On the stats sheet, the Sharks dominated possession but failed to find the net. Joe Thornton mentioned earlier that he would be focusing on not getting hurt, as opposed to finding the net. The Kane-Suomela-Donskoi line didn’t blow anyone away, but they held steady enough to escape being on ice for a single of the five goals against.
Throughout the preseason, Antti Suomela stood out as a sure fire NHL centre, though the criticisms about his physicality have followed him from the Liiga over to North America. With Suomela on the third line, the 4C spot is open for Goodrow (who has impressed this preseason), Chartier (a surprise standout) and Gambrell (a late season call up last year) to battle it out as the season progresses. Goodrow has experience and the trust of Pete DeBoer on his side, and as such is pencilled in to centre the fourth line on October 3rd.
If Suomela can keep his preseason performance to a similar standard as the regular season begins it’s familiar grind, he could have a pretty good first NHL season for himself. The regular season starts in two days, and the centre depth is tentatively locked in, while wingers continue the regular bounce up and down the lines.
Months of speculation have boiled down into the Erik Karlsson move to San Jose, and now it’s over. Ottawa got back a disappointing jumble of mediocrity, and Doug Wilson looks like a God. All that’s left is to speculate what the San Jose Sharks will look like, and be able to complete, in the 2018-19 season. With this in mind, I take a look at what’s ahead.
The bait that San Jose have been throwing at big name trade candidates and free agents has finally caught, and the Sharks have netted two time Norris award winner Erik Karlsson from the Ottawa Senators.
The return is forward Chris Tierney, defenseman Dylan DeMelo, prospects Josh Norris (F) and Rudolfs Balcers (F), a 2020 first, 2019 second and two conditional picks.
It is also reported that Ottawa forward prospect Perron will also come to San Jose.
Karlsson is coming off a season plagued by a lingering ankle injury, but didn’t miss significant time in order to rehab it, some are arguing it was a down season for him, but others argue that he remained constant as the team around him got progressively worse. Whichever side you argue, there’s no denying the season limped along in Ottawa.
San Jose failed to land prominent free agent John Tavares early in the summer, but made the final shortlist of teams before Tavares eventually signed for $11 million over 7 years in his home city of Toronto.
It’s hard to complain about what San Jose are sending back to Ottawa, when the return is Erik Karlsson, generational defenseman.
Tierney is a third line ceiling centre and DeMelo a bottom pairing defenseman. Josh Norris is a prospect with a 2C cap and Balcers, despite being the prospect I was most excited about, was realistically a second line winger.
The conditions on the two other picks are looking like protection against San Jose flipping Karlsson to the Eastern Conference (as they did with Mike Hoffman), in which case they will get an additional first no later than 2022, and the other on him resigning in San Jose (a 2021 second which becomes a first if the Sharks reach the 2019 Stanley Cup Finals).
Feature image credit: NHL.COM
As the puck dropped at 7pm local time at the Sleeman Centre in Guelph, it was midnight back in Liam Kirk’s home country, England.
Holding his own at training camp paid off for Kirk, putting firmly to bed any rumours that he may not adapt to the OHL as everyone hoped. He showed speed, noticeable skill, and the main criticism to his game right now is his wiry frame. You can find our full report on Kirk’s camp here.
Almost fifteen years of consecutive playoff appearances do not make for the strongest prospect pool. Coupled with Doug Wilson’s policy of only drafting the safest choices (which he seemingly abandoned for this year to take Ryan Merkley), it leaves you with fistfuls of prospects with a third line/second pair ceiling.