After years of finishing near the top of the Pacific division standings, the San Jose Sharks failed to make the playoffs for a second straight year in 2021. As a result, the team got only their second top-10 pick in the past 14 years, selecting Swedish forward William Eklund. Doug Wilson continued his offseason by filling some of the teams’ holes through both free agency and trade, setting them up for the 2022 campaign. Whether or not the team can compete for a Stanley Cup, or in the sweep stakes for a lottery pick in next years’ draft, let’s break down the 2022 version of the San Jose Sharks.
Last season, the Sharks 2.6 goals/game ranked 24 in the NHL, very much due to a lack of depth after the core guys. General manager Doug Wilson addresses some of these needs by bringing in veteran free agents Nick Bonino, and Andrew Cogliano. He also traded for depth youngsters Lane Pederson, and Nick Merkley, who will compete for depth roster spots against guys from last years group, as well as college signings Jasper Weatherby, and Scott Reedy.
With the Evander Kane saga still going on, there will be big shoes to be filled as he led the team in scoring last year. Rookies Jonathan Dahlen, and William Eklund could be able to step into a scoring role, but that is far from a guarantee. Other forwards such as Timo Meier, and Kevin Labanc need to step up/rebound if the team wishes to be competitive in their division.
One of the worst teams defensively in the NHL last year, San Jose doesn’t have as many spots open for new faces on the back end. With Veterans Erik Karlsson, Brent Burns, and Marc-Eduard Vlasic all under contract for the foreseeable future, youngsters Mario Ferraro and Nikolay Knyzhov looking to improve after promising showings, and Radim Simek as another veteran option, there is only 1 spot for someone to step in to. The favorites as of this time would be rookies Santeri Hatakka, Artemi Kniasev, and Ryan Merkley. I expect all three to debut at some point over the course of the season, but Hatakka is my early pick to make opening night. Just like the forward core, if the team wishes to improve, they must rely on rebound seasons from their veterans, which could be a large ask at this point in their careers.
The Sharks decided to rebuild their entire goaltending duo, by bringing in Aidan Hill and James Reimer. After years of Martin Jones starting for the club, it seems as though the younger Hill will get his first chance at proving himself as a starter in the NHL. He has shown promise in his short time in Arizona, and will benefit from the veteran Reimer helping him with the load over the course of the year. This will be Reimer’s second stint in San Jose, as he backed-up Jones during the club’s 2016 Stanley Cup Final appearance.
With all of that being said, here is my projected line up for opening night:
**note: this is with Kane not playing until we hear otherwise, and with Knyzhov listed as week-to-week**
Meier – Couture – Dahlen
Eklund – Hertl – Barabanov
Balcers – Bonino – Labanc
Cogliano – Weatherby – Nieto
Ferraro – Burns
Simek – Karlsson
Vlasic – Hatakka