The San Jose Sharks have issues. Here are five they hope to resolve during training camp

The San Jose Sharks’ task of trying to replace three-time Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson is a little bit like a bleary-eyed parent trying to assemble their child’s intricate new toy on a hectic Christmas morning.

Where does one even begin?

Karlsson, traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins last month, did just about everything for the Sharks last season as he became the first defenseman in 31 years to score at least 100 points in a season.

As the Sharks stumbled to a 22-44-16 record, Karlsson had a season for the ages as he led the team in assists, overall ice time, power-play points, and power-play ice time. He fueled breakouts, held his own on defense, played all 82 games, and provided underappreciated leadership.

Finding ways to make up for Karlsson’s absence will be job No. 1 for the Sharks this month as they get ready to begin their first training camp in five years without No. 65.

“You’re losing a Norris Trophy-winning defenseman and a guy that’s got elite offensive ability,” Sharks coach David Quinn said over the weekend as he attended the Rookie Faceoff event in Las Vegas. “One of the all-time great offensive players in the history of the National Hockey League.

“That being said, our style of play is not going to be any different.”

Here are five issues the Sharks, predicted to again finish near the bottom of the NHL standings, will seek to resolve during their three-week training camp that starts Thursday.

Who forms the No. 1 defense pair?

It stands to reason that Mario Ferraro, who was second behind Karlsson among all Sharks skaters in ice time at 21:36 per game, will again be on the top defense pair and asked to play heavy minutes. But finding Ferraro a suitable defense partner won’t be easy with no obvious candidates for the role.

Although both are left shots, Ferraro and Marc-Edouard Vlasic enjoyed some success in the few times they played together last year. But Vlasic hasn’t played over 21 minutes a game since the 2018-19 season and asking him to do that right now might be a bridge too far. The same goes for Radim Simek.

Ferraro and Matt Benning spent a significant amount of time together last season but did not have positive analytics, with Natural Stat Trick listing them as allowing 190 scoring chances during 5-on-5 play while being on the ice for just 120 scoring chances created.

Could a newcomer slot alongside Ferraro? Kyle Burroughs is a right shot who played big minutes at times for the Vancouver Canucks last season but has mainly been a third-pair type defenseman in his three-year NHL career.

Jan Rutta is another possibility. Although he has battled injuries throughout his six-year NHL career and hasn’t averaged more than 18 minutes a game in any of the last five seasons, Rutta can, when healthy, play with pace. He’s also a right shot.

After a full offseason of training, Nikolai Knyzhov could be in line for a breakout year and might be asked to play bigger minutes this season regardless of …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment


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