With the roster almost set, there are a few players looking to dress opening night. Those forwards are the focus for the rest of training camp.
After the San Jose Sharks overtime win over the Vancouver Canucks, the team decided to cut a whopping 20 players from their training camp roster. This leaves 31 players in contention to make the opening night roster. With the smaller roster, fans can now get a clearer picture of where players stand on the depth chart.
Since the defensive roster was set with the signing of David Schlemko and the goaltending roster is down to two players, the only competition to make the Sharks remain at the forward position. Let’s look at the remaining candidates.
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The veteran of the group, Haley is known for bringing a physical presence to the ice and an ability to stand up for his teammates. But is that enough? Most fans would think no, especially after watching him overwhelmed at the NHL level.
Despite this, Haley is a good minor league player and provides a veteran presence for the San Jose Barracuda. Haley has landed in the Sharks lineup in the past based on grit and San Jose’s history of being reluctant to play younger players. He could crack the lineup again.
Haley isn’t an ideal choice, but don’t be surprised if he plays a healthy number of games with the Sharks this year.
Speaking of sandpaper and grit, Barclay Goodrow is a player that can provide plenty of toughness while being a solid skill player. As an AHL All-Star last season, Goodrow proved he is good enough to play on the Sharks. Still, the transition from any level to the NHL is tough.
Goodrow is a perfect fit on the fourth line, but pressures of keeping a roster spot could sway him into taking reckless penalties like the hit he delivered on Sunday. If Goodrow can stay disciplined going forward, then he has what the Sharks are looking for on their bottom lines.
There isn’t a more polarizing player on the Sharks than Nikolay Goldobin. His hands are a thing of beauty and is something this sport needs much more of. However, there have been several questions about his play off the puck since he was drafted two years ago.
Those questions seem fair since his preseason play has only increased concern. His offensive skill set is the best among players not on the parent club. But going offsides on multiple occasions doesn’t allow him to put that to use.
If Goldobin gains chemistry and confidence with the Barracuda, he is a useful weapon for the Sharks later in the year. That doesn’t mean he has to sacrifice his offense for defense. Still it is doubtful he has shown enough without the puck to warrant a spot on the opening night roster.
The surprise of training camp. Two weeks ago, no one gave Labanc a chance at claiming a roster spot. Yet his play has made the decision to send him to the Barracuda very difficult. He has displayed great playmaking and the ability to score goals the Sharks are looking for.
While his progress has pleased Sharks fans, the skating issues that have followed him since his time with the Barrie Colts could hold him back from the opening night roster. There have been instances during the preseason when Labanc hasn’t displayed the smoothest skating. Defenders will take advantage of that if he makes the Sharks.
Skating is less of a concern for the Sharks. If Joe Pavelski, Devin Setoguchi, Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl have taught us anything it is that skating issues are fixable. What can’t be taught is the hockey sense and playmaking Labanc possesses. We’ll see if that lands him a roster spot on opening night.
Meier’s play until training camp was good enough to almost make this discussion obsolete. Unfortunately, his mononucleosis will keep him sidelined through the first couple of weeks of the season. Needless to say, this blows the door open for a player like Labanc, Goldobin or Goodrow to make the Sharks.
When healthy, Meier is always an option for the parent club. But this illness dwindles that opportunity. If one of the other players seizes a roster spot, there won’t be enough room to keep Meier. That is when Doug Wilson may need to get creative with roster moves.
The competitions in training camp are already leading to an exciting year ahead.