San Jose Sharks Rookie Faceoff Preview

Via San Jose Sharks

The unofficial end of summer is here. On Friday, the San Jose Sharks play a game. It’s a rookie faceoff game, but a game nonetheless. The baby Sharks are scheduled to play three games over four days.

Friday 9/15/23:
Sharks vs. Kings 1 pm PT

Saturday 9/16/23:
Golden Knights vs. Sharks 7 pm PT

Monday 9/18/23:
Coyotes vs. Sharks 10 am PT
Ducks vs. Kings 12:30 pm PT
Avalanche vs. Golden Knights 3 pm PT

The Roster

San Jose Sharks rookie faceoff roster

All of the college-bound prospects, including fourth-overall pick Will Smith, are not a part of the roster as they are attending classes and getting settled on their respective campuses.

While games should be taken with a grain of salt, as many of these players have only played a handful of NHL games, there are still things to watch out for.

Can William Eklund Dominate?

The former seventh-overall pick in the 2021 NHL Draft says he is fully healthy and good to go after shoulder surgery cut his 2022-23 season short. Eklund will be one of the more experienced players in this tournament, as he has already played 17 NHL games. While Eklund can’t win or lose a job in the rookie faceoff, he can kick off his training camp by having a good tournament.

What is a dominant tournament for Eklund? Being the best player on the ice. It needs to be clear that he is driving play, creating chances, and leading the offense. While lines will probably be juggled, expect John McCarthy to put Thomas Bordeleau and Eklund together, as they have shown plenty of chemistry together. If Eklund can rack up a goal or two and dish out some assists, it should be the first step in winning an NHL job in camp.

Gannon Laroque’s return from injury

After the 2021-22 season, few players were viewed with higher regard in the Sharks prospect pool than Gannon Laroque. He unfortunately injured his hip in offseason training and didn’t make his return to the Victoria Royals until mid-season. He played four games and then was out for the remainder of the season. Laroque did return in a Royals preseason game recently and scored three points in that game.

Laroque should be playing top-four minutes on the blueline in this tournament. Shakir Mukhamadullin and Henry Thrun are also expected to play top minutes, but Laroque is one of the few right-handed defensemen in the pipeline. Seeing Laroque handle a ton of minutes in all situations could be a springboard for him to make the San Jose Barracuda out of camp. Laroque is eligible to start his professional career this year, but with him missing nearly an entire season of development from the injuries it will be interesting to see how the front office handles him.

Which young player flashes?

Yes, they are all young, but many players like Quentin Musty, Kasper Halttunen, and Luca Cagnoni will be going through their first NHL training camp soon. How do some of these players look against other young players? While none of these guys are expected to compete for an NHL job this year, getting valuable experience against real NHL players is good for them. Musty could play on the first line with Bordeleau and Eklund and should have plenty of opportunities to flash with those more “veteran” players.

Halttunen is expected back in the OHL with the London Knights, where he will continue to round out his game, but he has shown well in tournaments against his peers. Look for Halttunen to get some scoring chances, especially if he is on the power play. A Halttunen-Tristen Robins-Danil Gushchin line has the makings of a line that could put up some points.

Cagnoni’s placement on the depth chart will be interesting to watch. If given a chance to play top-four minutes, Cagnoni’s two-way ability has a chance to shine in a tournament like this. If Cagnoni can flash some of his creativity that leads to some quality breakouts, the Sharks forward group has plenty of talent to make the other team play. With Mukhamadullin and Laroque probably quarterbacking the power plays units, Cagnoni will have to do his work at even strength.

Early goalie competition

While Mason Beaupit is going back to the WHL to play with the newly relocated Wenatchee Wild, Georgi Romanov, and Magnus Chrona will be fighting for the backup spot behind Eetu Mäkiniemi on the Barracuda. While neither can win or lose the job in one tournament, setting a good foundation will be key. Chrona, had a stellar career at the University of Denver that was topped off with a National Championship in 2022. Romanov is a bit of a wild card, having played in the VHL (the Russian equivalent of the AHL) last season, but did have positive numbers in 31 games, including a .907 SV% and a 2.81 GAA. Both players will be looking to have a good tournament to get an early jump on the goalie competition.

JD Young

Host of Locked on Sharks, saved the franchise once.

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