This is going to be a big season for Thomas Bordeleau’s career. The former Michigan standout had a good first full season of professional hockey in San Jose, being named to the AHL All-Star team and finishing third on the San Jose Barracuda in points with 22 goals and 19 assists. He eventually got called up to the Sharks at the end of the season, where he put up two assists in eight games, yet the season was definitely a tale of two halves.
Bordeleau’s first half showed why he was such a highly touted prospect and had him easily claiming the throne as the best player from the Sharks 2020 draft class and challenging William Eklund as the best prospect in the system in some people’s eyes. The second half saw a lot of Bordeleau’s production dry up and a move to left wing that left him invisible for shifts and even entire games. While players like Danil Gushchin and Tristen Robins found another gear in the second half, Bordeleau struggled to maintain his first-half production, where he only scored four goals and eight assists in his final 20 games. While production doesn’t mean everything, it did leave many fans with some raised eyebrows after such a hot start to his season.
The biggest aspect Thomas Bordeleau did add to his game last year was his one-timer. While at the University of Michigan, Bordeleau was more of a distributor as players like Matty Beniers and Brendan Brisson were more of the scoring threats. Bordeleau became a huge asset on the Barracuda’s first power play unit, where he put up nine power play goals last season.
Where does Bordeleau fit?
No player has been more affected by the San Jose Sharks offseason than Thomas Bordeleau. After Steven Lorentz was traded to the Florida Panthers for Anthony Duclair, a potential spot had opened up for Bordeleau in his natural spot at center. When Mikael Granlund was acquired from the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Erik Karlsson trade, that spot was all but closed. Going into training camp, the numbers don’t look great for Bordeleau to make the main club on opening night.
If Bordeleau does go back to the San Jose Barracuda to start the season, he will most likely slide into their top center position to play with the likes of Danil Gushchin and any of the Sharks who might be sent down as well. This would give him the chance to continue to iron out his game, especially in the defensive zone. While Bordeleau has shown that he can be a difference-maker in the offensive zone, he needs to become more of a factor in the defensive zone if he wants to become an everyday NHL player, especially a center.
If Mike Grier feels that Bordeleau isn’t a solution at the center, especially with the additions of Will Smith and the growth of Filip Bystedt. The time in the AHL could be invaluable for Bordeleau to hone his craft as his defense won’t be as much of an issue on the wing, but he can learn to be more of a creator on the wing. How Bordeleau responds to this potential position change will determine his future in the NHL.
If Bordeleau does make the Sharks out of training camp, it will be interesting to see where he slots in. He must be on the wing, as Tomas Hertl, Logan Couture, Nico Sturm, and Granlund have their names penciled in for the center positions. There are a lot of names in the mix for top nine wing positions, including Eklund, Mike Hoffman, Alexander Barabanov, and Duclair, but Bordeleau can help to make his name on the power play as the Sharks look to have a more balanced power play this season, especially after the trade of Karlsson. If Bordeleau can help to anchor the second unit, it could be his pathway to early playing time for coach David Quinn.
What’s next for Bordeleau?
Thomas Bordeleau enters the last season of his entry-level contract; it would have to be a disastrous season for Bordeleau not to receive another contract next offseason. Unless Bordeleau has a monster season, expect Grier to grind the RFA years with Bordeleau until he establishes himself as an everyday NHL player.
The Texas native will most likely start the season with the Barracuda unless he has an amazing training camp. With the Barracuda, he should get all the top offensive opportunities and look to build upon last season’s start. Look for Bordeleau to be called up after Christmas when the Sharks are out of contention and get a long look, especially as other forwards are shipped out at the deadline.
Bold Prediction: Thomas Bordeleau scores double-digit goals for both the San Jose Sharks and the San Jose Barracuda this year.