The San Jose Sharks needed overtime but downed the Vancouver Canucks 3-2 in last night’s preseason opener. Both rosters better resembled their AHL affiliates starting lineups for the 2016-17 campaign, but for the Sharks that bodes well.
Forward Prospects Power San Jose Sharks to Win
Kevin Labanc has been a mainstay on the Sharks top lines in rookie camp and continues his scoring ways that brought him the OHL’s scoring title last year with the Barrie Colts. Labanc throughout camp has shown not to be a player opposing teams can lose track of on the ice. He factored into two of the three goals for San Jose, who trailed heading into the final minute of regulation before Tommy Wingels put home a rebound to force the extra hockey for the generously announced crowd of 14,583.
For his first point, Labanc showed good poise with the puck on his stick, circling the offensive zone. He came out near the blueline and wristed a shot on goal that was stopped by Canucks goaltender Michael Garteig. Barclay Goodrow collected the rebound and neatly slid the puck home, but the former Colts play in the zone did the heavy lifting for the score.
In the extra period, Matthew Nieto and Labanc broke in two on one. Nieto fumbled with the pass, but Labanc came in and whipped the puck past Garteig, who surrendered all three of the Sharks goals.
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“I was on the ice with Nieto it was a two on one and he tried to get the puck to me. It was a misplay, it hit off the defenseman’s skate and came back out. I just turned around and shot it, and it went it the net,” said Labanc of his game winner goal. “They emphasize shooting the puck here. whenever you get the chance and you’re that close you want to shoot the puck.”
Marcus Sorensen again had a solid night. Skating for the first time at SAP Center Sorensen’s speed created a number of chances. His best of the night was a high flip of the puck by Brenden Dillon over the defense that Sorensen raced to chase down for a solid scoring chance.
[Dillon] looked at me, that he was going to chip that puck. The defenseman didn’t see me behind it. It was a good chip. Of course, I want to [score] some goals, but if someone else can do it, it’s ok with me. The only thing I want to do is win,” said Sorensen
While he won’t be confused with Scott Stevens anytime soon, he also was involved physically, finishing his checks and using his speed for an effective forecheck throughout the game.
Defense Wins Championships
On defense, Jeremey Roy continued to show why the Sharks traded up to take him with the first pick the 2015 NHL Entry Draft’s second round. Despite being the youngest player on the Sharks defense, Roy’s poise with the puck and solid instincts at both ends of the ice were impressive for a player that is still away from AHL eligibility. He and Joakim Ryan were a good pair for the Sharks, and both had the best games in multiple viewings. Despite his strong showing in the opening preseason match, Roy was returned to the QMJHL where he’ll play for the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada.
“That’s where he belongs this year. It’s a perfect spot for him he has a chance to be a really go player there, hopefully play in World Junior Championship. That’s the next step for him. I liked his camp, we talked to him yesterday about some of the things we want him to keep working on, including strength, like all young guys,” said Sharks Head Coach Peter DeBoer of Roy’s performance at training camp. “Again, a lot of tools there. The game has gone to moving the puck out your own zone as quickly as possible. Either skating it or moving it and that’s his game.”
Mirco Mueller and Dylan DeMelo were also reunited and played solid hockey. Mueller’s excellent skating has always been there. His defensive positioning also looked improved, but concerns linger about his decisions with the puck, often quickly passing off to DeMelo or dumping the puck into a corner. More confidence when handling the puck is needed for the young Swiss defender and something to monitor as the NHL season draws near.
DeBoer Preaches Patience
While the young players played well, DeBoer urged caution with the development of the young players still in camp.
“The great part about where we’re at as a franchise right now is you don’t have to rush anyone,” when asked about the young players on the ice and Labanc specifically. “Like Goldobin, like Mueller we have to do this the right way. When they’re ready.”
“There’s a lot to learn. Let’s be honest: last night was an AHL game. You have to really take performance with a grain of salt. You still have to go out there and be one of the better players on the ice, which they get full marks for, but that’s two or three levels below where we’re going to be at the start of the season.”