After the Sharks wrapped up their first road trip on Tuesday night, they sit at third place in the Pacific Division and eleventh in their entire National Hockey League with eight points and four wins through their six first games to start the season. While it remains undoubtedly early in the year, this is still the best start to a season the Sharks have had in the last few years. From what the Sharks have shown us so far in the short sample size of games they have played, it is clear that this team is built differently from the previous two seasons that saw the sharks not only miss the playoffs in back to back years but finish in the basement of the league.
The Sharks’ new youth group was the main takeaway from training camp and has proven to be an essential factor in the Sharks’ early success this year. However, this success is not only thanks to the group of rookies performing at high levels. The Sharks also have a new goaltending tandem this season, and two key veteran players picked up through free agency.
The entire list of new Sharks faces this season goes as follows: Nick Bonino, Andrew Cogliano, Jonathan Dahlen, William Eklund, Jonah Gadjovich, Lane Pederson, and Jasper Weatherby on offense. Then the remaining two new faces to the team for the season are both goalies Adin Hill and James Reimer.
Through the first six games of the season, Nick Bonino has not yet been able to put up a single point, but this stat does not reflect his play as Bonino was brought to the team to provide a defensive presence and veteran leadership to this young team. He is still a player with offensive upside, but we are still waiting to see it in a Sharks uniform.
Andrew Cogliano plays a similar role as Nick Bonino as they are both defensibly responsible veteran forwards that can play on the penalty kill. Cogliano was actually on the penalty kill when he scored his first goal as a shark, which was also the first goal of the Sharks season. His short-handed goal started the Sharks’ comeback in that game which saw them score four straight goals after letting in the first two early in the game.
Lane Pederson and Jonah Gadjovich have played the least on this list as they have both come in and out of the lineup in the first few games. This was partly due to their play, as they had not had significant impacts on the team yet. Although they have barely played enough to draw a conclusion yet, we will see what they can bring to the team as the season progresses.
So far, Jonathan Dahlen has been the most impressive Sharks rookie, putting up an impressive three goals and five points through six games. His line has been the Sharks’ best-producing line so far this year, and Dahlen’s play has played a significant role in helping them produce offensively. Dahlen has been one of the more impressive rookies in the entire league so far and has even appeared high on many Calder trophy rankings for rookie of the year. @Hockey.Ranks on Instagram has Dahlen placed third in the Calder race, just behind rookies Drew O’Connor out of Pittsburg and Lucas Raymond from Detroit.
William Eklund began the season as the player Sharks fans were most excited to watch, and he has not disappointed. His puck skills and skating ability is mesmerizing to watch. He helped with three assists through his first three games in his career, all coming on the powerplay. The powerplay is where he is the most fun to watch as he is a shifty skater and can deceive opponents with his footwork with more open ice on the man advantage. He is still looking for the first goal of his career, but we are expecting it any day now as he continues to look good each game and becomes more comfortable on the North American ice surface.
Jasper Weatherby was a player that came out of nowhere in camp and made the team. His presence on the team was a surprise at first, but now after his first six games, it is clear why he is playing in the best league in the world. He scored his first career goal in the sharks season opener against Winnipeg on the powerplay to tie the game. His first goal was a wicked wrister from the circle that beat Connor Hellebuyck, one of the best goalies in the league, top corner. He continued to pot one more goal and an assist for three points in his first six games with the Sharks.
Last to discuss is the additions in goal. Arguably the most important additions to this team in the offseason. Over the previous three years, the sharks have had some of the worst goaltending throughout the entire league, leaving this new tandem with a big problem to solve. Through Adin Hills’ first three starts, he had an impressive three wins and a .915 save percentage with his new team and made some quality saves in the process. His last start was not as impressive as he would allow four goals on only fourteen shots; Hill would be pulled from the net for the remainder of the game. Hill will be given the next start at home against Montreal and will hopefully see him bounce back; he earned his first shutout of the season last week against Montreal. Reimer has only appeared in three games this year, only two of which he started. He has been spectacular through his three games, only allowing three goals and putting up a .961 save percentage.
The goaltending for the Sharks has been very impressive thus far, except for one bad start to a game for Hill. The improvement in goal has allowed the players in front of the goalies to play with more confidence as they know the goalies behind them can have their back if necessary. The remainder of the teams’ additions has meshed well with the rest of the team as they were able to collect four straight wins in a row to begin the season and even put some heavy offensive pressure and create good scoring chances in their two losses this year as well. This is a new era of Sharks hockey; let’s see what they can do this year.