It is almost that time of the year again. With training camp set to drop the puck on Saturday, September 17, many are excited to see what this new-look San Jose team has to offer.
Maybe “new-look” is a bad term. The team still has the same core of Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dan Boyle. They even have the same young stars like Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture.
However, the average Sharks fan may not know who the rest of the supporting players on the roster are, with all the moves that have happened this offseason.
Let me re-cap. GM Doug Wilson traded offensive prowess for much-needed finesse and defense. He also picked up very capable bodies on both ends of the ice.
The result is a strong defense and a still fully capable offense.
On paper, the Sharks are poised for their best defensive season to date. It seems like a far cry from the lack of defense we witnessed down the stretch last season and in the Vancouver series.
Still, there are a few players that must step up if the Sharks are going to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in their history.
Here are five players that we might see do just that.
5. Jamie McGinn
How many years have we said that this is going to be the year for Jamie McGinn?
It feels like many, but the fact is McGinn has only been in the NHL for three seasons. However, he has yet to make a significant contribution to San Jose.
This year, he is due, right?
I sure hope so.
This may be McGinn’s best chance at his first season of real production in the NHL, though.
The 23-year-old is set to start on the third line with the newly-acquired Michal Handzus and fellow youngster Torrey Mitchell.
McGinn and Mitchell are no strangers to each other, but it is the addition of Handzus that could fuel this line this season.
Handzus brings experience and a savviness for the game that McGinn has not seen before, and it can only help him raise his talent level.
4. Colin White
Colin White is large, that is a known fact. At 6’4″ and 220 pounds, he is one of the biggest players on the team and can be compared to a lesser form of Douglas Murray, in a sense.
It is for those reasons that White is poised for a surprisingly productive season in San Jose in 2011-12.
What the Sharks lacked last season was an extra big body that could clear the front of the net. Enter White, who specializes in just that thing.
He also specializes in hitting people very hard. It was another team characteristic that was lacking last season.
With White set to play on the third line with Jason Demers, they can only benefit each other.
The finesse of Demers mixed with the physicality of White can be compared to the Boyle/Murray line two slots above.
There seems to be a sense of unknowing when it comes to White. By the end of the 2011-12 season, people will remember Colin White as a San Jose Shark.
3. Jason Demers
Piggy-backing the last slide on Colin White, Jason Demers is set to have a very good season because of who coach Todd McLellan has him paired with to start the season.
Demers and White are set to be paired together on the third line.
Demers has been growing in his overall skill-set over the past couple seasons. Last year, we saw him make great strides with 24 points, including 22 assists, in 75 games played.
What the Sharks hope for Demers is a future version of Dan Boyle, although they seem to play rather different styles.
One of the better moves made this offseason was the addition of White. The big body defenseman should fit right in to the Sharks’ new-found toughness on the defensive side.
It seems as though GM Doug Wilson was just going with what has been working in San Jose. On the first line of the defense, they have Boyle and Murray, a finesse player with skills mixed with a physical presence.
Now on the third line, Wilson has that same formula, just in lesser form.
Demers will thrive off a talented defenseman with physical assets, just as Boyle has done on the that first line.
2. Michal Handzus
Why don’t we just put the entire third line on this list, shall we?
The truth is that this line is very capable of being a strong suit for this Sharks team. Two young players looking for break-out seasons, and a crafty veteran fully capable of getting them there.
Handzus is almost a guarantee for excellent production in San Jose based on how many job this guy does well.
He is a veteran, helping out youngsters like Mitchell and McGinn. And he is excellent on the power play, penalty kill and in the face-off circle.
He helps the Sharks in so many facets of the game that the team lacked last season that he will ultimately be one of their best weapons on the ice.
1. Torrey Mitchell
The last piece of the third line, which i claimed in slides two and five as one of the more surprising lines on this team.’
Handzus, McGinn and Mitchell mesh well together on paper. It is just a matter of how they play with each other on the ice.
Mitchell will have a surprising season based on the position that he is in on this team.
The 26-year-old is the scoring weapon on this line, which was held by Devin Setoguchi and others last season.
Setoguchi put up 41 points last season in that role, and i expect Mitchell to tally around 35 points this season.
Most of all, Mitchell is set up to have a good season. He will get more shots at the net than he has ever had the chance to in the NHL, and he is playing with McGinn, who he knows very well, and Handzus, who can only further Mitchell’s production on the ice.
There is no telling what line Mitchell will play on through the season, although knowing McLellan’s style of coaching, he will be all over the map.
Mitchell will start on the third line, but he will be a huge weapon throughout the season on both the first and second lines.
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