For the San Jose Sharks, they begin their 32nd season with many new faces, and the hope is to improve on last season when they finished with the fourth-worst record in the NHL.
Gone are their leading scorers from last season: defenseman (and current Norris Trophy winner) Erik Karlsson and left winger Timo Meier.
In come forwards Mikael Granlund, Anthony Duclair, Mike Hoffman, and goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood. These forwards, along with core veterans Tomas Hertl and Logan Couture, will look to add more offensive punch to a team that sorely lacked scoring last season. Blackwood, along with returnee Kaapo Kähkönen, will try to improve what was the worst goaltending in the league last year.
Three of the new faces on this season’s roster are young players who look to provide hope now, not later: wingers William Eklund, Thomas Bordeleau, and defenseman Henry Thrun.
Eklund and Bordeleau each had a taste of the NHL last season in the final nine games and showed flashes of what the Sharks could become while going through a rebuild: speed, playmaking, and shooting ability.
Eklund, who played with Djurgardens IF in the Swedish Hockey League two seasons ago before joining the AHL Barracuda last season, is fresh off a shoulder injury but is now 100 percent healthy and ready to contribute at the NHL level for a team that ranked 25th in scoring last season.
Bordeleau is also one of the highly touted young centers, who came from the Michigan Wolverines’ 2022 Frozen Four team, expected to make an impact this season both five-on-five and on the power play unit. He and Eklund showed that the pair had good chemistry while on the Barracuda last season and hope to continue it with the Sharks.
“We played together a lot last season,” said Eklund, who will celebrate his 21st birthday on Opening Night. “We developed some chemistry last year, a little bit. We’re going to keep doing that on the ice and hopefully score a couple of goals for us.”
Speaking of building chemistry among the team, the Sharks players and coaching staff went up to Napa Valley for a bonding trip this week. Sharks head coach David Quinn, who admitted to enjoying the region’s famous fermented grapes, said having those kinds of team activities away from the ice can bring a team closer together.
“I snuck in a glass or ten,” said Quinn, which garnered a comedic response from the media. “I’m sure our guys did too. But there’s nothing like spending time away from the rink. Getting to know each other in a non-work environment, in that type of setting to become closer.”
Thrun also got his feet wet in the NHL last season when he played in the Sharks' final eight regular-season games. Thrun, who came straight from a brilliant three-year career at Harvard University, is happy to play any role the coaching staff asks him to after winning a spot on the roster after his first professional training camp.
“I pride myself on being someone who can help in all areas of the game. We’ll see, as we have a lot of good defensemen on our team and guys who have different roles, so wherever the coaches see me fitting in best, I’m going to work my hardest and do my best there,” Thrun said.
The pundits have predicted the Sharks to finish toward the bottom of the standings this season. Which begs the question, will the young players have a chance to grow and progress throughout the season or will there be immediate pressure on them to perform? Quinn believes playing the game the right way will earn the player their minutes on the ice.
“Obviously, there’s pressure to perform right away, but also, you have to understand that when a young player starts out in this league, there’s a learning curve to it. As long as you’re competing and trying, you’re going to be able to play through some mistakes if you’re trying to play with the right intentions. If you’re not trying to cheat the game, then you’re going to continue to play and get opportunities,” Quinn said.
Thrun said he trusts in his confidence and is excited for the opportunity he earned during training camp.
“Being new to the league, there’s a lot of excitement on my end. As with any other player, you have to perform well to keep your job. Obviously, veterans have a little more of a leash when it comes to higher playing time, but as a young player, I’m going to run with the confidence I have now,” Thrun said.
Bordeleau might be the player with the most pressure to perform out of the gate considering he is a third-generation NHLer with his father and grandfather who played in the league before him. When asked if it’s too early to take “The Legacy” as a nickname, the 21-year-old native of Houston, Texas recognizes what his last name means to his family of hockey.
“I’m trying to make my own name, but it’s definitely something that you know they’ve been through. They’re watching me, they’re proud of me. My dad will be coming to this opening game along with my mom, so it’ll be a good time for them. I know the Bordeleau name means a lot in our family, and I’m just honored to have it on my back,” Bordeleau said.
The Sharks will be without their captain Couture to start the season and could be out for the first month of the season. Couture said on the first day of training camp that he suffered a lower body injury during the summer while training. Quinn stated that Couture has just begun skating and that there is no timetable on his return and that he remains week-to-week.
So, whether it’s one of the new vets on the team like Granlund, Hoffman, or Duclair, or one of the young guns, someone is going to have an opportunity to not only make a good impression with a hot start to his teammates and coaches, but also to a fan base wanting a new hero to believe in and give hope that the Sharks' season will be worth watching all season long.
San Jose opens the season by hosting the defending Stanley Cup champions Vegas Golden Knights on October 12th at SAP Center.
Here is the 2023-24 Sharks Opening Night Roster:
March 2, 2023
February 27, 2023
May 11, 2022
December 1, 2021
April 19, 2021
April 17, 2021
April 16, 2021
Right Winger Kevin Labanc after the Sharks 7-4 loss to the Detroit Red Wings on November 17, 2022.
Goaltender James Reimer after the Sharks 7-4 loss to the Detroit Red Wings on November 17, 2022.
Head coach David Quinn after the Sharks 7-4 loss to the Detroit Red Wings on November 17, 2022.