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Sharks season preview: Quinn takes over team in transition

New coach looking for scoring help for Meier, Hertl

by Jon Lane @JonLaneNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

The 2022-23 NHL season starts Oct. 7. With training camps open, NHL.com is taking a look at the three keys, the inside scoop on roster questions, and the projected lineup for each of the 32 teams. Today, the San Jose Sharks.

Coach: David Quinn (first season)

Last season: 32-37-13, sixth in Pacific Division; did not qualify for Stanley Cup Playoffs

3 KEYS

1. Quinning time

Quinn has a second chance to coach in the NHL after the 56-year-old was fired by the New York Rangers on May 12, 2021. He guided the United States to fifth place at the 2022 Beijing Olympics and what's ahead of him is a team in transition that's missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs for three straight seasons after qualifying 14 of the previous 15. The Sharks added forwards Nico Sturm, Luke Kunin, Oskar Lindblom and Steven Lorentz, and defensemen Matt Benning and Markus Nutivaara. But San Jose needs top forward prospects William Eklund and Thomas Bordeleau to eventually spark an offense that's 30th in the NHL in goals per game the past three seasons (2.58) and tied for 25th on the power play (17.1 percent). Logan Couture (23 goals) was the lone forward other than Timo Meier (35) and Tomas Hertl (30) to score at least 20 goals. San Jose averaged 2.57 goals per game last season, third fewest behind the Arizona Coyotes (2.51) and Philadelphia Flyers (2.56).

2. Meier's future

Meier has yet to speak with new general manager Mike Grier about a new contract, the forward saying during the NHL European Player Media Tour on Aug. 24 that the two have been getting to know each other through telephone conversations. Meier is entering the final season of a four-year contract and can become a restricted free agent.

3. Who's No. 1?

Goalies James Reimer and Kaapo Kahkonen are likely on the opening-night roster. The question is if a No. 1 emerges or the Sharks go with a timeshare. Reimer, 34, was 19-17-10 with a 2.90 goals-against average, .911 save percentage and one shutout in 48 games (46 starts) last season; Kahkonen, 26, was 2-6-1 with a 2.86 GAA and .916 save percentage in 11 games (10 starts) after he was acquired in a trade with the Minnesota Wild on March 21. Quinn said, "We love our goaltending depth," but there's something to be said about the Sharks adding nine goalies to the organization the past 12-13 months.

Video: Timo Meier's Future with San Jose Sharks

ROSTER RUNDOWN

Making the cut

It's not if, but when Eklund, who turns 20 on Oct. 12, and Bordeleau, a 20-year-old, will nudge a veteran out of the lineup. They will compete with a plethora of forwards including Jasper Weatherby, a 24-year-old chosen in the fourth round (No. 108) of the 2018 NHL Draft, and Evgeny Svechnikov, a 25-year-old who signed a one-year contract Sept. 6. The No. 19 pick by the Detroit Red Wings in the 2015 NHL Draft has 31 points (12 goals, 19 assists) in 113 NHL games and did not receive a qualifying offer from the Winnipeg Jets.  

Most intriguing addition

Kunin is starting over with the Sharks. The 24-year-old signed a two-year contract July 18, 10 days after he was traded from the Nashville Predators. He was the only Predators skater to play 82 games, and his 13 goals ranked sixth among their forwards. The No. 15 pick by the Wild in the 2016 NHL Draft will play for his third NHL team but was playing his best hockey (31 points; 15 goals, 16 assists in 63 games) when the 2019-20 season was paused due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus. The Sharks are in dire need of depth scoring, and Kunin could provide it if he gets back on track.

Biggest potential surprise  

Alexander Barabanov has the look of a late bloomer. He signed a two-year contract May 9 to stay with the Sharks after setting NHL career highs of 10 goals, 29 assists and 39 points in 70 games, the 28-year-old's first full season in the NHL. Since Barabanov was acquired from the Toronto Maple Leafs on April 21, 2021, he's fifth among Sharks skaters in assists (33) and points (46) in 79 games. He's projected for the top line with Meier and Hertl. If it clicks, Barabanov could be an unexpected source of offense with close to or exceeding 20 goals.

Ready to break through

It appears to be Eklund's time to show why he was the No. 7 pick in the 2021 NHL Draft and No. 1 in NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of International skaters. He started last season with the Sharks and had four assists in nine games before going back to Djurgardens in the Swedish Hockey League, where he had 14 points (one goal, 13 assists) in 29 games.

Eklund was the SHL rookie of the year in 2020-21, when he had 23 points (11 goals, 12 assists) in 40 games despite from an emergency appendectomy and a positive test for COVID-19. 

Fantasy sleeper 

Eklund, LW (undrafted on average in fantasy) -- Three of Eklund's assists came on the power play before he gained more professional experience in the SHL. He could be a fantasy rookie sleeper if he lands in the top six with a productive center in either Hertl and Couture and on the first power play with elite wing Meier and defenseman bounce-back candidate Erik Karlsson and under new coach Quinn. -- Pete Jensen

PROJECTED LINEUP

Timo Meier -- Tomas Hertl -- Alexander Barabanov

Noah Gregor -- Logan Couture -- Kevin Labanc

Oskar Lindblom -- Nico Sturm -- Luke Kunin

Matt Nieto -- Nick Bonino -- Steven Lorentz

Mario Ferraro -- Erik Karlsson

Marc-Edouard Vlasic -- Radim Simek

Matt Benning -- Markus Nutivaara

James Reimer

Kaapo Kahkonen

Injured: Nikolai Knyzhov (Achilles tendon)

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