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Meet the 2015-16 Sharks
Taking a look at the offense
10/3/15 - By Mike Lee -

The 2015-16 NHL Regular Season gets underway on Wednesday night when the Sharks travel to Southern California to take on their rivals, the Los Angeles Kings. As the San Jose tries to rebound from their worst season in over 10 years, we take a quick look at the players that will adorn the teal and black this season. Sharks General Manager Doug Wilson didn't dismantle his underperforming roster, but he did retool some of the lineup as the team tries to get back in the playoff hunt after getting bumped last season. San Jose looks to a blend of veterans, youngsters and new free agents.

We start with the forwards, who will make up the Sharks front lines.

Left Wings

Nikolay Goldobin
2014-15 Club Games Goals Assists Points PIM
HIFK Helsinki 38 11 10 21 12
It's still undecided if Goldobin will make the big club to start the season, but all signs suggest that he will. The young Russian has been solid in training camp this season, and provides the Sharks with a skilled puck-handler that can create offense. After a year split between Helsinki and Worcester, Goldobin should provide the Sharks with a 3rd line scoring threat that they've been sorely missing. The big question will be how well Goldobin adjusts to the rigors of the NHL where the pace is fast, the hitting is harder and there are 82 games on the regular season schedule.

Patrick Marleau
2014-15 Club Games Goals Assists Points PIM
San Jose 82 19 38 57 12
The former Sharks captain had a letdown season in 2014-15, seeing his goal production from 33 goals the prior season to a paltry 19 last year. It seems that as Marleau goes, so go the Sharks. If they are serious about getting back to the playoffs, Marleau needs to find that scoring touch that abandoned him last season. Head Coach Peter DeBoer played Marleau on a line with Logan Couture and Joel Ward for most of the preseason in order to help kick start Marleau, who won't have the same defensive responsibility as his centerman (Couture) and will have some grit on his off wing in Ward.

Matt Nieto
2014-15 Club Games Goals Assists Points PIM
San Jose 72 10 17 27 20
With a full NHL season under his belt, Nieto won't have the youngster excuse to lean on this season. His 10 goals were step in the right direction, but the winger needs to step up his defensive zone coverage, which was a liability last year. The Sharks still haven't figured out where to play him, so he'll jump from the top line to the 4th line and everywhere in between until the youngster establishes some consistency to his game.

Raffi Torres
2014-15 Club Games Goals Assists Points PIM
San Jose 5 3 2 5 7
This is Torres' second full season as a Shark, but after being acquired from the Phoenix Coyotes back in 2013, the journeyman has only played in 16 games for San Jose. After suffering a knee injury in the 2013 playoffs, Torres missed all but 5 games last year as he tried to rehab. Torres has been used sparingly in the preseason as the Sharks try to ease him back into the lineup, but they may have more time to make the transition. Torres was assessed a match penalty in the Sharks final preseason game against Anaheim, and could face additional punishment because of his history with suspensions.

Centers

Logan Couture
2014-15 Club Games Goals Assists Points PIM
San Jose 82 27 40 67 12
Entering his 6th full season, the Sharks centerman has established himself in the locker room and around the league as one of the bona fide leaders of this team. He'll need to back that up by improving on his 27 goal, 40 assist last season, which should be considered a down year for the guy the Sharks are depending on to put the puck in the back of opposing team goals. Couture is 5 years removed from his career high 32 goal season in 2011, but he's considered the guy that's supposed to carry the Sharks offensively. He's talked about a more prominent role as a leader, but the only way that happens is if he steps up his game this season. It's just lip service otherwise.

Tomas Hertl
2014-15 Club Games Goals Assists Points PIM
San Jose 82 13 18 31 16
What looked like a promising career, hit a detour last season as Hertl spent the majority of the year trying to find his way after suffering a catastrophic knee injury in his rookie campaign the year prior. The young Czech played tentatively, especially in open ice, which is where Kings headhunter Dustin Brown cut his season short with the knee-on-knee hit that tore up Hertl's knee. If Hertl intends to make some noise this season, he'll have to re-establish the fearlessness that led to the 15 goals he scored in his first 37 NHL games. While not exactly lighting it up in the preseason, Hertl did look good in camp as he played with more aggressiveness in front of the net.

Melker Karlsson
2014-15 Club Games Goals Assists Points PIM
San Jose 53 13 11 24 20
One of the few bright spots last season was Karlsson, who emerged as an all-around player who could be counted on in both the offensive and defensive ends of the ice. His big issue is the undisclosed injury that he's been dealing with all of training camp. The centerman hasn't appeared in any games or practices. It's safe to say that the young Swede will start the season on the injured reserve and no timetable has been announced on his rehabilitation schedule.

Joe Pavelski
2014-15 Club Games Goals Assists Points PIM
San Jose 82 37 33 70 29
Arguably the best player on the ice for San Jose last season followed up his 41 goal breakout season in 2013-14 with a 37 goal encore last year. Pavelski is in the prime of his career and is poised to grab the leadership reigns from the team as head coach Peter DeBoer gets set to name a team captain. Pavelski is the odds on favorite to have a C stitched onto his sweater as the teams open the regular season. He's not too old, not too young, and commends respect in the locker room. The only issue that naming Pavelski captain, is that it could become a distraction for a player that has been one of the few consistent performers on the team. Will the pressure that goes along with having to lead, distract him from his ability to deliver? Patrick Marleau was a great example of a player who was better off without the C.

Joe Thornton
2014-15 Club Games Goals Assists Points PIM
San Jose 78 16 49 65 30
After last season's soap opera between Thornton, General Manage Doug Wilson and former head coach Todd McLellan, this year may be down right boring. Thornton lashed out at Wilson at the end of last year's disastrous regular season, exposing a rift that was either the root of the team's dysfunction or a well contained way for Thornton to try and shift some of the focus away from his struggling teammates. When the smoke cleared, Thornton and Wilson were still standing, and McLellan became an afterthought in San Jose. As for his performance, Thornton's numbers lagged his normal point production. The 16 goals and 49 assists were the lowest totals in his 10 year stay in San Jose. The hope is that a new coach will grant the big centerman some more freedom to do what he does best, which is to pass the puck. DeBoer doesn't seem too interested in changing things for his most seasoned players, so perhaps the reduced obligations will spark Thornton's game.

Chris Tierney
2014-15 Club Games Goals Assists Points PIM
San Jose 43 6 15 21 6
The Sharks are looking for more from their second year center, but they'll still afford him some slack given his upside. Tierney was expected to fill in as part of the Worcester Express last season, but he ended up playing in 43 games and held his own against older competition. The 21 year-old saw more and more ice time as the Sharks season began to unravel, and established himself as a viable option as a 4th centerman. Tierney may spend time in the AHL this season, but he's positioned himself as a long term component for the Sharks in a season or two.

Tommy Wingels
2014-15 Club Games Goals Assists Points PIM
San Jose 75 15 21 36 40
Another one of the bright spots for San Jose, Wingels matched his 2013-14 output, but played a more prominent role in the Sharks offense. He is slowly climbing the leadership ranks and emerged as more of a do as I do type of player by letting his play do the talking. Wingels adds a level of grit that most of the skill players don't provide, but he doesn't sacrifice talent to get you the edge that the Sharks consistently lack. With another season under his belt, look for Wingels to have a bigger season statistically, and more responsibility in leading younger players.

Right Wings

Mike Brown
2014-15 Club Games Goals Assists Points PIM
San Jose 12 0 0 0 22
Mired by injuries, the Sharks forward had a season he would soon forget. after sustaining an upper body injury in the second week of the season which cost him 18 games on the injured reserve, Brown broke his fibula against Edmonton on December 9th. The leg break would sideline him for another 47 games. He would play in only 12 games last season, and didn't account for a single point of offense. His purposes isn't to provide scoring pop, but rather to add a little muscle to the Sharks lineup. With the addition of Frazer McLaren, even that role could diminish.

Joonas Donskoi
2014-15 Club Games Goals Assists Points PIM
Karpat (SM-liga) 58 19 30 49 10
The Finnish boy wonder has done nothing by impressed the Sharks brass during the preseason. There's no guarantee that the 23 year-old will even make the opening night roster, but he's made it difficult for the Sharks management to demote him to the AHL. Donskoi was seasoned in the Finnish Elite League the past 6 seasons, where he started playing professionally as a 16 year old. He's done nothing but progress overseas, and now he has a chance to help spark a youth movement in San Jose as players like Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton inch closer to retirement. Keep an eye on this kid and he'll be a regular in the Bay Area before you know it.

Barclay Goodrow
2014-15 Club Games Goals Assists Points PIM
San Jose 60 4 8 12 35
Goodrow was a scoring machine in junior, so it makes sense that the Sharks will want to give the kid a longer look. Problem is, there may not be room. Goodrow played in 60 games for San Jose last season, but didn't produce much in terms of scoring. His size limits him as a grinding option, so he'll either need to bulk up or figure out how to be more consistent offensively if he wants to stick with the big club. There is too much competition, and some seasoning with the Barracuda may be a better development plan for Goodrow.

Ben Smith
2014-15 Club Games Goals Assists Points PIM
Chicago / San Jose 80 7 7 14 2
Smith will start his first full season with the Sharks after being acquired at the trade deadline last year. Smith moved to a team that had more opportunity for him, but he got to watch his former teammates in Chicago win a Stanley Cup. Smith was acquired to add some scrapiness to listless lineup last season. He's one of those in-between players that is more role player than offensive or defensive solution. What you get is a lunch pail style player who won't cheat you with a lack of effort. Smith could see some time in the press box, but he's a guy that you need to lead by example. A perfect player to help guide some of the younger players on the roster.

Joel Ward
2014-15 Club Games Goals Assists Points PIM
Washington 82 19 15 34 30
Ward comes to San Jose as a free agent signing after spending the last four season in Washington where he helped the Capitals make a lengthy run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs last spring. Ward recorded a career high 49 points two seasons ago, then fell a goal short of a 20-goal season last year. Ward spent most of the preseason playing along side Logan Couture and Patrick Marleau, which gives the Sharks an interesting offensive weapon. That line has a bit of flash, skill and grit, which may make it tough to defend. Which of those attributes do you key on when throwing a defense out their to combat it? The one big question mark will be Ward's age. He turns 35 on December 2nd.

Check in tomorrow for a look at the Sharks defense.




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