The San Jose Sharks announced their roster for the opener Thursday night against the Vancouver Canucks, but the suspense of a so-called competition for the final roster spot became a tad bit anticlimactic on Monday.
A competition between youngsters Matt Nieto and Freddie Hamilton vanished, as Adam Burish is still nursing a lower-body injury. He will presumably be replaced on the fourth line by 21-year-old Hamilton on opening night, and Raffi Torres’ spot on the roster will go to 20-year-old Nieto.
Hamilton is a bigger body who came onto the scene with authority this preseason, while Nieto is a speedster who will play a less physical game than Torres on the third line alongside Joe Pavelski and Tommy Wingels.
With the lines all but set, we take a look at the biggest takeaways from the Sharks’ final roster cuts.
Two events led to 19-year-old Tomas Hertl’s expected start on the first line for the Sharks: Torres’ injury that led to a shakeup of the lines, and Hertl’s impressive play alongside Joe Thornton and Brent Burns during the preseason.
While the first line may not be best suited for Hertl to begin his NHL career, the previous events have led this to happen. Playing with Thornton and Burns will allow the young forward to grow, and with his offensive instincts, he should be able to have many opportunities early in the season.
Matt Nieto and Freddie Hamilton were arguably not even serious prospects to contend for a roster spot this preseason, but injuries and unexpected impressive play have led to this becoming a reality on Thursday— likely a whole year ahead of schedule.
While Hamilton has the build for success at the NHL level, Nieto (5’11”, 190 lbs) does not. But while Nieto has shown all of the needed skills to play at the NHL level, it is something that is a work in progress for Hamilton.
Both will grow in their time in San Jose during the early season, and they will most likely be competing for the one roster spot available once Burish returns. Either way, the equally impressive preseasons have the Sharks suddenly high on their prospect pool.
Goalie Alex Stalock earned the backup spot behind Antti Niemi, but it was not the most impressive preseason for the 26-year-old. He was contending with Harri Sateri, who will depart for Worcester to start the season.
Is Stalock the future netminder in San Jose? The preseason left us no answer. But maybe an increased role coming off of a season in which Niemi played 43 of 48 games can present more of a glimpse into what Stalock can give the Sharks.
With the injury of Torres, Tyler Kennedy was forced from the first line alongside Thornton and Burns and placed on the second line with Logan Couture and Patrick Marleau. He will surely be switching lines early and often as Todd McLellan searches for optimal productivity.
While a player like Kennedy would fit perfectly on a line with Thornton and Burns, the Sharks can do worse than the Couture-Marleau line. He will be asked to do what he does best: skate fast and get shots to the net.
The Marleau-Couture-Kennedy line should be lethal and might become a permanent home for Kennedy if Hertl consistently produces on the first line.
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