San Jose Sharks: Thomas Greiss and 5 Players Who Have Surprised in 2011
Thomas Greiss, who wasn't even playing in the NHL last season after being deemed the odd man out between the pipes, has played like a legitimate NHL-caliber goaltender so far this year. Currently filling in for the injured Antero Niittymaki as the team's backup, Greiss' play as of late may earn him a full-time backup role if he can keep it up.
He's not the only player on the San Jose Sharks' roster who has surprised, for good or bad, this season. The lineup is full of players who have performed above and below expectations, raising some eyebrows in the process.
Here are five Sharks who have either had a shockingly positive impact on the team, or a startlingly negative one.
Acquired from the Minnesota Wild this offseason in exchange for sniper Dany Heatley, Martin Havlat was expected to be a key offensive contributor this season, but it's doubtful that anyone expected him to be as dominant as he has been thus far.
In eight games played in teal, Havlat has a goal and seven assists for eight points. He's second only to world-class playmaker Joe Thornton for the team lead in assists.
Havlat has been used in all situations by the San Jose Sharks, playing important minutes on the penalty kill and the power play. His speed and elusiveness, coupled with his craftiness with the puck, has been on display on a nightly basis.
Plain and simple, Martin Havlat has been a difference-maker for the Sharks this year and has instantly fit into their system without missing a beat.
Colin White, who was signed as a free agent late this summer after being bought out by the New Jersey Devils, was brought in to provide a steady veteran presence on the San Jose Sharks' third defense pairing and play a solid, shutdown game.
Unfortunately, the 33-year-old rearguard has been anything but solid so far. He has looked out of place and confused out on the ice on several occasions, and he has made poor decisions positionally and with the puck.
White's poor play has caused head coach Todd McLellan to scratch him three times in just 12 games. In the nine games he has played in, White has no points and is a minus-five.
He wasn't signed to provide offense or play big minutes in the top four, but White was expected to shut down the opposition and help out on the penalty kill while playing relatively mistake-free hockey like a veteran of 11 years should. He has failed to do so, though plenty of time remains for him to step it up.
We all know that Joe Pavelski is one of the smartest and most talented players on the team, as well as in the NHL.
The Wisconsin native was drafted in the seventh round of the 2003 entry draft, played his first NHL game in 2006, put up 28 points in 46 games that year as a rookie and the rest is history. He's now playing on the first line with Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, though, Logan Couture has spent time in Marleau's place as of late.
The big surprise here is that he has emerged as a top-flight goal scorer after spending most of his NHL career as a playmaking center. This season, Pavelski leads the team in both points (15) and goals (nine) while playing on the wing for the first time.
His talent was never in question, but his ability to score goals at such a high rate and the speed at which he has adjusted to playing on the wing is a very pleasant surprise for San Jose Sharks fans.
After making the team out of camp just a year after being drafted, Jason Demers put up a respectable 21 points in 51 games as a rookie in 2009-10 and proceeded to register 24 points in 75 games last season.
Though these numbers aren't jaw-dropping, they are impressive, considering his age and the fact that he played very limited minutes on the bottom defense pairing both seasons.
Forecasted by many to have his breakout season this year, Demers has failed to build on the success of his first two campaigns in the NHL so far. He put up two assists in seven games to start the season and was a team-worst minus-six during that time.
Thanks to his slow start, Demers has been a healthy scratch for the last five games and Justin Braun, who has been called up form the AHL to take his place, has looked solid. You won't find many fans who expected Demers to be sitting in the press box this season, and though it's not set in stone that he will in fact be the odd man out on the back end, it's beginning to look more and more likely.
After holding down the backup spot behind Evgeni Nabokov in 2009-10, Thomas Greiss was loaned to a Swedish team last season following the signing of two free agent goaltenders in Antti Niemi and Antero Niittymaki.
Greiss is back in teal, for now, while Niittymaki recovers from offseason surgery that will keep him out of the lineup until December.
In five games played this season, Greiss has a record of 3-2-0 and an impressive 1.99 goals-against average to go along with a .928 save percentage. He has displayed tremendous poise and positioning and is beginning to establish himself as a bona fide NHL netminder.
Considering that he didn't even have a place within the organization last year in the NHL or the AHL, and that he had just 19 games of NHL experience under his belt coming into the 2011-12 season, Greiss' strong play and the confidence he exudes when he's on the ice is baffling.
As long as he's helping the San Jose Sharks win hockey games, we can expect to see him get the nod between the pipes far more often than initially expected.
Sam Kelly is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @samkelly10.