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Sharks Development Camp: Prospect Showcase

(Originally published at Sports Radio Service)

Thursday night, San Jose Sharks prospects took the ice at SAP Center for a scrimmage. Team Ricci defeated Team Marchment by a score of 5-2. Goals came at even strength, in 3 on 3 (which followed two even strength periods) and a penalty shot. Nikita Jevpalovs, Dylan Sadowy, Nikolay Goldobin, Barclay Goodrow and Jeremy Langlois all contributed to those goals. While the scrimmage was a welcome entertainment in the middle of the off-season, the bulk of the work was done earlier in the week: a crash-course for young players to help them prepare for training camp in September.

The development camp also gives the team a chance to evaluate players before training camp. Defenseman Gus Young, a Worcester Shark last season and now free agent, was signed as the first member of the San Jose Barracuda Thursday.

After the morning practice, Roy Sommer gave his impressions of some of the Sharks’ recent first round draft picks. Of the Sharks’ 2015 first round pick, Timo Meier he said: “As the camp’s gone on, I think he’s gotten better and better. He’s a power forward, man, he goes hard to the net, big body, looks like he’s hard to stop. I’ll tell you what, he’s got a lot of intangibles. He’s good.”

Sharks fans had a chance to see the Sharks’ 2014 first round pick, Nikolay Goldobin, in last year’s preseason games. Of Goldobin this year, Sommer said:

He’s got offense. You know, when he wants to go, he’s pretty good. I think the big thing with him, he’s got to get a little more consistent. But offensively, he’s got all the tools. He sees the ice real well, just got to play both ends of the ice and get the confidence of the new coaching staff.

Thursday’s event was the third such scrimmage held by the Sharks, but the first under the new coaching staff. After the morning practice, Chris Tierney was asked whether this camp is different from last year. He said:

I think it’s pretty much the same. You know, Roy’s doing a lot of the drills, running that kind of stuff, so him and Tim Burke and Mike Ricci, they’ve been here for a couple of years. They kind of do the same camp, kind of focus on the same areas ever since I’ve been here. So it’s pretty much the same stuff.

Prospect camp attendees fall into two general categories: returning prospects and first timers. Returning prospects have an opportunity to hone leadership skills, helping the younger or less experienced attendees. Tierney, a returning prospect with 43 NHL games under his belt, described some of the ways a more seasoned player helps the new guys:

It’s nice to know what you’re going to do and know how to do the kind of drills. I think a couple of us that kind of want to be leaders here in this camp, going first in drills and taking questions from some of the young guys.

Coach Sommer described more ways that Tierney and other camp veterans help new arrivals during prospect camp:

From the get-go we told the guys that have been around here that have done a couple of these development camps: “be the leaders, be the first one in line, take care of these guys when they’re off the ice and show them downtown San Jose.” And him and Goodrow, the other guys, the Muellers, they’ve done a great job of that. They’ve been really good. I think it’s been one of the better camps we’ve ever had, as far as talent-wise and leadership-wise.

Among first-time camp attendees, there are those with no professional experience and those with quite a bit. Forward Joonas Donskoi, for example, has played for several seasons in the SM-liiga of Finland. He was on the 2015 SM-liiga All-Star team and was named Best Player in the Playoffs. His team won the league title last season. But this is his first time at a camp in North America. Is this like camps he has attended before?

Yeah, sure we have, kind of like these camps in Finland. Of course, been playing five years in Finnish professional league so I think it’s just great to be here. It’s a little bit different, a smaller rink and stuff like that so it’s a lot of things to learn …

One of the reasons I talked to Donskoi was a short drill I saw him doing with Mike Ricci. It was not in front of the net, but it looked like it was meant to be. It was a very quick drill and the precision involved was eye-catching. I asked if there was one particular thing that stood out as a good tip or advice he’s gotten here. There was not one thing, he explained:

A lot of information here. I mean, like Ricci and guys like that, I just appreciate the great career he’s made. He knows the game, so he has good tips for me, especially in front of the net. So I try to take everything out of it. I don’t know what’s the best tip, there’s so many good things at this camp. I really appreciate the information I got here.

On the practical side, how do these players make use of all this information in just a week? Donskoi makes some notes, and then incorporates it into his routine. He will go back to Finland on Saturday and practice what he has learned during the two months before training camp starts. He should bear watching in the season to come.

One additional and late-breaking piece of news came shortly before the prospect scrimmage began: the retirement of veteran Sharks beat writer David Pollak of the Mercury News. Mark Emmons is also leaving the Mercury News, but for another position and not retirement. Pollak will be missed in Sharks Territory. In his farewell blog entry, he promises to write again. May he do so soon and often.

Curtis Pashelka, who split time with Pollak last season, will carry on as the Sharks writer for the Mercury News.

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