The 2021 San Jose Sharks, playing in the Arizona desert are going to be full of young guns striving to prove themselves. They also will have two goalies in Devin Dubnyk and Martin Jones looking to have bounce-back seasons. Among the young guns are some proven veterans to help guide them along. Those veterans of Thomas Hertl, Timo Meier, Evander Kane, Logan Couture, and Patrick Marleau, are going to need to step up big time if the 2021 San Jose Sharks want to contend. They will also need their veterans on defense to have stellar seasons in order to contend.
2021 San Jose Sharks Young Goaltending
Unlike their California counterpart LA Kings, the 2021 San Jose Sharks may not have that “right on the cusp” young goaltender potentially ready to take the starting role this season. However, Alexi Melnichuk as an undrafted signing has looked good in the KHL but is still a year or two away from potentially taking over a starting role. He is, however, on the taxi squad if need be and should have the makings of a backup already if needed.
Alexi Melnichuk posted a .912 SV% with a 2.68 GAA for the Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod in 14 games this season while on loan. This is after posting a 1.68 GAA and .925 SV% in 16 games for SKA St. Petersburg the season prior. Melnichuck has the potential to be a hell of a find for the Sharks.
The Sharks also have one more youngster in the net. That player is fellow undrafted goalie Josef Korenar. As of now Korenar profiles more as a backup if he can make the jump. In his first season in the AHL with the San Jose Barracuda in 2018-19, he had a .911 SV% with a 2.54 GAA. Korenar then had an AHL sophomore slump in his second season with a.891 SV% with a 3.11 GAA.
Korenar did bounce back big in the Czech league on loan though. For HC Ocelari Trinec in 11 games, he went 8-2. Korenar had a 2.44 GAA with a.905 SV% to go along with that stellar record. If Korenar can showcase himself in the AHL this season, he can put himself in a nice position to be considered a potential future NHL backup. Whether that is with the Sharks or elsewhere.
2021 Sharks Comeback Goalies
As mentioned earlier, the 2021 San Jose Sharks have two NHL netminders looking to forget last season. For Devan Dubnyk, it is about learning a new system led by coach Bob Boughner. Will the former Shark and current coach Evgeni Nabokov be able to help coach Dubnyk back to form? Most likely, yes. This is not only because players have raved of Nabokov’s ways but also because Dubnyk likely just had a down season. With players that are aging, fans look to write them off at times after one bad season. For many, that is not a fair assessment.
This trait carries on to Dubnyk. He did not play well last year but was on an in limbo Wild team. Before last season, Dubnyk put together a steady number for the Wild supplanting him as an NHL Starter. His best season in Minnesota other than 2014-15 when he first came over was 2016-17. in 16-17, Dubnyk had a 2.25 GAA with a.923 SV% while having a good playoff as well in five games. In those five games, he had a 1.86 GAA with a.925 SV%. If Dubnyk can regain even his 2018-19 form of a .913 SV%, the Sharks have potentially a very nice goalie duo.
In order for the Sharks to have that nice goalie duo, they will also need Martin Jones to step back up. Jones looked very poised and collected in game one leading the Sharks to a 4-3 shootout win over the Coyotes. They will need more games out of him like that this year if they look to be a surprise team. It is more likely that if both Dubnyk and Jones step up they will push the Sharks up from being the projected bottom two in the division to being one of the final two out of the playoffs. Stranger things have happened though, so you never know.
Jones has put together a very nice career for himself in San Jose. Being undrafted himself after coming over from the Kings Jones got anointed the starting role in 2015-16. He did not disappoint. For three years from 15-16 until 17-18, he was one of the more consistent goalies in the league. Then in the 2018-19 season, his number started to dip some even though the Sharks still made the playoffs. In those playoffs, Jones struggled with a 3.02 GAA and a .898 SV%. Last season for the whole season his numbers were around the same. If Jones and Dubnyk are both able to bounce back this season then the Sharks should at least be able to be very competitive just missing the playoffs team.
2021 San Jose Sharks Veterans
In order for the 2021 San Jose Sharks to show progress from missing the playoffs last season, they will need their vets to step up. On a team with some late-round youngsters like John Leonard looking to make an impact, they will need veterans there to guide them along. One of those vets is returning player Patrick Marleau. Getting Marleau back makes you even cheer for the Sharks more to make it. That way one of their franchise’s heroes could have one more playoff run in 2021.
The Sharks will also need fellow veteran Logan Couture to have a much bigger impact than last season. In 2019-20, Couture just did not look the same out there only producing 39 points in 52 games. The Sharks will need him to step back up this season to make an impact. For him, the projection to shoot for would be 30-35 or more points in a 56 game season. That is a very reasonable task. Look for Couture to be a comeback player. Fellow center Thomas Hertl just needs to keep doing his thing for the 2021 Sharks. There is no reason to expect he won’t. He is likely the team’s points leader by season’s end.
Then there is Evander Kane who needs to continue his scoring ways for the Sharks. He put together a solid season last year of 26 goals and 21 assists. He will look to continue to grow on that this season as he enters his third full season as a shark. Fellow veteran Timo Meier who is coming into his fifth season is looking to really make a mark. Meier went off for 66 points in 2018-19 in 78 games. That is the output pro-rated to a 56 game season the Sharks will be looking for. Not his lesser season of last year at 49 points in 70 games.
The Sharks will also need the defensive vets in Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Brent Burns, and a fully healthy Erik Karlsson to step up. Look for Karlsson to really re-supplant himself as one of the league’s more lethal D-men this season. If he does so this will give the Sharks a more ample chance to move from outside looking into a playoff team. Then for Vlasic and Burns, they are proven vets who just need to keep showing they got quite some juice left in the tank.
2021 San Jose Sharks Rookie to Watch
Although they might not have the booming prospects like the 2021 Kings, the Sharks have scouted some nice late-round and undrafted talent over the years. One of those late-round talents is the 2018 sixth-round pick, John Leonard, out of UMass. Leonard is a good skater with a very good shot and sneaky playmaking ability. Leonard has been know to be a bulldog when it comes to working on his game. He showcased his playmaking in game one on two nice assists on the Kane and Hertl goals. This kid showed a steady progression while at Umass and impressed at camp to get a top-six role. Look for him to be a steal of the 2018 draft for the sharks.
2021 San Jose Sharks Roundup
The reasons listed above are why the Sharks should be a fun, growing, competitive team while having a fun rookie to watch. They also could add to that mix of fun rookies if they decide to give top prospect defensemen Ryan Merkley a look. They have one potentially budding starting goaltender in the minors in Melnichuk and maybe a backup in Korenar.
Led by their veteran core listed above, this 2021 San Jose Sharks team is looking to make the playoffs after a one-year layoff. That layoff was the only time Jones has missed the playoffs as a Shark. It is more likely they will be one of the teams just on the outside looking in but as said earlier stranger things have happened. Either way, the 2021 San Jose Sharks are going to be a fun bunch to watch to see who bounces back and who surprises other than the aforementioned Leonard. So without further ado, let’s go Sharks. It is time to show progress from last season.Embed from Getty Images