Photo credit: @SanJoseSharks
By Jerry Feitelberg
The San Jose Sharks lost to the Anaheim Ducks 4-3 to open the preseason slate of the 2019-20 campaign at home Tuesday night, but they did get some intel on a couple camp battles. Darkhorse candidates for open forward spots Jonny Brodzinski and Joachim Blichfeld both scored for the Sharks, while potential midseason call-up Ryan Merkley had a pair of assists. Fresh off inking a new deal to take himself out of restricted free agency, Timo Meier picked up right where he left off last season, putting the puck in the net as well.
Aaron Dell, the incumbent to the backup goalie gig 11 saves on 12 shots, leaving the game up 2-1 after just over 30 minutes of play. Josef Korenar made 10 saves, but gave up three goals in the Ducks’ come-from-behind win. Max Jones had the game-winner and added an assist for Anaheim.
San Jose’s primary goal in the exhibition slate is to determine which forwards who either weren’t on the roster or saw limited time in 2018-19 will replace Joe Pavelski’s production. The previous Sharks captain departed San Jose in the offseason after 761 points over 13 seasons with San Jose. With openings on almost every line, Team Teal is expecting it to be a committee to replace Pavelski’s production.
With that being the case, Brodzinski and Blichfeld each flashed a skill from Pavelski’s toolbox Tuesday night. Brodzinski’s goal to take a 2-0 lead 10:47 into the game came on the power play, with the 26-year-old deflecting a puck past Ducks goalie Ryan Miller in the crease, number 8’s old spot on the Sharks man advantage. Brodzinski boasts 54 games of NHL experience over 4 seasons and seemed destined to start the year with the Barracuda in the AHL, but a willingness to go to the dirty areas may help him find a spot on the Shark’s fourth line.
For Blichfeld, the WHL’s leading point-getter last season, the contribution is a laser-like wrist shot. He showed it in beating Ducks goalie Anthony Stolarz to tie the game at 3 2:55 into the third period. The 21-year-old is a pure scorer who could do damage on Joe Thornton’s wing if he breaks camp with the team, but handicappers have him below other prospects like Sasha Chemlevski and Ivan Chekhovich who have yet to make their preseason debuts. If Blichfeld can fill the net like he did in junior, scoring 53 goals for the Portland Winterhawks last season, he can help San Jose replace Pavelski’s 355 career goals.
Dell looked good heading into the 2nd period holding a 2-0 lead, but Devin Shore beat him 5:53 into the second to cut San Jose’s lead in half 2-1. After Dell came out, Nicolas Deslauriers and Adam Henrique each scored on Korenar to take a 3-2 lead heading into the third. After Blichfeld’s tying goal, Jones beat Korenar on the power play 6:43 to finish the game.
Dell is expected to be Martin Jones’ backup, but his down 18-19 campaign and cap hit will have him feeling the heat to excel in training camp this year. The crowded crease will also be an issue for the Sharks who will need to find competitive opportunities for five goalies. Jones is expected to be the starter at the NHL level, while Dell, Korenar and Antoine Bibeau are all in on the backup spot, with Dell getting the edge on experienced. San Jose also signed Andrew Shortrigde out of Quinnipiac last season, and would probably be best served developing at a level higher than the ECHL this season leaving five goalies for four spots. This will be a spot to watch as the preseason unfolds.