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SAN JOSE -- The Sharks will open the coming NHL season a lot younger than they closed the last one.

Rosters were set at noon Monday, and San Jose will have three forwards playing in their first NHL game when the season begins at home Thursday night against the Vancouver Canucks.

Nineteen-year-old Tomas Hertl, the team's first-round pick in the 2012 draft, is set to become the youngest San Jose starter since Marc-Edouard Vlasic in 2006. Hertl, who turns 20 on Nov. 12, had been expected to make the team and ended up on a top line with Joe Thornton and Brent Burns.

But training-camp injuries to Raffi Torres and Adam Burish also created openings that have been filled by Matt Nieto, 20, and Freddie Hamilton, 21, both of whom leapfrogged over older prospects.

San Jose Sharks Tomas Hertl (48) skates against Vancouver Canucks in the third period at SAP Center in San Jose, Calif.,  Sept. 24, 2013.
San Jose Sharks Tomas Hertl (48) skates against Vancouver Canucks in the third period at SAP Center in San Jose, Calif., Sept. 24, 2013. (Josie Lepe, Bay Area News Group)

"This just continues on with our resetting of our reorganization on the fly," McLellan said. "The youth and the speed that some of them bring fits our identity."

Nieto played 11 games with Worcester last spring after three seasons at Boston University.

"You know, I've always thought about it as a kid, and it's finally here," said Nieto, who grew up in Long Beach before leaving California at age 14 to develop his game. "It's crazy to see my dreams finally become a reality."

Hamilton had 26 points in 71 games with Worcester last season, after three seasons with the Niagara Ice Dogs of the OHL. He recognized his new spot may not be permanent.


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"I think I've proven I can play at this level, but we'll see what happens based on bodies and all that," Hamilton said. "We'll see what happens. I could be going down and going up right away. You've just got to work hard and keep focused any chance you get."

In the backup goalie competition, McLellan gave Alex Stalock, 26, the nod, and Harri Sateri, 23, was reassigned to Worcester.

"Alex kind of fits our game plan a little bit with the ability to move the puck and help our d-men get it out of their end," McLellan said, "so that's what kept him here for now."

For more on the Sharks, see David Pollak's Working the Corners blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/sharks. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/PollakOnSharks.

SEASON OPENER

Thursday: Vancouver at Sharks,
7 p.m. CSNCA