HAT TRICK OF SHARKS QUESTIONS
The Sharks thought that 2012 first-round pick Tomas Hertl belonged in the NHL at 19 and his three goals and one assist in three exhibition games showed he could fit in. Then with training camp injuries to Raffi Torres and Adam Burish creating unexpected openings, rookies Matt Nieto, 20, and Freddie Hamilton, 21, rose to the occasion.
Nieto and Hamilton earned their spots, but Coach Todd McLellan also made it clear more experienced players in the system such as John McCarthy or Bracken Kearns are only a phone call away.
"We can't keep everybody," Coach Todd McLellan said this week. "But the leash isn't going to be very long because I think there are some guys that can play down there."
Nieto and Hamilton already knew that, of course.
"I think I've proven I can play a this level," Hamilton said Monday, "but we'll see what happens based on bodies and that. You've got to keep working hard and whatever happens, it's going to happen."
A year ago, San Jose fixed a badly broken penalty kill. The glaring problem going forward now appears be an offense that cannot score at even strength as only two teams notched fewer than the 78 goals mustered by the Sharks in last year's abbreviated season..
"We've got to take that area up," McLellan said. "Your power play is essential. It can put you over the top, but your five-on-five play has to get better."
Lack of even-strength goals left the Sharks 24th overall in scoring last season and also proved costly in the playoffs.
"Realistically, we've got to get more offense out of our group," McLellan said during the summer.
Step one in the Sharks turnaround last spring was McLellan's decision to move the all-star defenseman back to the position Brent Burns played in junior hockey.
Suddenly the Sharks had themselves a monster right wing, a power forward who scored 20 points in the final 24 games.
Burns seems to be going at full speed every shift, whether it's a training camp scrimmage or the playoffs.
According to McLellan, it's a combination of personality and position that makes the 6-foot-5, 225 pound Burns a good fit at forward these days.
"When you're a defenseman, you have a tendency to take it a little bit more," the coach said. "When you're a forward, you have a tendency to deliver it a little bit more. I think he's enjoying the delivery part right now."
And nobody seemed inclined to slow him down, figuratively or literally, in camp.