San Jose Sharks: Five players to follow at the ‘Rookie Faceoff’

SAN JOSE — Development camp last month was nice. So was the prospects scrimmage at SAP Center.

But for several of the Sharks’ top prospects, everything is about to get turned up a notch, starting with the upcoming “Rookie Faceoff” tournament in Arizona.

The Sharks are sending 18 forwards, eight defensemen, and two goalies to the event, which begins Friday and sees each of the six participating teams play three times over four days.

San Jose’s team will face Anaheim on Friday at 5 p.m., Vegas on Sunday at 2 p.m., and Colorado on Monday at 9 a.m., with all of its games in Scottsdale. Then they’ll immediately come back to San Jose for the start of the Sharks’ main training camp on Tuesday.

The vast majority of the Sharks players competing in Arizona will wind up back in junior hockey or be with the Barracuda by early October. But a handful will have an outside chance to crack the Sharks’ roster out of training camp and be with the team opening night Oct. 16 at home against the Winnipeg Jets.

Here are the Sharks’ five most intriguing players competing in the rookie tournament.

SCOTT REEDY, Forward – After completing his senior season with the Minnesota Golden Gophers, Reedy joined the Barracuda on an amateur tryout in the spring and had eight points in 17 regular-season games. At 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds, Reedy already possesses an NHL-caliber frame. But he caught everyone’s attention with his work in the faceoff circle, his puck possession, and overall two-way game.

“You can see the progress he’s made,” Sharks assistant general manager Tim Burke said of Reedy in May when the Barracuda played in the AHL Pacific Division playoffs. “He’s showing us the other role potentials (he has). We’re not that surprised because of the year he had (at Minnesota), and he is very strong. But it’s good to see.”

Reedy should challenge for a spot on the Sharks roster as a depth forward in camp, but could probably use some more time in the AHL to fully round out his game.

WILLIAM EKLUND, Forward – This is when it starts to get interesting, and fun, for Eklund, the seventh-overall pick in this year’s draft. Will he stay in North America past this month or head back home to Sweden for another year? That question will start to get answered now, as the Sharks will get to see Eklund in a competitive environment against other teams on a smaller ice surface.

The Sharks also have to think long-term, too, as far as what’s in the best interest of the player. We just heard Carolina Hurricanes forward Jesperi Kotkaniemi discuss — in less than flattering terms – the way the Montreal Canadiens handled his development. The Sharks have to be careful with Eklund, who will turn 19 on Oct. 12.

SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA – AUGUST 19: San Jose Sharks’ Jasper Weatherby (52), with Team Ricci, controls the puck against San Jose Sharks’ Theo Jacobsson (68), with Team Marchment, in the first period of the 2021 Sharks Prospects Scrimmage at the SAP Center in San Jose, Calif., on Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group) 

JASPER WEATHERBY, Forward – In April, Weatherby, 23, was expected to return to North Dakota for his senior season with the Fighting Hawks, but those plans changed after the Sharks’ development camp last month. Weatherby, listed at 6-4 and 222 pounds, impressed the Sharks with his offensive skill and his ability in the faceoff circle, and shortly after the camp ended, had a two-year entry-level contract in hand.

Weatherby will reportedly center a line with Eklund and Ozzy Wiesblatt, the Sharks’ two most recent first-round draft picks, during the tournament. That should give him every opportunity to showcase his skillset and provide some momentum going into next week’s main camp. Weatherby, a 2018 draft pick, could challenge for a fourth-line center role with the Sharks, but, like most other players transitioning from the NCAA to the pros, would benefit from some time in the AHL.

SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA – AUGUST 19: San Jose Sharks’ Artemi Kniazev (25), with Team Ricci, celebrates his goal against Team Marchment in the second period of the 2021 Sharks Prospects Scrimmage at the SAP Center in San Jose, Calif., on Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group) 

ARTEMI KNIAZEV, Defenseman – Kniazev, one of the Sharks’ second-round selections in 2019, didn’t get an opportunity to take part in a development or rookie camp last year, but he’s made up for lost time over the last several months. He had a solid tournament for Russia at the 2020 World Junior Championships and had 18 points in 14 games for Chicoutimi of the QMJHL.

Most importantly, Kniazev turned heads at the prospects’ scrimmage at SAP Center, with Sharks’ director of scouting Doug Wilson Jr. saying the 20-year-old defenseman was one of the “top three or four guys on the ice the entire game.” We’ll see what Kniazev can do during the course of the rookie tournament, where he’s bound to get plenty of ice time.

ZACHARY EMOND, Goalie – Emond was added to the Barracuda’s roster for the AHL playoffs in May, but he didn’t get a chance to play. So this tournament is a terrific opportunity for him to show he’s ready to take the next step in his career after four full seasons in the QMJHL.

Emond and Benjamin Gaudreau are the only two goalies the Sharks are bringing to this tournament, so each will see plenty of playing time.

Emond was part of the Sharks’ rookie team that competed in Las Vegas in 2018, just months after he was drafted. Also on that team? A 20-year-old Josef Korenar, who made his NHL debut with the Sharks this past season and is now on the Arizona Coyotes roster after he was acquired from San Jose in the Adin Hill deal.

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Author: Curtis Pashelka