A New Breed of Sharks Are Swimming in the Tank These Days 

A New Breed of Sharks Are Swimming in the Tank These Days

Matthew Adamski for SBS

The NHL off-season is now over and Sharks' training camp is underway. Training camp gives veterans and young players the chance to prepare for the upcoming season. The veterans spend most of training camp conditioning their bodies for the long, grueling marathon ahead or recuperating from injuries incurred the year before. They also offer some advice to inexperienced players.

Some teams' rosters are stacked with young veterans such as the Sharks. Patrick Marleau, Marco Sturm, Mike Rathje, Scott Hannan, Brad Stuart, Mark Smith, Scott Parker, and Alex Korolyuk are players on the Sharks that fit the description of young veterans. These players are in their 20s, but have been in the league for at least a few years.

Scott Parker, a left wing acquired from the Colorado Avalanche during the off-season, is getting familiar with his new teammates during the camp sessions. He will fill the role of enforcer on the team with the ability to occasionally contribute on offense.

Mark Smith, another center, added ten pounds to his five-foot ten-inch frame and increased his strength. The extra pounds and muscle should make it more difficult for defenseman to knock him off his skates.

Center Mike Ricci and winger Scott Thornton are coming back from injuries. It will be interesting to see who will be named the captain this season now that former captain Owen Nolan is gone.

I think Mike Ricci would be the right person for that designation because he has excellent leadership skills and is the ultimate team player that will do anything to help his team win. He is respected by his teammates and fans, plays hard every night, and is not afraid to sacrifice his body to make plays.

Plus, he is a solid two-way player. Last season Ricci was a runner up to the Selke Trophy, an award given to the best defensive forward.

Thornton and Reech have played together on the same line in many games over the last couple years. It wouldn't surprise me to see them paired again on the second line for stretches of games this season.

The oldest veteran on the team is center Vincent Damphousse, who is over 30. I expect him to be the assistant captain once again. I also expect Sturm, Marleau, and Damphousse to start the season on the first line because they are the team's best offensive players.

While the veterans are a lock to make the Sharks' starting lineup, the players with limited experience must compete with other players and win a spot on the roster.

Besides competing for a job, training camp gives these young players time to learn the offensive and defensive systems of their team and get a basic idea of how hockey is played in the NHL.

This year Sharks' training camp will be noticeably different than the previous camp coached by Darryl Sutter. Ron Wilson will be running his first training camp as a member of the Sharks organization.

The Sharks have a few open spots available that will most likely be filled with a few promising players with minimal or no NHL experience. This was the not so last season. Only one or two were available then.

Miroslav Zalesak, Niko Dimitrakos, Lynn Loyns have the best chance to make the team because they played in a bunch of games for the team last season and made a positive impression on the coaches.

Forward Nils Ekman, Jon DiSalvatore, Milan Michalek, Brad Boyes, Marcel Goc, and Steve Bernier are top rookie prospects that will also be considered. The Sharks also have a few prospects on defense including Matt Carkner, Jesse Fibiger, Rob Davison, Christian Ehrhoff, and Robert Mulick.

Another significant difference from last camp is that all of the Sharks' players are signed to contracts and ready to train for the season. This was not the case last season when key players such as goalie Evgeni Nabokov and defenseman Brad Stuart did not sign until after the season. As a result, they missed valuable practice time at training camp and a portion of the season.

Nabokov did not play at his best and it cost the team greatly. It is expected that with a full training camp under his belt, he will return to his all pro form of two seasons ago.

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