Here is a potential look at what the 2014-15 Sharks lineup could look like:
2014-15 SHARKS FANTASY PREVIEW
Logan Couture --
Couture is the only player to eclipse 23-plus goals, a plus-20 rating or better and 200-plus shots on goal in 65 or fewer games played last season. He was tied for eighth among forwards with 68 blocked shots despite missing time with a hand injury. Joe Thornton
is the No. 1 center, but Couture is a threat to post 30-plus goals, 60-plus points, 20-plus power-play points, a strong rating, and close to 300 shots on the second line with Patrick Marleau
and Matt Nieto
if he stays healthy.
Brent Burns --
Owners who drafted Burns in Yahoo leagues last season were able to reap the benefits of a defenseman-eligible fantasy player who played right wing next to Thornton, the League's second-best assist man. But the Sharks are moving Burns back to the blue line, which will make it difficult for him to match his career highs in goals (22), points (48) and shots (245) from last season. He has plenty of experience on D and will see a spike in power-play and overall ice time with the change, but expect the wear and tear of anchoring the back end in the tough Western Conference to limit his offensive production. Hold off on drafting him until the 11th or 12th round depending on how quickly defensemen go off the board.
Alex Stalock --
Goalie Antti Niemi
, fresh off the worst postseason of his career, is in a contract year; his backup, Stalock, has been extended for two seasons. Niemi has been among the League's top 10 in regular-season wins in each of his four years with the Sharks, indicating he has a chance to bounce back. But they will give Stalock a chance to win the job if Niemi struggles, making Stalock a potential late-round steal. The 27-year-old ranked third in goals-against average (1.87) and save percentage (.932) among goalies with a minimum of 20 games in 2013-14. Niemi is a borderline top-10 fantasy goalie entering the season, but his owners absolutely must handcuff Stalock in late rounds as a safety net.
-- Follow Pete Jensen on Twitter: @NHLJensen
Tomas Hertl - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski
Matt Nieto - Logan Couture - Patrick Marleau
Tommy Wingels - James Sheppard - Freddie Hamilton
Mike Brown - Andrew Desjardins - Tyler Kennedy
John Scott - Tye McGinn
Joe Pavelski's place is the biggest puzzle piece. He played a lot of left wing on the top line last season with Thornton and Burns, and he also centered the third line. Burns has been moved back to defense, and if Hertl ends up on the top line then Pavelski could slide to the right side.
The Sharks might be better with Pavelski at center, especially against deep teams like the Kings. But without Burns, lack of depth on the wings might prevent that.
Raffi Torres is expected to miss a significant chunk of the season after knee surgery, so the Sharks are short another forward. Tyler Kennedy was buried on the depth chart by the end of last season but could be back in a regular role. Freddie Hamilton is the one young player up front after Hertl and Nieto who could be in for a big step forward.
Wilson and coach Todd McLellan also hinted there could be changes in playing time, so basing anything off the end of last season could be completely wrong.
Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Jason Demers
Justin Braun - Brent Burns
Scott Hannan - Matt Irwin
Marc-Edouard Vlasic is no longer one of the most underrated players in the League. After playing well for Canada at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, and with more acceptance of analytics in the sport, Vlasic now is considered one of the top defensemen in the NHL.
With Boyle gone, Burns will be expected to log a lot of minutes. Jason Demers and Justin Braun are solid, but a little step forward by either of them would help. Scott Hannan was brought back and could see a more regular role with Stuart gone.
Matt Irwin stepped in when Vlasic was hurt during the San Jose playoff collapse. Irwin, Matt Tennyson and maybe top prospect Mirco Mueller could be battling for the final two spots in the group.
Antti Niemi had a great start to the 2013-14 but slowly unraveled. Alex Stalock saw more playing time near the end of the regular season and then earned a start in Game 6 against Los Angeles after Niemi had been pulled in consecutive games.
Stalock had nice numbers in a small sample last season but never really was great at lower levels. Niemi has a proven track record, but will the Sharks trust him after how last season ended?
It is possible there will be an even split of ice time early in 2014-15 with the hope that someone takes control of the starting job.
ALSO IN THE MIX: F Micheal Haley, F Travis Oleksuk, D Mirco Mueller, D Taylor Fedun, G Troy Grosenick
Author: Corey Masisak | NHL.com Staff Writer