The fantasy season is upon us. Another year of tears of joy and heartbreak.
To help you along, here’s your fantasy outlook for the San Jose Sharks:
Last season: 32-37-13, 6th Pacific, 22nd overall. GF: 30th, GA: 21st, PP: 22nd, PK: 2nd
As Harvey Dent once said, “the night is darkest just before the dawn.” For the third straight season the Sharks missed the playoffs following an appearance in the conference finals in 2019, but at least now there’s clarity – they know it’s time to invest in youth. The 2021-22 season started well enough with the Sharks finishing 12-9-1 after the first two months of the season, but it was deep into the depths from there, going 15-23-12 (.420 P%) in calendar 2022. Their offense wasn’t deep enough, their defense was getting too old and too broken to keep up, and their goaltending was not a strong suit. Oddly enough, their goaltending was a big reason why their PK was good; James Reimer ranked second in the league in GSAA on the PK, according to naturalstattrick.com, trailing only Igor Shesterkin. (I also wouldn’t bet on that happening again).
On the bright side, 25-year-old Timo Meier (more below) emerged as an elite scoring winger last season and he’s in a contract year. Tomas Hertl is sticking around long term and Mario Ferraro was an excellent find, and the team is finally getting younger. According to Elite Prospects, the Sharks had one of the youngest rosters in the league with an average age of 26.48, sixth-lowest in the league. When they made the Finals three years ago, they were the second-oldest at 28.32. We all have an idea of who’s next on the chopping block, and how the Sharks’ players fare in the 2022-23 fantasy season will depend on how competitive they are and who they get back when they inevitably trade anyone basically over 30.
Best fantasy option: Timo Meier, LW/RW
Following his first 30-goal season, Meier had two subpar seasons, scoring 34 goals with a minus-29 rating. He had been knocking on the door to be among the league’s best young players, but along with the Sharks’ foibles, saw his play tail off. Amidst a roster and culture change, Meier emerged as a force in fantasy, leading the Sharks in scoring for the second time, finishing 27th in the league in goals (35) and third in shots (326). He became a high-volume shooting monster overnight averaging 4.23 shots per game, increasing his output above his career average by nearly 50 percent. Meier’s shooting percentage suggests he’s a below-average finisher, but the Sharks really don’t have anyone to turn to, meaning Meier’s going to get the bulk of the chances. He also added a career-high 162 hits, giving him good value in banger leagues as well. Tomas Hertl and Logan Couture are both valuable fantasy players, but neither have the same upside on offense as Meier.
Hidden gem: William Eklund, LW
You could say Erik Karlsson, whose fantasy value is getting discounted so much that he might be undervalued and underrated. Remember, without Brent Burns, Karlsson’s really their only option when it comes to generating offense from their blue line. Alexander Barabanov looked really good in a top-six role after leaving a more stacked Leafs lineup, but he still doesn’t shoot very often and his offensive upside is probably capped around 40-50 points. That kind of production can easily be found on the waiver wire in most standard leagues.
If that’s the high watermark, there’s more value in targeting Eklund, the Sharks’ top prospect who is expected to make the roster and projects to be a first-line scoring winger. There’s a lot of potential because not only could Eklund outscore Barabanov, he’s got long-term value in keeper leagues. The Sharks haven’t always done a good job of developing prospects but Eklund is a can’t-miss. There’s plenty of minutes to be earned, making Eklund a worthy late-round draft pick. He’ll also be a popular Calder Trophy pick.
Trading Adin Hill means the Sharks have resolved their logjam by committing to Reimer and Kaapo Kahkonen. Expect Reimer to start as the incumbent from last season, and despite a leaky defense actually had one of the best seasons of his career with a winning record on a bad team and a respectable .911 Sv%. The 34-year-old is a UFA at the end of the season and there’s some motivation to earn possibly his last contract or become attractive trade bait for a Cup contender looking to shore up their goaltending.
However, I have a sneaky suspicious that Kahkonen might end up stealing the show. Acquired from the Wild to relieve their logjam, he’s much younger and signed for one more year, which means he’s going to get a good look to see if he can be their starter next season. Outplaying Reimer shouldn’t be too difficult, and it’s likely the Sharks will end up in a 50/50 timeshare. Kahkonen should be a popular pickup off the waiver wire for streaming starts in games where the Sharks are competitive.
Meier is a must-draft in the early rounds. He’s projected to score 72 points for the Sharks to lead the team in scoring for the second straight season, but after Meier the talent drops off a cliff. Tomas Hertl is a mid-round pick, Logan Couture will likely go a few rounds later, but the rest of the roster will unlikely to get picked. Barabanov, Kevin Labanc and Luke Kunin will be short-term fillers for fantasy managers juggling multiple injured players, but little beyond that.