SAN JOSE – Just one preseason game is in the books, but Tommy Wingels is off to a decent start in what is a critical training camp when it comes to his future with the San Jose Sharks.
Wingels scored a dirty goal in front of the net with less than 23 seconds to go in regulation and the goalie pulled for an extra attacker on Tuesday night, allowing Kevin Labanc to end the game in overtime in a 3-2 Sharks win. He played 17:44 in all, with two shot attempts and, as is customary for him, a team-high five hits.
"I thought he played with some confidence. He had some chances," Pete DeBoer said after the game. "It's one game for everybody, but there were some good things. Now, you've got to build on that."
This time last year, it was expected that Wingels might be able to take the next step in his career and build off his two previous seasons. It didn't happen. In 68 games he finished with just 18 points (7g, 11a), exactly half of what he had 2014-15 in 75 games.
Wingels saw his ice time decline throughout the second half of the year, and even found himself a healthy scratch late in the season and again for a portion of the team's playoff run.
"It could have been a lot better, and it starts with me and not producing and playing the way I want to play," Wingels said on Tuesday morning.
"But it's a new year, and with a new year comes a new opportunity to show that you can be better. That's something I'll try to do here and help this team as much as I can."
It will be a challenge for Wingels to keep his spot in the lineup with no many young players knocking on the door. Mikkel Boedker's addition pushes some players down the line, and if Timo Meier makes the club, at least one of last season's regulars will undoubtedly have have to go.
Although there are parts of Wingels' game that are admirable, such as his physicality and his ability to draw penalties, other bubble players like Matt Nieto and Melker Karlsson could be move valuable due to their speed. That's something the Sharks have talked about improving for this season.
Wingels is no dummy, of course, as one of the more cerebral players on the team. He knows what's on the line.
"I think each guy comes in here with the expectation to be at their best and to re-prove himself every year," he said. "There's turnover each and every year, young players coming up trying to make the team. This year is no different."
With two weeks to go before the season opener, DeBoer will be keeping an eye on the 28-year-old that's trying to rebound.
"He's always in great shape, he's great around the room, he's a great teammate," DeBoer said. "He's got a lot of good things he brings to the rink, and things that we need in our lineup. We're all keeping an open mind and hoping he fits and runs with it here."