Sharks' Roster Projection One Week Before 2018-19 NHL Season Begins

A week from now, the Sharks will host the Anaheim Ducks at SAP Center, icing a roster that's a bit different than the one that swept the Ducks in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs five months ago.

Joe Thornton's healthy after his second knee surgery in as many years. Defenseman Joakim Ryan is a lock for a top-six spot after sitting out every playoff game against Anaheim.  

Oh, and somebody named Erik Karlsson will suit up, too.

In all, five players that didn't see the ice in the series clincher could play for San Jose on Oct. 3. What will the Sharks look like on opening night? Here's our best guess a week ahead of the season opener.

Goaltenders

Martin Jones

Aaron Dell

Analysis: This doesn't require much explanation.

Jones enters the first of a six-year, $34.5 million contract extension, and started more games in the last three seasons with San Jose (190) than every goalie in the NHL other than Cam Talbot (193).  Dell, meanwhile, signed a two-year, $3.8 million extension of his own in February, leaving the 29-year-old firmly entrenched as Jones' backup.

Defensemen

Marc-Edouard Vlasic-Erik Karlsson

Joakim Ryan-Brent Burns

Brenden Dillon-Justin Braun

Radim Simek-Tim Heed

Analysis: This top six is identical to the one we envisioned in the aftermath of the Karlsson trade, and all signs point to these pairings on opening night. Karlsson's primarily skated with Marc-Edouard Vlasic since arriving in camp a week ago, and the other two pairings played together in Saturday's preseason game against the Vegas Golden Knights -- the only preseason game so far where a majority of the top six defensemen suited up.

Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer has said at camp that the team feels they have eight, NHL defensemen. This projection reflects that belief, as well as the roster-building reality: Radim Simek and Tim Heed would need to be waived in order to get sent down to the AHL's San Jose Barracuda. Their contracts -- Simek makes $675,000 against the salary cap and Heed $650,000 -- would be easy to digest for a team scouring the waiver wire, and the Sharks wouldn't get any assets in return.

Forwards

Evander Kane-Joe Thornton-Joe Pavelski

Tomas Hertl-Logan Couture-Timo Meier

Joonas Donskoi-Antti Suomela-Kevin Labanc

Marcus Sorensen-Barclay Goodrow-Melker Karlsson

Rourke Chartier

Analysis: If you're wondering what purpose the preseason serves, consider the following: The Sharks' top two lines have already played more, five-on-five minutes together this preseason (14:39 for the first, 10:49 for the second) than the entirety of the previous regular season. That's a natural byproduct of having Evander Kane and Joe Thornton in the lineup at the same time, but Tomas Hertl, Logan Couture, and Timo Meier played all of 75 seconds together last season. Building chemistry is arguably most important for possible third-line center Antti Suomela, as the Finnish rookie looks to adjust to the North American game.

There's also the possibility players can win jobs. DeBoer's said that the full body of work matters most, but strong preseason performances can open eyes. Center Rourke Chartier seems to have done that, as he's scored five points in four preseason games. That mark is second only to Barclay Goodrow, whose solid play as a fourth-line center last season strengthens his case to start the season in that spot.

Chartier's emergence leaves rookie forward Dylan Gambrell as the odd man out in this projection. It may not be an open-and-shut case, as Gambrell's been a better possession player than Chartier so far, but Gambrell's not been as productive offensively and he carries a higher cap hit. He's waivers exempt, unlike Heed and Simek, so the Sharks can send him to the Barracuda to start the year and not worry about losing him.

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