Editor's Note: This week, NBC Sports California will highlight five different Sharks prospects to watch heading into the 2019-20 season. Some have a chance to make the NHL roster as soon as this year, while others face critical years in their development. We conclude with winger Ivan Chekhovich.
For the second straight year, Sharks prospect Ivan Chekhovich earned a look with the AHL's San Jose Barracuda late in the season.
The 20-year-old left winger tied for second in the notoriously high-scoring QMJHL with 105 points (43 goals, 62 assists), and joined the Barracuda once more for their playoff push. While he wasn't as prolific as his first stint with the Barracuda, he showed he belonged at the professional level and scored seven points (three goals, four assists) in nine regular-season and playoff games.
Chekhovich missed out on representing Russia at the IIHF World Junior Championship after injuring his back lifting weights but had about as strong of a season as he could have asked for to close out his junior career. He caught the eye of Barracuda coach Roy Sommer at the team's prospect development camp earlier this month and has the skill to push for an NHL roster spot in training camp. Here's what to expect from Chekhovich this season.
Draft year, position: 2017, seventh round (No. 212 overall)
Position: Left wing
Weight: 180 pounds
2018-19 team: Baie-Comeau Drakkar (QMJHL)/San Jose Barracuda (AHL)
Chekhovich is a strong skater who is very creative on offense. He is a good passer and boasts a strong shot, with the hands to deke and dangle around defenders. That package has added plenty of plays to his highlight reel.
#HighlightOfTheNight | Part time magician, part time hockey hockey player.@SanJoseSharks prospect @Chekhovich_Ivan is back at it again, scoring for the @DrakkardeBaieCo from an impossible angle! #QMJHL50 pic.twitter.com/Js47p29tll— QMJHL (@QMJHL) March 9, 2019
He is perhaps a tad undersized at 5-foot-10 and could stand to bulk up a bit as he transitions to professional hockey. But, he does a strong stick that he uses to hound opponents on the forecheck. Chekhovich fits the mold of a winger who can succeed in a league increasingly relying upon players with skill and skating ability.
Training-camp proving ground
Earlier this summer, Sharks general manager Doug Wilson mentioned Chekhovich among a list of candidates who will have a shot to make the team out of training camp. Joe Pavelski, Joonas Donskoi and Gustav Nyquist are gone, and San Jose could use some skill among its top nine forwards, and the winger should get a long look.
But he'll face some competition in that regard. Joachim Blichfeld, who was the highest-scoring Sharks prospect with 114 points in the WHL last season, and free-agent signing Jonny Brodzinski likely will be in the mix, and centers Dylan Gambrell and Sasha Chmelevski can play on the wing. Considering how much the Sharks lost up front, though, he wouldn't have to beat out each of them to earn a spot.
As one of the Sharks' final cuts at training camp, Chekhovich immediately emerges as one of the Barracuda's best players. He earns an NHL call-up by the end of October and works his way up DeBoer's lineup.
By the turn of the calendar, Chekhovich grabs a spot on either Logan Couture or Tomas Hertl's wing and stays there for the remainder of the season. Once the playoffs roll around, Chekhovich gives the Sharks much-needed depth and emerges as an x-factor.
Chekhovich makes the Sharks out of training camp but is sent down to the AHL after playing fewer than 10 games. His confidence takes a hit and his previous AHL scoring record -- he scored on six of his 27 shots (22.2 percent) in 19 AHL games over the last two years -- feels like a distant memory after some ill-timed regression to the mean.
Although Chekhovich finds his footing by the end of his first full professional season, he doesn't do so quickly enough to get much more of a look from the Sharks throughout the year. He becomes an important player for the Barracuda, but there are questions about his long-term NHL potential.
The Sharks surely will have to experiment throughout the season in order to replace their departing forwards, and Chekhovich should be among the forwards who get a look. He has the ability to hang around and the potential to do more than that if he proves to be a fit alongside Couture, Hertl or even veteran center Joe Thornton on a skilled third line.
Chekhovich's first professional certainly wouldn't be a disappointment if he ends it in the AHL, but the Sharks will feel much better about their forward depth if he can hang on with the big club.