The San Jose Sharks 2018-19 season was one we’ve seen before, as the team rolled through the regular season with a 46-27-9 record. The Sharks seem poised to shake their label of regular season specialists as they made quick work of Vegas and Colorado in the first two rounds of the playoffs. Just when we all thought it might finally be their year, the wheels fell off in the Western Conference finals. San Jose was sent packing in six games by the eventual cup champs, the St. Louis Blues.
While the core of their team remains intact, the Sharks got noticeably thinner on forward this off-season. They opted to let their captain, Joe Pavelski, walk in free agency, along with Joonas Donskoi and Gustav Nyquist. San Jose will be reliant on players within the organization to fill these voids as they made no major acquisitions in the off-season. Their most impactful moments were signing Timo Meier to a four-year contract, as well as Kevin Labanc and Joe Thornton to a pair of one-year contracts.
They may not be as deep as they were last season, but this should still be one of the more productive offences in the NHL. Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl are expected to centre the top two lines while Thornton anchors line three. With Pavelski, Donskoi, and Nyquist all gone, Meier, Labanc, and Evander Kane should all play major roles in the Sharks’ offence in 2019-20. Depth is a concern, but they still project to have one of the better top-sixes in the league.
Timo Meier (LW/RW)
- — The Swiss superstar took a major step forward in 2018-19, potting 30 goals along with 36 assists in 78 games as a 22-year-old. He did all that while playing just 16:58 a game, a number that’s destined to rise following the departure of Pavelski. Meier takes over as the Sharks’ most talented and productive winger and should finally see time on the team’s top power-play unit. Just 10 of Meier’s 66 points last season came on the man advantage. Look for Meier to continue to make strides in 2019-20.
Logan Couture (C)
- — Couture scored 27 times and added 43 assists for a career-high 70 points in 81 games last season. He established himself as the clear-cut number-one centre on this roster, a trend that will continue into 2019-20. Couture should continue to see big minutes in all situations for San Jose and, given some of the key players they lost upfront, I wouldn’t be surprised to see his usage rise again this season. Last year’s 11.0 on-ice SH% suggests some slight regression is coming, but if healthy, Couture is still a safe bet for 65 points.
Tomas Hertl (C/LW)
- — Hertl went off for a remarkable 35 goals and 39 assists last season, shattering his previous career-highs. Hertl was fortunate enough to enjoy a 19.9 SH% and a 12.3 on-ice SH%, making him one of the more obvious regression candidates in the league this season. A repeat of last year’s performance seems unrealistic, but Hertl has all the tools, usage, and opportunity of a starting fantasy forward. Still, his current ADP of 76.2 is a little bit too steep of a price for me. I would expect him to finish in the neighbourhood of a 30-30 season.
Evander Kane (LW)
- — His assist totals will always be underwhelming, but his consistent shot volume makes Kane a perennial 30-goal threat on this Sharks team. Kane scored 30 times to go with 26 assists in 75 games last season. Like Meier, Kane’s production should benefit from the departures of Pavelski and Nyquist. You can expect him to take on a larger role at 5v5 as well as on the man advantage. With no real red flags in his underlying numbers, I love Kane’s chances of getting back to 30 goals in 2019-20.
Kevin Labanc (LW/RW)
- — Having always produced well in more limited roles, Labanc is an interesting sleeper target in fantasy this season. He racked up 56 points in 82 games last year despite an ATOI of 14:01. His SH% and on-ice SH% were both within reason, suggesting Labanc could easily build upon last year’s totals with an uptick in usage. He should be a key member of the Sharks’ top-six this season and could compete for time on the top power-play unit as well. Labanc proved to be an effective puck-mover on the man advantage last season, registering 18 power-play assists. He offers great value at his current ADP of 157.3.
The strength of the San Jose Sharks in 2019-20 will continue to be their defence. Erik Karlsson and Brent Burns are far and away the top fantasy blue-liners heading into the season. They are the simultaneous backbone of both the team’s offence and defence, combining for just under 50 minutes a game in ice time. Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Brenden Dillon round out the top-four as the defensively-minded counterparts to Burns and Karlsson. Radim Simek and Jacob Middleton are the leading candidates to skate on the Sharks’ heavily sheltered third pair.
Brent Burns (D)
- — Burns answered all of the critics who raised questions about Karlsson eating into his production last season. The 15-year vet scored 16 goals and added a whopping 67 assists for a career-high 83 points in 2018-19. His incredible shot volume from the back end makes him the most reliable defenseman in fantasy, deserved of being the first blue-liner off the board. Throw in the fact that Burns hasn’t missed a game since 2014, and he becomes one of the safest investments you could make on draft day.
Erik Karlsson (D)
- — Injuries limited Karlsson’s production in his first season with San Jose, but he was impressive, nonetheless. He registered just 3 goals but added 42 assists in 53 games last season. The dip in goal production was due solely to a drop in SH%, something that should correct itself in 2019-20. Karlsson shot just 1.8% last season, well below his career mark of 6.4%. Karlsson and his teammate Burns are in a tier of their own as far as fantasy defensemen are concerned. Assuming he can stay healthy, I’d bank on getting at least 70 points from EK in 2019-20.
The Sharks’ riskiest move of the off-season was one they didn’t make, as the team opted to move forward with its goaltending tandem of Martin Jones and Aaron Dell. Jones remains the unquestioned starter despite struggling mightily all last season. He posted a dreadful .896 SV% in 62 appearances, followed by a .898 SV% in 20 playoff games. San Jose would have done better to address the most obvious weakness on their team. Instead, they’re all in on a bounce-back campaign from the 29-year-old Jones.
Martin Jones (G)
- — Despite all his struggles last season, Jones received enough goal support to remain a starting fantasy netminder. While his splits were ugly, he still managed a 36-19-5 record. He doesn’t need to be elite for his team to have success, he just needs to be mediocre. A return in 2019-20 to anywhere near his career .912 SV% would do wonders for both his fantasy and real-life success. With Dell posing no real threat to his ice time, I’d be more than comfortable selecting Jones at his current ADP of 85.4.
Projected Scoring Leaders
|T. Meier (34)||E. Karlsson (59)||B. Burns (76)||T. Hertl (9)||B. Burns (28)|
|L. Couture (31)||B. Burns (55)||E. Karlsson (74)||T. Meier (8)||E. Karlsson (28)|
|T. Hertl (30)||K. Labanc (37)||T. Meier (68)||L. Couture (8)||L. Couture (20)|
Sharks in the DFO Top 300
- 15 — Brent Burns (D)
- 25 — Erik Karlsson (D)
- 46 — Timo Meier (LW/RW)
- 66 — Logan Couture (C)
- 77 — Tomas Hertl (C/LW)
- 80 — Martin Jones (G)
- 123 — Evander Kane (LW)
- 211 — Kevin Labanc (LW/RW)
|2||CALGARY FLAMES||44-29-9||97 PTS|
|3||SAN JOSE SHARKS||42-30-10||94 PTS|
|4||ARIZONA COYOTES||39-32-11||89 PTS|
|5||EDMONTON OILERS||39-34-9||87 PTS|
|7||ANAHEIM DUCKS||36-36-10||82 PTS|
|8||LOS ANGELES KINGS||33-42-7||73 PTS|
Make no mistake about it, this is a talented team that could very well compete for Lord Stanley’s Cup come June, but their stagnant off-season makes it hard to imagine them finishing atop the Pacific Division. We have the Sharks projected to finish 3rd in the division but still well clear of the playoff bubble. San Jose was successful despite their goaltending last season, so they could easily outpace this projection with a bounce-back campaign from Jones.