Sharks mailbag: Ryan Merkley’s season outlook, and a projected opening night lineup

The San Jose Sharks open their 13-day training camp today in Scottsdale, Arizona. Twenty-three forwards, 13 defensemen and four goalies will be split up into two groups of 20 players each.
Although most spots on the Sharks’ 23-man roster are spoken for, there should be some interesting competitions, which we’ll do our best to keep track of — remotely — as the camp progresses.
We’re going to be answering reader questions during camp through a series of mailbags, usually three or four at a time. If you don’t see your question answered right away, be patient, and we’ll get to it a day or two later. You can email me at cpashelka@bayareanewsgroup.com or tweet at me at @CurtisPashelka.
Here’s the first reader mailbag of training camp.
Do you think that Dylan Gambrell and Ryan Merkley are ready to be regulars in the Sharks lineup? Especially Gambrell. He’s 24. (@cduarte92831).
If the Sharks remain healthy, Dylan Gambrell’s going to have some competition this season if he wants to be in the lineup on a regular basis, particularly as a centerman. The Sharks already have depth players like Joel Kellman, Noah Gregor, Stefan Noesen, Matt Nieto and Marcus Sorensen, not to mention others like Fredrik Handemark and Antti Suomela.
Gambrell is an asset in that he can take right side draws, but he’s going to have to show he can be more of an offensive threat after he had 11 points in 50 games last season. Perhaps he can also make a bid for more ice time by showing he can be an effective penalty killer. But no doubt, this is a big year for Gambrell, who will be a restricted free agent at the end of the season and could be exposed by the Sharks in the expansion draft.

Like our Sharks Facebook page for more San Jose Sharks news, commentary and conversation.

As for Merkley, I think a lot of people are intrigued by what he can bring. Bob Boughner has said he’s going to dress the top 20 players each night regardless of experience. But unless Merkley knocks everyone’s socks off at camp, in my opinion, the best course of action would be to have him spend time in the AHL, playing 15-20 minutes a game and getting more pro experience before you put him against NHL competition. But if he’s one of the Sharks’ six best defensemen, we’ll see him with the team.
How do you see projected line-up for the season opener? (@Kuba_Wagner).
Let’s take a pre-training camp stab at what the Sharks’ opening night lineup will be Jan. 14 vs. the Arizona Coyotes if everyone stays healthy. We’ll see how close I came at that point.
FORWARDS
Evander Kane-Logan Couture-Timo Meier
Ryan Donato-Tomas Hertl-Kevin Labanc
Patrick Marleau-Joel Kellman-Noah Gregor
Marcus Sorensen-Fredrik Handemark-Stefan Noesen
DEFENSEMEN
Marc Edouard Vlasic-Erik Karlsson
Radim Simek-Brent Burns
Mario Ferraro-Jake Middleton
GOALIES
Martin Jones
Devan Dubnyk
With $2.3 million in cap space and a short season, does (general manager Doug Wilson) add now and, if so, what is the biggest need? (@ltr94556).
I don’t think Wilson wants to add to his roster right now. My guess is he’ll wait to see how the season unfolds before he decides whether to be a buyer or a seller at the deadline.
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The biggest need I see is to add more depth on defense. The Sharks played 12 defensemen last season and that was pre-pandemic. Who knows how many defensemen they’ll need in a 56-game season? But the Sharks might have to dig fairly deep into their farm system if a handful of players are unfit to play.

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