Editor's note: This article is part of an ongoing series in which Sharks insider Kevin Kurz will highlight a different Sharks player every weekday leading up to the start of training camp.
Name/Position: Melker Karlsson, F
Salary cap hit: $1.65 million, pending RFA
2015-16 year in review: In 65 games, Melker Karlsson finished the regular season with 19 points (10g, 9a) and a plus-5 rating. It was a disappointing year for the player that was named as the club’s rookie of the year in 2014-15, when he posted more points (24) in fewer games (53).
In Karlsson’s defense, the forward missed all of training camp and the start of the NHL regular season with an undisclosed injury. He didn’t make his season debut until Nov. 10, and after a quick start in which he posted four points in five games on the top line, had just one goal in his next 17 and never really got going after that. Karlsson spent much of the second half of the year on the fourth line when everyone was healthy.
Karlsson’s playoff was about on par with his regular season, with eight points (5g, 3a) in 24 games. He was one of a few players that skated in Tomas Hertl’s vacated spot on the top line when Hertl suffered a right knee injury in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final.
2016-17 outlook: Like a few of his teammates, Karlsson will really have to fight to keep his place in the active lineup during training camp. There are a few young players knocking on the door, and Karlsson could vulnerable after his slight step backwards.
Still, it’s hard to know just how much that preseason injury last year adversely affected his season. It’s difficult sometimes for a player to catch up after missing all of camp – especially under a new head coach – and last season was still just Karlsson’s second in the NHL.
Karlsson still possesses decent speed and tenacity to score those dirty goals that put him on the map in his rookie year, but on the current Sharks roster there doesn’t seem to be any room for him on a scoring line. Expect Karlsson to compete with guys like Matt Nieto, Tommy Wingels, Barclay Goodrow and Marcus Sorensen for a place in the opening night lineup.