SAN JOSE – It was a tad delayed, but Sharks first round draft pick Mirco Mueller made his first on-ice appearance at training camp on Sunday. The 18th overall selection at the 2013 draft, the lanky, six-foot-three defenseman was recovering from a minor back injury incurred during the Young Stars tournament in Penticton, British Columbia.
Sunday’s skate is one that he’s going to remember for a long, long time.
“Pretty special. It was my first practice with the pros,” Mueller said. “The first thing I noticed is they practice really hard and really fast. It was a really high pace today.”
He’s not kidding. The Sharks’ coaching staff ratcheted up the intensity on the fourth day of camp, with various battle drills that left most of the players hunched over and catching their breath when it was through.
How did the 18-year-old keep up?
“I thought Mirco was fine,” Todd McLellan said. “For him, the big test was to get over his injury from the prospect camp tournament. For him to be thrown in without having the other three days, I thought he did an admirable job.”
Although he hadn’t been able to practice, Mueller has been in all of the off-ice video instruction meetings with the rest of the 54-player roster. He’ll now try and apply what he’s learned in practice, and potentially some preseason games, if management decides to keep him around after first cuts are expected next week.
McLellan said: “As a young player, you can’t afford to miss time. You want to be healthy, and the good thing about him is he’s been attentive and involved in the meetings and video sessions. He’s at least got the instruction, but the ability to apply it is real important. You want to stay healthy and stay on your toes as a young player.”
Comparisons have been made between Mueller and current Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic. Mueller was asked if there was anyone in the current dressing room that he models his game after, and if the Vlasic comparison was a fair one.
“Vlasic plays a pretty simple game, and really effective,” he said. “He’s good offensively, too. He’s really someone I look up to, and I want to learn from him.”
It’s an extreme long shot that Mueller will make the Sharks out of camp, of course. The Sharks returned their entire defense corps from 2013, and other players like Matt Tennyson, Taylor Doherty and Rob Davison are also potential NHL options.
Still, the Swiss native would at least like to make a good impression before heading back to his WHL club in Everett, Washington.
“I just want to play my best hockey,” he said. “The rest is up to management and the coaches. I’ll just do my best, and see what happens.”
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McLellan has a tentative roster in mind for Monday’s preseason opener in Vancouver, including goaltenders Alex Stalock and Harri Sateri, battling for the backup job. The majority of the team will be young players, although there is a league requirement that the Sharks dress at least eight NHL veterans.
The Sharks will fly to Vancouver on Monday afternoon, so the players taking part in the game will have their pregame skate at Sharks Ice at 10 a.m.
McLellan indicated some roster cuts would be made at some point between the end of Monday’s game and Friday’s home preseason game against Anaheim. The Sharks have a scheduled off-day on Tuesday.
“We looked at these four days as kind of the meat of training camp – the instruction, the reminders. Now, as we go play our first game tomorrow, we’ll come back after that game and begin to make some decisions based on what we’ve seen at the meat of training camp and what we see in Vancouver,” said the head coach.
“We have to get down to a workable number, we can’t stay at 50-some for a very long time. Unfortunately for some, that will happen quicker than others.”