SAN JOSE – It was early in the Sharks’ season when an Eastern Conference scout, familiar with Joel Ward’s four years in Washington, told me in a press box: “I [bleeping] love Joel Ward.”
More than three months into the season, his first in San Jose, it’s easy to see why.
Ward is fourth in the Sharks in goals (14) and fifth in points (30), just four points behind his point total in Washington last season when he suited up in all 82 games. On Saturday against Minnesota, his primary assist on the power play to Joonas Donskoi and backhanded goal a few minutes later keyed a 4-3 Sharks win.
After that game, Ward was asked if he was surprised how well things have gone so far.
“Just want to win,” he said. “Everybody here wants to contribute to win hockey games, and I set high goals for myself. Try not to be here for the sake of just being here, but try to contribute as much as I can. I just try to come have fun, work hard as best I can and try to use my ability as best I can.”
Ward, who signed a three-year, $9.825 million contract with the Sharks, has helped in a number of areas.
The 35-year-old has seven power play points, playing a key role in the improving second unit. He’s averaged 1:34 in ice time on the penalty kill, tops among Sharks forwards. He uses his six-foot-one, 226-pound frame on a nightly basis along the wall, often coming away with the puck. He’s been utilized in the faceoff circle, too, winning more draws than he’s lost (156-151).
He’s also on pace for 52 points, which would eclipse his previous career high of 49 set in 2013-14.
"Wardo for me, the goals are a bonus,” Pete DeBoer said. “It's the intangibles he brings everywhere else. When you take faceoffs and kill penalties and play on the power play, win a lot of board battles…he's a big body. The goals are a bonus. They're nice and they're needed, but that's not how I measure his game.”