Marc-Edouard Vlasic

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2019 NHL Draft tracker: Rounds 2-7

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The first round of the 2019 NHL draft was a quiet one in terms of transactions, with only one trade being made (The Arizona Coyotes moving up from 14 to 11 in a trade with the Philadelphia Flyers). With six rounds go to on Day 2 there is sure to be more activity. While top picks Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko will dominate the headlines in this year’s class, there are still some potential impact players available when Round 2 begins on Saturday.

Here are some of the best players available at the start of the second round.

Following along with our 2019 NHL draft tracker for all of the picks.

Here are some of the top stories from Round 1 of the draft.

Round 2

32. Ottawa Senators — Shane Pinto, forward, Tri-City Storm
33. Los Angeles Kings — Arthur Kaliyev, forward, Hamilton Bulldogs

This looks like a potentially great pick for the Kings. Kaliyev was a potential first-round talent that scored 51 goals this past season as a 17-year-old in the OHL.

34. Philadelphia Flyers (from New Jersey — From Nashville) — Bobby Brink, forward, USHL

Skating concerns dropped him down the draft.

35. Detroit Red Wings — Antti Tuomisto, defender, Finland
36. Carolina Hurricanes (from Buffalo) — Pyotr Kochetkov, goalie, Russia
37. Ottawa Senators (from New York Rangers — from Carolina) — Mads Sogaard, goalie, Medicine Hat Tigers

38. Edmonton Oilers — Raphael Lavoie, forward, Halifax Mooseheads

Lavoie was expected to go higher than this, but falls to the Oilers in the second round.

39. Anaheim Ducks — Jackson Lacombe, defender, Shattuck St. Mary’s.
40. Vancouver Canucks — Nils Hoglander, forward, Sweden
41. Vegas Golden Knights (from Philadelphia — From San Jose) — Kaedan Korczak, defense, Kelowna Rockets
42. Minnesota Wild — Vladislav Firstov, forward, Waterloo Black Hawks
43. Chicago Blackhawks — Alex Vlasic, defender, USHL

He is the cousin of San Jose Sharks defender Marc-Edouard Vlasic.

44. Carolina Hurricanes (from Florida — From San Jose — From Ottawa) — Jameison Rees, forward, Sarnia Sting
45. Nashville Predators (from Arizona Coyotes — From Philadelphia Flyers) — Egor Afanasyev, forward, Muskegon Lumberjacks
46. Montreal Canadiens — Jayden Struble, defender, St. Sebastiens School
47. Colorado Avalanche — Drew Helleson, defender, U.S. National Development team
48. San Jose Sharks (From Vegas) — Artemi Kniazev, defender, Chicoutimi Saguenéens
49. NY Rangers (from Dallas) — Matthew Robertson, defender, Edmonton Oil Kings
50. Los Angeles Kings (from Columbus — from Vegas — From Montreal) — Samuel Fagemo, forward, Sweden
51. Winnipeg Jets — Simon Lundmark, defender, Sweden
52. Florida Panthers (from Pittsburgh) — Vladislav Kolyachonok, defender, Flint Firebirds
53. Toronto Maple Leafs — Nic Robertson, forward, Peterborough Petes

This is the Maple Leafs’ first pick of the 2019 NHL draft.

54. Detroit Red Wings (from New York Islanders — From Vegas) — Robert Mastrosimone, forward, USHL
55. San Jose Sharks (from Nashville — from New Jersey) — Dillon Hamaliuk, forward, Seattle Thunderbirds
56. Washington Capitals — Brett Leason, forward, Prince Albert Raiders
57. New York Islanders (from Calgary) — Samuel Bolduc, defender, Blainville-Boisbriand Armada
58. New York Rangers (from Tampa Bay) — Karl Henriksson, forward, Sweden
59. Minnesota Wild (from Carolina) — Hunter Jones, goalie, Peterborough Petes
60. Detroit Red Wings (from San Jose) — Albert Johansson, defender, Sweden
61. New Jersey Devils (from Boston) — Nikita Okhotyuk, defender, Ottawa 67s
62. St. Louis Blues — Nikita Alexandrov, forward, Charlottetown Islanders

Round 3

63. Colorado (from OTT) — Matthew Steinburg, forward, St. Andrews College
64. Montreal (from LAK) — Mattias Norlinder, defenseman, MODO Hockey
65. Nashville Predators (from New Jersey Devils — From Edmonton Oilers — From Philadelphia Flyers) — Alexander Campbell, forward, Victoria Grizzlies
66. Detroit — Albin Grewe, forward, Djurgårdens IF
67. Buffalo (conditional to PIT) — Erik Portillo, goalie, 
68. NY Rangers — Zachary Jones, defenseman, UMass (Amherst)
69. Florida (from EDM) — John Ludvig, defensemen, Portland Winterhawks
70. New Jersey (from ANA) — Danil Misyul, defenseman, Loko Yaroslavl
71. Tampa Bay Lightning (from VAN) — Hugo Alnefelt, goalie, HV71 J20
72. Philadelphia — Ronald Attard, defensemen, Tri-City Storm

Player of the year in the USHL in 2018-19, had 30 goals, 34 assists in 48 games.

73. Carolina Hurricanes (from MIN) — Patrik Puistola, forward, Tappara
74. Pittsburgh (from ARI — from CHI) — Nathan Legare, forward, Baie-Comeau Drakkar

Scored 45 goals in 68 games in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League last season.

75. Minnesota (from NSH — from FLA) — Adam Beckman, forward, Spokane Chiefs
76. Arizona — John Farinacci, forward, Dexter School
77. Montreal — Gianni Fairbrother, defenseman, Evertt Silvertips
78. Colorado — Alex Beaucage, forward, Rouyn-Noranda Huskies
79. Vegas — Pavel Dorofeyev, forward, Stalnye Lisy Magnitogorsk
80. New Jersey (from DAL) —  Graeme Clarke, forward, Ottawa 67s

81. Florida (from CBJ) —  Cole Schwindt, forward, Mississauga Steelheads
82. New Jersey (from WPG — VKG — SJS — NSH) —  Michael Vukojevic, defenseman, Kitchener Rangers
83. Carolina Hurricanes (from Pittsburgh- From Vegas — From Ottawa) — Anttoni Honka, defenseman, Mikkelin Jukurit

Brother of Julius Honka of the Dallas Stars

84. Toronto — Mikko Kokkonen, defenseman, Mikkelin Jukurit
85. Edmonton (from NYI) — Ilya Konovalov, goalie, Yaroslavl
86. Vegas (from NSH) — Layton Ahac, defenseman, Prince George Cougars
87. Los Angeles (from WSH) — Lukas Parik, goalie, Liberec Jr. 
88. Calgary — Ilya Nikolaev, forward, Yaroslavl 2
89. Tampa Bay — Maxim Cajkovic, forward, Saint John Sea Dogs
90. Carolina — Domenick Fensore, defenseman, U.S. National Development team

The 11th player selected from the USNTDP in 2019

91. Washington (from SJS — NSH — NJD) — Aliaksei Protas, forward, Prince Albert Raiders
92. Boston — Quinn Olson, forward, Okotoks Oilers
93. St. Louis — Colten Ellis, goalie, Rimouski Oceanic

Round 4

94. Ottawa Senators — Viktor Lodin, forward, Sweden
95. Los Angeles Kings — Jordan Spence, defender, Moncton Wildcats
96. New Jersey Devils — Tyce Thompson, forward, Providence College
97. Detroit Red Wings — Ethan Phillips, forward, Sioux Fall Stampade
98. Arizona Coyotes (from Pittsburgh) — Matias Macceli, forward, Dubuque Fighting Saints 
99. Carolina Hurricanes (from New York Rangers — Boston Bruins — Minnesota Wild) — Cade Webber, defender, USHL
100. Edmonton Oilers — Matej Blummel, forward, Waterloo Blackhawks
101. Anaheim Ducks — Henry Thurn, defender, USHL
102. Buffalo Sabres (from Vancouver) — Aaron Huglen, forward, Fargo Force
103. Philadelphia Flyers — Mason Millman, defender, Saginaw Spirit
104. Columbus Blue Jackets — Eric Hjorth, defender, Sweden
105. Chicago Blackhawks — Michal Teply, forward, Czech Republic
106. Florida Panthers — Carter Berger, defender, Victoria Grizzlies
107. Arizona Coyotes — Alexandr Darin, forward
108. San Jose Sharks (from Montreal) — Yegor Spiridonov, forward, Russia
109. Nashville Predators (from Colorado) — Marc Del Gaizo, defender, UMASS
110. Vegas Golden Knights — Ryder Donovan, forward, USHL
111. Dallas Stars — Samuel Sjolund, defender, Sweden
112. New York Rangers (from Columbus) — Hunter Skinner, defender, USHL
113. Winnipeg Jets — Henrik Nikkanen, forward, Finland
114. Columbus Blue Jackets (from Pittsburgh — From Florida) — Dmitri Voronkov, Russia 
115. Toronto Maple Leafs — Mikhail Abramov, forward, Victoriaville Tigers
116. Calgary Flames (from New York Islanders) — Lucas Feuk, forward, Sweden
117. Nashville Predators — Semyon Chystyakov, defender, Russia
118. New Jersey Devils (from Washington) — Case McCarthy, defender, US National Development Team 
119. Los Angeles Kings (from Calgary – Montreal) — Kim Nousianien, defender, Finland
120. Tampa Bay Lightning — Maxwell Crozier, defender, Sioux Falls Stampede
121. Carolina Hurricanes — Tuukka Tieksola, forward, Finland
122. Vancouver Canucks — Ethan Keppen, forward, Flint Firebirds
123. Chicago Blackhawks (from Boston) — Antti Saarela, forward, Finland
124. Toronto Maple Leafs (from St. Louis) — Nicolas Abruzzse, forward, USHL

Round 5

125. Ottawa — Mark Kastelic, forward, Calgary Hitmen
126. Montreal (from LAK) — Jacob Leguerrier, defensemen, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
127. New Jersey — Cole Brady, goalie, Janesville Jets
128. Detroit — Cooper Moore, defenseman, Brunswick Prep
129. New Jersey (from BUF-DET-WSH) — Arseny Gritsyuk, forward, OMSK 2
130. NY Rangers — Leevi Aaltonen, forward, Kalpa Jr. 
131. Montreal (from EDM) — Rhett Pitlick, forward, Chaska
132. Anaheim — Trevor Janicke, forward, Central Illinois 
133. Vancouver — Carson Focht, forward, Calgary Hitmen
134. Winnipeg (from PHI) — Harrison Blaisdell, forward, Chilliwack
135. Vegas (from MIN) — Isaiah Saville, goalie, Tri-City Storm
136. Florida (from CHI — MTL) — Henrik Rybinski, forward, Seattle Thunderbirds
137. Florida — Owen Lindmark, forward, US National Development Team 
138. Montreal (from ARI-CHI-LAK) — Frederik Nissen Dichow, goalie, Vojens
139. Vegas (from MTL) — Marcus Kallionkieli, forward, Sioux City Musketeers
140. Colorado — Sasha Mutala, forward, Tri-City Americans
141. Vegas — Mason Primeau, forward, North Bay Battalion
142. Dallas — Nicholas Porco, forward, Saginaw Spirit
143. Buffalo (from CBJ — DET) — Filip Cederqvist, forward, Vaxjo
144. Winnipeg — Logan Neaton, goalie, Prince George
145. Pittsburgh (from CHI) — Judd Caulfield, forward, US National Development Team 
146. Toronto — Michael Koster, defenseman, Chaska
147. NY Islanders — Reece Newkirk, forward, Portland Winterhawks
148. Nashville — Ethan Haider, goalie, MN Magicians
149. Minnesota (from WSH-MTL) — Matvey Guskov, forward, London Knights
150. Calgary — Joshua Nodler, forward, Fargo Force
151. Arizona (from TBL — CHI) –Aku Raty, forward, Karpat Jr. 
152. Carolina — Kirill Slepets, forward, Yaroslavl 2
153. Washington (from SJS) — Martin Has, defenseman, Tappara Jr. 
154. Boston — Roman Bychkov, defenseman, Yaroslavl 2
155. St. Louis — Keean Washkurak, forward, Mississauga Steelheads

Round 6

156. Vancouver Canucks (from Ottawa) — Arturs Silov, goalie, Latvia 
157. Los Angeles Kings — Braden Doyle, defender, USHL
158. New Jersey Devils — Patrick Moynihan, forward, USHL
159. Detroit Red Wings — Elmer Soderblom, forward, Sweden
160. Buffalo Sabres — Lukas Rousek, forward, Czech Republic
161. New York Rangers — Adam Edstrom, forward, Sweden
162. Edmonton Oilers — Tomas Mazura, forward, Kimball Union Academy
163. Anaheim Ducks — William Francis, defender, USHL
164. San Jose Sharks (from Vancouver) — Timur Ibragimov, forward, Russia
165. Philadelphia Flyers — Egor Serdyuk, forward, Victoriaville Tigers
166. Minnesota Wild — Marshall Warren, defender, US National Development Team 
167. Chicago Blackhawks — Dominic Basse, goalie, Selects Hockey Academy
168. Florida Panthers — Greg Meireles, forward, Kitchener Rangers
169. Philadelphia Flyers (from Arizona) — Roddy Ross, goalie, Camrose Kodiaks
170. Montreal Canadiens — Arsen Khisamutdinov, forward, Russia
171. Colorado Avalanche — Luka Burzan, forward, Brandon Wheat Kings
172. Minnesota Wild (from Vegas) — Nikita Nestrerenko, forward
173. Dallas Stars — Benjamin Brinkman, defender, University of Minnesota
174. Arizona  Coyotes (from Columbus) — Daniel Savunov, forward,
175. Vancouver Canucks (from Winnipeg – From Buffalo) — Karel Plasek, forward, Czech Republic
176. Arizona Coyotes (from Pittsburgh) — Anthony Romano, center, Sioux Fall Stampede
177. Detroit Red Wings (from Toronto – Detroit) Gustav Berglund, defender, Sweden
178. New York Islanders — Felix Bibeau, forward, Rouyn-Noranda Huskies 
179. Nashville Predators — Isak Walther, forward, Sweden
180. Vancouver Canucks (from Washington) — Jack Malone, forwards, Youngstown Phantoms
181. Carolina Hurricanes (from Calgary) — Kevin Wall, forward, Chilliwack Chiefs
182. Tampa Bay Lightning — Quinn Schmiemann, defender, Kamloops Blazers
183. Carolina Hurricanes — Blake Murray, forward, Sudbury Wolves
184. San Jose Sharks — Santeri Hatakka, defender, Finland
185. Boston Bruins — Matias Mantykivi, center, Finland
186. Anaheim Ducks — Mathew Hill, forward, Barrie Colts 

Round 7

187. Ottawa — Maxence Guenette, defenseman, Val-d’Or Foreurs
188. Los Angeles — Andre Lee, forward, Sioux Falls Stampede
189. New Jersey — Nikola Pasic, forward, Linkoping Jr. 
190. Detroit — Kirill Tyutyayev, forward, Yekaterinburg 2
191. Detroit (from BUF) — Carter Gylander, forward, Sherwood Park
192. Boston (from NYR) — Jake Schmaltz, forward, Chicago Steel
193. Edmonton — Maxim Denezhkin, forward, Yaroslavl 2
194. Chicago (from ANA) — Cole Moberg, defenseman, Prince George Cougars
195. Vancouver — Aidan Mcdonough, forward, Cedar Rapids Roughriders
196. Philadelphia — Bryce Brodzinski, forward, Blaine
197. Minnesota — Filip Lindberg. goalie, UMass
198. Tampa Bay (from CHI) — Mikhail Shalagin, forward, Spartak 2
199. Florida — Matthew Wedman, forward, Seattle Thunderbirds
200. Arizona — Axel Bergkvist, defenseman, Leksand Jr. 
201. Montreal (from MTL — PHI) — Rafael Harvey-Pinard, forward, Rouyn-Noranda Huskies
202. Colorado — Trent Miner, goalie, Vancouver Giants
203. Pittsburgh (from VGK) — Valtteri Puustinen, forward, HPK
204. Toronto (from DAL) — Kalle Loponen, defenseman, Hermes
205. NY Rangers (from CBJ) — Eric Ciccolini, forward, Toronto JC
206. Montreal (from WPG) — Kieran Ruscheinski, defenseman, Calgary Northstars Midget AAA
207. Arizona (from PIT) — Valentin Nussbaumer, forward, Shawinigan Cataractes
208. St. Louis (from TOR) — Vadim Zherenko, goalie, Dynamo Moscow 2
209. NY Islanders — Cole Coskey, forward, Saginaw Spirit
210. Nashville — Juuso Parssinen, forward, TPS Jr. 
211. Pittsburgh (from WSH — SJS) — Santeri Airola, defenseman, Saipa Jr. 
212. Columbus (from CGY-OTT) — Tyler Angle, forward, Windsor Spitfire
213. Tampa Bay — Mckade Webster, forward, Green Bay Gamblers
214. Calgary (from CAR) — Dustin Wolf, goalie, Everett Silvertips
215. Vancouver (from SJS) — Arvid Costmar, forward, Linkoping Jr.
216. Carolina (from BOS-NYR) — Massimo Rizzo, forward, Penticton
217. St. Louis — Jeremy Michel, forward, Val-d’Or Foreurs

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Karlsson gets eight-year extension from Sharks

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The most coveted pending free agent defenseman won’t be making it to the dance.

TSN’s Bob McKenzie reported Monday that “all signs” point to two-time Norris winner Erik Karlsson re-signing with the Sharks, the only team that can offer the talented 29-year-old Swede an eight-year deal.

Not long after, fellow TSN insider Pierre LeBrun reported that the deal was done.

And then official announcement came from the team.

“We are extremely pleased that Erik and his wife Melinda have committed to the San Jose Sharks and that they have done so prior to July 1,” said Sharks general manager Doug Wilson in a statement. “Players with Erik’s elite level of talent are rare and when they become available, it’s important to be aggressive in pursuing them. He is a difference maker who consistently makes the players around him better. We are pleased that he has been proactive in addressing his injury from last season and are looking forward to him being part of our organization for a long time to come.

The Sharks wouldn’t disclose the terms of the deal, but according to McKenzie it’s in the $11.5 million per year range, making the total worth of the contract around $92 million. — in the realm of the $88 million Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty got last year.

The deal is the largest in Sharks’ history, besting both Brent Burns‘ and Logan Couture‘s eight-year, $64 million extensions.

The deal keeps Karlsson from hitting the open market, of course, on July 1. It also makes sure he doesn’t hit the courting period, which begins on June 23. The Sharks were the only team that could offer Karlsson the max eight years.

“I’m super excited to continue my journey with the Sharks,” said Karlsson. “Since my first day here, I have only good things to say about the people, organization and the fans. The entire Bay Area has been extremely welcoming to me and my family. I appreciate that and we can’t wait to spend the next eight years in San Jose.

“As far as hockey goes, I’m excited to continue the chase for the ultimate prize: the Stanley Cup. Last year was an unbelievable run but we didn’t achieve what we set out to do. But the dedication I witnessed from my teammates, coaches, staff and organization showed me that we all have a great future ahead of us, and that we are capable of fighting for that championship year in and year out.”

San Jose’s gain is a big loss to a few other teams that were in contention, including the Philadelphia Flyers, New York Rangers, Montreal Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning, among others reported — perhaps even a stunning return to Ottawa, as reported earlier this month.

[MORE: Sharks set to sweat salary cap after Karlsson extension]

Karlsson was traded to the Sharks last summer by the Senators, the team that drafted him 15th overall in 2008 and one he put on his back in 2017 as the Sens marched to the Eastern Conference Final before losing in overtime in Game 7 to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

At the time, the move appeared to provide the Sharks with a defensive core to die for.

Karlsson joined Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and other solid pieces that were supposed to carry the Sharks deep into the playoffs.

“It’s extremely rare that players of this caliber become available,” Wilson said at the time of the trade. “The word ‘elite’ is often thrown around casually but Erik’s skillset and abilities fit that description like few other players in today’s game. With Erik, Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic, we feel we have three of the NHL’s top defencemen and stand as a better team today than we were yesterday.”

Karlsson started slow with the Sharks but regained his stride along the way, finishing with 45 points in 53 games. But it’s that game total that was a big issue throughout the year.

Karlsson dealt with multiple groin injuries right up until the Sharks were eliminated by the St. Louis Blues in the Western Conference Final. Karlsson had to watch the decisive Game 6 in that series from the press box as the nagging problem.

It’s not the ideal season, but the Sharks appear fine with gambling on that groin after Karlsson had surgery on it earlier this month.

It will be interesting to see how the Sharks navigate the salary cap after the Karlsson deal. It appears someone will have to go from the UFA pack of Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski, Joonas Donskoi and Gustav Nyquist. Thornton and Pavelski would command the most in terms of dollars (perhaps there’s room for one-year, low-salary, bonus-laden contracts for both.

The Sharks also have Timo Meier and Kevin Labanc, both restricted free agents in a need of a raise.

Meanwhile, attention for a top-pairing defenseman should now shift to Winnipeg Jets rearguard Jacob Trouba.

Trouba’s a restricted free agent but is likely to be dealt at some point this week or at the 2019 NHL Draft this coming weekend. A 50-point d-man last year, Trouba is a solid top-pairing defenseman that can play in all phases of the game.

The issue with Trouba at the moment is that any team willing to pay Winnipeg’s price tag needs to be darn certain they can extend him.

A small piece of consolation in Ottawa: The Senators will gain San Jose’s 2021 second-round selection because of the extension for Karlsson.

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Karlsson’s health will dictate Sharks’ chances

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If you are a San Jose Sharks fan the current situation might seem a little bleak.

Your team was just dominated on home ice on Sunday afternoon and is heading on the road, facing elimination in the Western Conference Final, and needing to win the next two games to continue its Stanley Cup pursuit.

The odds, it would seem, are stacked against you.

If you are looking for something to be optimistic about it should be the fact Sharks have already been in a worse position this postseason and managed to overcome it. In Round 1 they trailed the Vegas Golden Knights 3-1 in the series, needed to win three games in a row, and then found themselves with a three-goal deficit in the third period of Game 7 after crawling back to tie the series. Sure, they needed one of the biggest breaks in Stanley Cup playoff history to complete the comeback, but they still found a way to do it and take advantage of the opportunity that presented itself.

There is one very big difference this time around that might hold them back, and it is the health of top defender Erik Karlsson.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Karlsson is one of the many Sharks players that exited Sunday’s game due to injury, logging just 10 minutes of ice-time in the team’s 5-0 loss as he continues to deal with a nagging groin injury that has limited him all season. Head coach Peter DeBoer refused to offer any update on his status (as well as the status of injured forwards Tomas Hertl and Joe Pavelski) or if he would travel with the team.

His health is going to be a major determining factor in what happens for the Sharks over the next two games.

The Sharks acquired Karlsson from the Ottawa Senators just before the start of the 2018-19 season with the hope that he would be the missing piece on a Stanley Cup contender. When he is healthy and at his best, he is one of the best players in the world and on an elite tier of superstars. He is a difference-maker, and when the Sharks have had him at anything close to full health this season he has played like it.

Putting him on a defense that already has Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic gives the Sharks one of the best defensive groups in the league.

When the Sharks overcame their Round 1 deficit against the Golden Knights, Karlsson was a huge factor in that result.

He played more than 92 minutes (more than 40 percent of the total ice-time in those games), had four assists (tops on the team), and was on the ice for nine of the 12 goals the Sharks scored in their Games 5, 6, and 7 wins. Only two other players on the team (Hertl and Logan Couture) were on the ice for more than six goals in those three games. He had at least two points in every game the Sharks won in that Round 1 series. He was at the center of everything and one of the biggest reasons they came back to win.

Unfortunately for the Sharks, the groin injury has resurfaced and he has been obviously limited over the past few games. Not only in terms of his lack of ice time and early exit in Game 5 (as well as the extended stretch in Game 4 where he did not see the ice), but just in watching him play. He is clearly not where he — or the Sharks — want him to be from a health standpoint.

That is going to be a problem because even if he does play in Game 6, there is no guarantee that he is going to make the kind of impact we are used to seeing from him.

The Sharks have overcome the absence of key players in these playoffs, whether it was Joe Thornton‘s suspension in Round 1 or the Pavelski injury that sidelined him for all but one game in their Round 2 series against the Colorado Avalanche. But for as good and important as those players are, having to replace a player like Karlsson is an entirely different animal.

The Sharks have other forwards that can step up and impact a game if they lose a player like Pavelski, or Hertl, or Thornton.

But a No. 1 defender does so much more on the ice given the minutes they play, the number of times they touch the puck, and the way they can control the pace of the game and where it is played. Everything starts with the blue line, and you need those players on the back end that can move the puck out of the defensive zone and through the neutral zone. When he is healthy, there is nobody in the NHL that is better at that than Karlsson. It is not just his point production that makes him a superstar and a top-tier player — it is the way he can essentially be a one-man breakout coming out of the defensive zone and skate the puck out of danger when there are no passing options available.

There is nobody else stepping into his spot and doing that.

Yes, they still have a Norris Trophy winner (and a finalist for the award this season) in Brent Burns on the roster, but having Burns and Karlsson is what makes the Sharks such a fierce team to contend with.

Take one of them out of the lineup, or at least limit their ability to make an impact, and there is a major drop in how the team performs.

We have seen that over the past two games with Karlsson.

If the Sharks are going to come back in another series there may not be a bigger determining factor than Karlsson’s health and what he is able to do. It is going to require a significant turnaround from what we have seen over the past two games.

MORE: Stanley Cup Final 2019 schedule, TV info

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Luck finally on Sharks’ side in Stanley Cup pursuit

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There are four key factors that all need to be working in near perfect harmony for a team to win the Stanley Cup.

First and foremost, the team needs to have talent. A lot of talent. Nobody is going to make the playoffs and then successfully get through four best-of-seven series against other playoff teams without impact players at the top of the lineup and plenty of depth to go around them.

Going hand in hand with that is the fact that talent needs to be playing well at the right time of year. It needs to be “the hot team” come playoff time. Even the very best teams are prone to a four-or-five game stretch in a season where things simply do not click for them. If you hit one of those slumps in April or May a strong regular season is going to quickly be forgotten (just ask Tampa Bay, Washington, or Pittsburgh this year).

But those two factors can only take a team so far.

It also needs to be healthy and have its key players in the lineup. There are very few teams that get through an entire postseason while dealing with a significant injury to a core player the entire time. It’s not necessarily just the best team that is still standing at the end of the playoffs, but rather a very good team that is also extremely healthy.

Then there is the fourth factor, which is often times the most difficult to come by and the one that is most out of a team’s control.

Luck.

Plain old fashioned dumb luck.

Some stupid, unpredictable, random moment that is completely out of your control that just so happens to go your way when you need it most.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Luck can be a nasty four-letter word to mention to sports fans when you are referring to their team because it creates the sense you are invalidating their team’s success.

“Luck? My team wasn’t lucky, you coward… it was GREAT!”

Or something along those lines.

Here is the reality: Your championship team may very well have been great, it certainly deserved to win, but it was also undoubtedly lucky at some point during its championship run. It is not a slight. It is not an insult. It is simply a big part of what sports is, especially hockey where you have 10 people chasing a frozen piece of rubber around a sheet of ice at lightning quick speeds. Sometimes weird stuff happens.

Pick any random championship team and look at its postseason and you will probably find something, somewhere along the way, that flipped a game or a series in its favor that wasn’t necessarily due to the result of its play or talent level.

The thing about “luck” in this context is that it can literally be anything. It can be a fortunate bounce off the glass or boards that sets up a tap-in goal. It can be injury luck (either your team being healthy or your opponent being hurt by an injury). It can be a call that goes a certain team’s way, or a replay review, or something that is entirely out of its control. It can be a random player catching fire at the right time and shooting the lights out for a few weeks, scoring

This all brings us to the 2019 San Jose Sharks who are the most dangerous type of Stanley Cup playoff team. They have great talent and they have a lot of it. Now that Joe Pavelski is back in the lineup after a six-game absence in Round 2 they are mostly healthy. And, yes, they have been incredibly lucky to this point.

“Incredibly lucky” may even be underselling it because they have had a key break go their way in every series they have played against every opponent.

In Round 1 against the Vegas Golden Knights it was the controversial (or, let’s just call it what it was — wrong) call on Cody Eakin that gave them a five-minute power play late in the third period of Game 7 while trailing by three goals. Yes, the Sharks still needed to score three power play goals — something that was far from a given and still statistically unlikely to happen at the beginning of the power play — and yes Vegas still needed to self-destruct, but the reality is that break kept a door open that should have shut, locked and completely secured. That is an element of luck.

In Game 7 of Round 2 against the Colorado Avalanche it was the replay review that negated what would have been a game-tying goal because Gabriel Landeskog took too much time getting off the ice during a line change and was maybe offside. There is a good chance that call was correct, but the fact is that goal wasn’t taken off the board because of anything San Jose did defensively. It was taken off the board because of what was ultimately a meaningless action by a player that had nothing to do with the play itself. That, too, is luck.

Then on Wednesday night in St. Louis they were able to take a 2-1 series lead in the Western Conference Final thanks to an Erik Karlsson overtime goal that was clearly set up by a hand pass that should have negated it and was ultimately not reviewable by the current NHL rule book. You don’t need me to tell you what that should be considered.

If you are not a Sharks fan you can (and should) hate some of those results, and they will no doubt eventually lead to significant changes to the game in future seasons (or at least the possibility of significant changes).

If you are a Sharks fan you shouldn’t run from the fact there is a strong element of luck at play here. And you shouldn’t care because, again, this is sports.

This is also a new development for the Sharks and it’s an important one in their quest for their first-even championship, especially since it almost seems as if two decades worth of bad postseason luck is all being undone in two months. The Sharks have had a lot of outstanding teams over the years, including top-seeded teams, a Presidents’ Trophy team, and teams that should have been very real threats to win the Stanley Cup only to be undone by something come playoff time. Sometimes it was a goaltending meltdown (pretty much any Evgeni Nabokov series), an injury at the wrong time (Marc-Edouard Vlasic in 2014), or just simply not catching a significant break of their own or getting their best players to all click at the same time.

Right now, everything, including the luck element, is going in their favor.

Whether all of it is enough to continue carrying them through to the Stanley Cup Final and give them their first championship is still to be determined, but there is no denying it is a key part of their story so far and a big part of why they are still playing and are just two wins away from advancing again.

MORE: Stanley Cup Final 2019 schedule, TV info

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Goalies helped spark turnarounds for Blues, Sharks

SAN JOSE, Calif. — St. Louis’ season started to turn around as soon as goalie Jordan Binnington came up from the minors to help lead the Blues from the bottom of the standings.

The key moment for their opponent in the Western Conference final came much later in the year when San Jose coach Peter DeBoer made the decision to stick with struggling Martin Jones in net midway through the first round. Jones found his game and has helped carry the Sharks into the final four.

The decision to change goalies in St. Louis and stick with one in San Jose now has these two star-crossed franchises eight wins away from a first Stanley Cup title.

”When we put him in Philly as the starter, we haven’t looked back,” Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said Friday on the eve of Game 1. ”It would be disingenuous to say that this was anywhere part of the plan. This is the Jordan Binnington story in the sense that he’s made the best of the opportunity.”

Binnington was called up from the minors in December and then had a shutout in his first start against the Flyers on Jan. 7, becoming a big reason why the team in last place in the NHL on Jan. 2 is still alive.

He helped anchor an 11-game winning streak that got the Blues back into contention and became a finalist for the Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie at age 25. He’s been steady in the playoffs with a .915 save percentage and 2.39 goals against average.

”There were some years there where I wasn’t sure,” Binnington said when asked if he ever doubted he’d become an NHL goalie. ”It took a lot of maturing and experience. I was in the right place.”

Jones came into the season with much pedigree, having led the Sharks to the Stanley Cup Final just three years ago. But he was one of the worst goalies in the league this season with an .896 save percentage and then was pulled twice in the first four games of the opening round against Vegas.

But he rebounded from there with a .928 save percentage in the last 10 games, including a franchise-record 58 in a double-overtime win at Vegas that helped spark a comeback from 3-1 down in the series.

”There was never a doubt in anybody’s mind that he’d go out and play well,” teammate Logan Couture said.

DeBoer said all Jones needed was a few small adjustments as he had overcompensated from being too passive late in the season to being overly aggressive in the first four games against the Golden Knights.

Having found the happy medium and getting better support from his teammates, who have limited odd-man rushes, Jones is playing at a high level once again.

”It’s tough as a goalie, you want to go out and make a difference and make a big save,” he said. ”You just have to be a little bit more patient and wait for the game a little bit more.”

Here are some things to watch in the series:

CHECKERED HISTORY: Both franchises have had their share of playoff disappointments. The Blues reached the Cup final their first three years as the top team in the all-expansion Western Conference but were swept all three times. They haven’t been back to the Cup final despite making the postseason 39 times since.

They lost in the conference final in 1986 to Calgary, in 2001 to Colorado and three years ago to the Sharks as they’ve too often had quality teams that just weren’t good enough.

”Over the last eight years we’ve averaged 99 points, we’ve been a solid team,” Armstrong said. ”But we haven’t gone to the promised land of winning a championship.”

The Sharks have also been one of the most consistent teams in the league without winning the ultimate prize. They lost in the conference finals in 2004, 2010 and 2011 before finally breaking through with the win against the Blues. But they fell to Pittsburgh in six games in the Cup final and are running out of time to deliver a title for 39-year-old star Joe Thornton.

”It’s not just win one for Joe, it’s win one for all of us. Win one for San Jose,” captain Joe Pavelski said. ”It would be a cool story.”

CAPTAIN COMEBACK: Pavelski has also provided inspiration this postseason. He was knocked out with a bloody concussion in Game 7 against Vegas, leading to a major penalty and four power-play goals that erased a 3-0 deficit in the third period. Pavelski then made it back on the ice for Game 7 last round against Colorado where he had a goal and an assist in the first period to spark the win.

WHERE’S VLAD?: Vladimir Tarasenko led the Blues with 33 goals in the regular season but has struggled so far in the playoffs, especially at even strength. Tarasenko has four power-play goals but only one point at even strength through 13 games. Tarasenko was shut down by Marc-Edouard Vlasic when these teams met in the conference final three years ago. He had no points the first five games before scoring two late goals in San Jose’s decisive Game 6 victory after the game had been decided.

STICKING AROUND: Coach Craig Berube still has the interim tag after taking over early in the season from the fired Mike Yeo. But after leading the Blues to the conference final, Armstrong said a long list of candidates for the full-time job has been whittled down.

”Now we’re at a list of one,” he said. ”When the season is over and the right time comes, we’ll sit down and discuss it.”