San Jose Sharks’ first round pick strengthens case to crack NHL roster out of camp

San Jose Sharks’ first round pick strengthens case to crack NHL roster out of camp

SAN JOSE – William Eklund hasn’t been shy about saying he wants to be on the San Jose Sharks roster for the regular season opener, now less than two weeks away.

Eklund made a case for himself Saturday night, maybe his best of training camp so far, as he got a chance to kill penalties and be on the power play in what became a 2-1 overtime preseason loss by the Sharks to the Los Angeles Kings at SAP Center.

Ekiund had 20:29 of ice time, fourth-most among the forward group, and finished with four shots on net. He moved well throughout the night and was perhaps more noticeable than he had been in his one prior exhibition game.

“I think I played way better than before,” Eklund said. “I think my camp has gone in an upwards direction, and I like that.”

Sharks coach David Quinn said Eklund stood out in what was only a so-so night for the team’s forward group, which perhaps didn’t do enough to get to the inside and create chances, particularly early on.

“He’s done some good things at camp for sure,” Quinn said of Eklund before Saturday’s game. “I thought (Friday’s) practice was a good practice for him. … So just continue to improve and play with that pace and tenacity he’s played with, which complements his skill. That’s why I’m so high on him because of the pace and his competitiveness.

“He’s playing with the right intentions and you’ve got that skill set to compliment it, you give yourself a chance day in and day out in this league.”

The Sharks might announce more training camp roster cuts before they reconvene for their next practice on Monday. Eklund wouldn’t appear to be in much danger of getting sent down to the AHL right now, but there perhaps are not many games and practices left to show he deserves an NHL job.

The Sharks play again on Tuesday and Thursday in Las Vegas and Salt Lake City, respectively, in their final two preseason games. All NHL teams have to get down to a 23-man roster by Oct. 9.

Right now, the math might not work in the favor of Eklund, San Jose’s first-round draft choice in 2021.

The Sharks already have 14 forwards who require waivers, including the more experienced Jacob Peterson, who had eight points in 11 games for the Sharks last season after he was acquired from the Dallas Stars.

Eklund, who turns 21 on Oct. 12, the date of the Sharks’ regular-season opener against the Vegas Golden Knights, does not require waivers to be sent to the AHL. In other words, he needs to outplay other Sharks’ forwards to earn an NHL roster spot right away.

Eklund said he doesn’t pay attention to such things, as he’s only concentrating on what he can control.

“I’m just trying to enjoy the day every day,” Eklund said. “Just trying to be better and better and feel like I’ve (taken) a lot of good steps in that right direction.”

CHRONA’S NIGHT: Quinn said Saturday morning that he’s been impressed with Magnus Chrona in training camp practices thus far, and that carried over into Saturday’s game.

Chrona, in his first NHL preseason start, made 10 saves in the first 20 minutes, including two nifty glove saves as the Kings had the majority of the zone time.

The only blemish in regulation time was a Kings goal at the 9:57 mark of the third period, as Alex Laferriere redirected a shot from Jacob Moverare past Chrona for a 1-0 Los Angeles lead. Tomas Hertl later tied the game at the 17:13 mark of the third, with Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Mario Ferraro collecting the assists.

Winger Samuel Fagemo scored on a power play with 38.7 seconds left in overtime to give the Kings the win.

Still, that didn’t dampen Quinn’s impression of the Swedish-born goalie.

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“He makes it look easy,” Quinn said. “The puck hits him, he knows where he’s supposed to be. He doesn’t overreact. Very sharp.”

Chrona finished with 25 saves.

“Standing on the bench, I don’t see any net,” Quinn said. “He gets to spots and there’s a calmness to him. He doesn’t get rattled. It can get busy out there for a goalie — a lot going on around the net and he just stays in his spot, understands where the net is.”

Chrona, 23, was signed to a two-year contract by the Sharks in April after a solid four-year career at the University of Denver. He’s tabbed to start the season with the Barracuda and depending on how the season goes, could even find himself as the AHL team’s No. 1 before long. Eetu Makiniemi will also be in that mix, with Georgi Romanov perhaps being more of a project.

“I honestly think that doing all four years (at Denver) was the best for me, development-wise,” Chrona said, “and to not rush it and to feel like that I’m ready and that I can take the next step.”