July 20, 2024
After an impressive camp, San Jose Sharks hope defenseman Shakir Mukhamadullin can be a difference maker in the long term.

SAN JOSE – San Jose Sharks coach David Quinn was asked about Shakir Mukhamadullin’s play after a recent preseason game and threw out an interesting and perhaps hyperbolic comparable to the Russian-born defenseman, at least in one respect.

“He reminds me, just the way he looks, of Chris Pronger,” Quinn said, mentioning the 2015 Hockey Hall of Fame inductee. “The high hands and just the way he carries himself, and if he’s half as mean as Chris Pronger, we’ve got something.”

There was some consternation that Sharks general manager Mike Grier didn’t get enough quality players in return for Timo Meier when he traded the power forward to the New Jersey Devils in February.

After all, Mukhamadullin, the key player the Sharks received from New Jersey, was not rated as high as other Devils prospect defensemen Luke Hughes, Simon Nemec, and Seamus Casey. This was a rare chance to trade a star player in his prime and restock the cupboards, and the rebuilding Sharks couldn’t afford to mess it up.

Other key components to the trade from the Sharks’ perspective were the 2023 Devils first-rounder that was used on Quentin Musty, a conditional 2024 second-round draft pick that could turn into a first-rounder, defenseman Nikita Okhotiuk, and forward Fabian Zetterlund.

Although some are always quick to draw conclusions mere moments after a deal is completed, it usually takes time to see how a trade has panned out for both teams. While it’s safe to assume that Meier, who has scored a combined 75 goals over the past two seasons, will probably average around 35 goals a year for the foreseeable future, no one quite knows how Mukhamadullin or the early round draft picks the Sharks also received in the deal will pan out.

Having Mukhamadullin turn into a top-four defenseman for years to come would make the trade look better, as would having Musty be an NHLer in three or four years. That conditional 2024 second-round pick turning into a first. if the Devils make the Eastern Conference finals this season, would be a bonus, as would Okhotiuk becoming a reliable third-pair defenseman.

If none of those things happen, the trade will be a bust. But if the enthusiasm the Sharks showed for Mukhamadullin in camp counts for anything, then some of those concerns can be put to rest.

Starting with the Rookie Faceoff event in Las Vegas from Sept. 15-18, and all the way through Saturday, Mukhamadullin, 21, has earned kudos for his poise and decision-making as he continues to adapt to the North American game.

“He’s been good,” Marc-Edouard Vlasic said of Mukhamadullin. “He can skate, sees the ice well, has a long stick, and defends well. Plays hard. He’s got a lot of skill. It’s tough communicating with him, but it’s been a lot of fun. He’s a good young talent.”

“He’s agile, he’s coachable,” Quinn said, “we’re very excited about him.”

Mukhamadullin will start the season with the Barracuda after he and 11 other players on Sunday were assigned to the AHL. The Sharks already have too many non-waivers exempt defensemen and in a rebuilding year, there’s not much point in starting Mukhamadullin against the world’s best players right now and potentially hurting his development.

“My opinion is the American League is the best spot for him for an extended period of time, where you learn to play at this level,” Quinn said last week. “There’s nothing worse than putting a guy in a situation where he can’t have success. We want to put him in the best position possible to be successful.”

Saturday against the Los Angeles Kings, Mukhamadullin led all Sharks skaters with 24:37 in ice time, including 7:56 of power play time. He had four shots on goal and was credited with two blocked shots.

This leads to the question, did he outplay some other veteran blueliners in camp?

“He’s been one of our best defensemen,” Quinn said.

Unless there is an emergency need with the Sharks, Mukhamadullin will likely stay in the AHL for a while. He could probably help the big club win games this season, but the Sharks do not want to risk things going poorly. He’s too important to the future.

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“In order to think you’re good, you’ve got to play well,” Quinn said. “You can form a lot of swagger in the American Hockey League.”

NOTES: Other players sent to the AHL were Goalies Georgi Romanov, Eetu Makiniemi, and  Magnus Chrona, forwards Ozzy Wiesblatt, Tristen Robins, Ethan Cardwell, Adam Raska,  Brandon Coe, Danil Gushchin, and defenseman Gannon Laroque, and Nick Cicek.

Added to the roster was defenseman Ty Emberson, who was claimed by the Sharks off of waivers from the New York Rangers on Saturday.  Forwards Nathan Todd and Scott Sabourin were placed on waivers.