The San Jose Sharks have had another rough year, missing the playoffs for the second straight season. However, one highlight for the team has been the addition and play of forward Rudolfs Balcers.
The Sharks claimed Balcers in January, after he was cut from the Ottawa Senators' roster and placed on waivers. Balcers was originally selected by the Sharks in the fifth round of the 2015 NHL Draft but was dealt to Ottawa ahead of the 2018-19 season as part of the Erik Karlsson trade.
Since rejoining the Sharks organization, Balcers has taken advantage of his opportunity. San Jose came into the season with some holes up front, along with a lack of young talent, and Balcers, who just turned 24 years old, has been a welcome addition.
There weren't necessarily any expectations for Balcers, but in 36 games with San Jose, he has seven goals and 16 points so far, a pace of 16 goals and 36 points per 82 games. Balcers has good speed, has shown off his hands and agility throughout the season and I’d also argue that he’s been better defensively than a good chunk of San Jose’s forward group. In terms of statistics, his shooting percentage right now is 11.9 per cent, which could be a bit high but is nothing that points to a major decline in production later on. Balcers has also produced well while averaging only 1:14 per game on the power play and less than 13 minutes per game at even strength.
He also ranks third on the team in corsi for percentage and has a very strong expected goals for percentage of 57.4 per cent, which ranks behind only Tomas Hertl of all players on the team (both stats based on min. 15 games played), according to NaturalStatTrick.com.
Balcers hasn’t been the only good young forward added, as both Ryan Donato and John Leonard have been able to add secondary scoring as well. However, Donato cost the Sharks a third-round pick and had more NHL experience, so there were expectations for him this year, while Leonard hasn’t necessarily made quite as large of an impact just yet.
While Balcers may not become a legitimate top-six forward, a long-term role in the middle-six is very realistic. Given his age, Balcers should have a long career ahead of him and in what’s been another disappointing year for the Sharks, Balcers has been a bright spot.
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Do you think Rudolfs Balcers will remain with the Sharks long-term?