San Jose Sharks captain Logan Couture sees a big difference in Dylan Gambrell this season. Coach Bob Boughner too.
Maybe that’s what a bit of urgency means to a player who may be running out of time to establish himself as a regular in the Haie lineup.
Gambrell was deployed as the Sharks’ third line center two weeks ago and has begun taking over the position. He plays with more tenacity and competes harder with pucks to earn more of Boughner’s trust and a regular amount of Ice Age.
A healthy scratch for the Sharks’ first three games this season, Gambrell will play for his sixth straight game on Friday when the Sharks face the Anaheim Ducks at the Honda Center.
“You must do him credit,” said Boughner of Gambrell. “I don’t think he had a great warehouse. Obviously not started with us in the opening line-up. I never complained, bowed my head, worked hard, knowing he had to be ready when he got his shot. ”
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Gambrell, 24, is looking to take the next step in his career after splitting time between the NHL and the AHL for the past two seasons. Gambrell is a restricted free agent late this year.
So far, Gambrell has an assist in five games as he has an average of 14 minutes and 35 seconds ice time. But his best job this season has gotten off the puck.
Aside from the Sharks’ 7-3 loss to the Colorado Avalanche on January 26, when he scored three goals of even strength against the ice, Gambrell was only on the ice for one more opposing goal in the 5-5 game .
“I’m just trying to draw a draw and be kind of solid all around,” said Gambrell. “I try to concentrate on defense, switch things off and contribute as much offensively as possible.”
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Couture said he skated with Gambrell before the December lockdown and often played 3v3 with a handful of other sharks.
“But he showed extra gear, some speed, and a little more confidence in these preparations,” said Couture on January 23, after Gambrell played in games against St. Louis and Minnesota. “Maybe he didn’t have the camp he wanted, but I thought the two games he played impressed him.”
This is Gambrell’s third full season in the Sharks organization. In terms of the opportunity to show that he can play in the NHL every night, he may not have a better opportunity than now.
Ever since Joe Thornton signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs in October, the Sharks have needed someone to take the third line role.
Joel Kellman played at this point intermittently last season and was considered a candidate to do so again this year. But Kellman has not been in the line-up since the season opener on Jan. 14 when he was the Sharks’ fourth line center.
DENVER, COLORADO – JANUARY 28: Philipp Grubauer # 31 of the Colorado Avalanche saves a shot on goal by Dylan Gambrell # 7 of the San Jose Sharks in the third period at Ball Arena on January 28, 2021 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman / Getty Images)
Noah Gregor started the season in this location, but it was a big question from a player in his sophomore year as a professional.
When Gregor was a healthy scratch for the January 20 game against the Blues, Gambrell got his shot. He was lined up with Stefan Noesen and John Leonard and the trio had a couple of positive games.
When Gregor was reinstated for the Sharks game on January 24 against Minnesota, he and Timo Meier were put on Gambrell’s line as wingers. Gregor scored his first goal of the season and the trio had seven shots on goal, ending with a percentage of 72.3 Corsi.
Boughner will have that line back together against the ducks on Friday.
“We’re just reading ourselves pretty well,” Gambrell said across the line. “We have quite a bit of speed on this line, so we took advantage of that, held onto pucks and had this attack mentality when we were out there together.”
Boughner needed Gambrell to be responsible, to gain innuendo, and he needed to help with the penalty shoot-out. So far, Gambrell, the Sharks’ second round of voting in 2016, had ticked those boxes.
“I liked the pace of his game, even with an offensive 5v5 game I thought he did some great things,” said Boughner. “We need that from him. My message to him is that he has to be heavy on the pile, that he has to be inside on the puck and that he cannot be around.
“He did it really well. He got the message. He dictates the pace of the game out there. If he continues like this, this is the way he has to stay in the line-up and that way find his niche and be a consistent NHL player every day. ”