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Sharks assign first-round pick Merkley, six others to Barracuda originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
Former Sharks first-round draft pick Ryan Merkley was hoping to make his NHL debut this season, but he was among the seven players the organization assigned to San Jose Barracuda camp on Monday.
Merkley joins goaltender Josef Korenar, defenseman Jaycob Megna, forwards Lean Bergmann, Alexander True, Joachim Blichfeld and Jayden Halbgewachs as the group assigned to Barracuda training camp, which began Monday from the Ice Den in Scottsdale, Ariz. The organization’s NHL squad already has been training there for several weeks due to Santa Clara County ordinances.
Timo Meier was the Sharks’ last first-round pick (No. 9, 2015) to make his NHL debut with the franchise, and Merkley was eager to be the next homegrown first-round prospect to take the ice in teal.
"I think I'm ready [to play in the NHL]," Merkley said on Jan. 2 from the Ice Denin a video conference with reporters. "I've worked hard for the last nine, 10 months here, but that's not up to me. I've just got to come in here, work hard.
"I feel confident with my game and where I am. I would love the opportunity, but for me, it's [about] just coming into work, show I've made those strides in the [defensive zone] and I think I've worked hard enough this summer and put on enough weight."
Merkley was the No. 21 overall pick by the Sharks in the 2018 NHL Draft, and is coming off a phenomenal season with the London Knights in the OHL, tallying 76 points in just 60 games with the club.
Merkley should get significantly more playing time in the AHL, and theoretically could make his NHL debut later in the season.
Korenar wasn’t able to crack the final goalie group for the Sharks after spending the past two seasons with the Barracuda, but the 22-year-old has a bright future.
Megna spent last season in the organization of the Sharks' bitter rival Vegas Golden Knights as a two-way player, playing the entirety of the pandemic-shortened year with the Chicago Wolves, Vegas' AHL affiliate at the time.
Bergmann made his NHL debut with the Sharks in October 2019 against the Golden Knights, playing 12 games in the league and 31 with the Barracuda. The German-born forward scored 18 points across the two leagues overall.
True also played 12 games with the Sharks in the NHL last season, adding 25 points over 40 games with the Barracuda.
Blichfeld had 32 points in 44 games with the Barracuda in 2019-20, and was the team’s lone representative at the 2020 AHL All-Star game.
Halbgewachs spent the duration of last season in the AHL, scoring 35 points in 55 games with the Barracuda.
The Sharks’ AHL affiliate will be in camp from Monday until Feb. 4, and the league is hoping to start the regular season on Feb. 5.
Coach Bob Boughner still has 34 players on his training camp roster following Monday's moves, and there will be additional cuts Tuesday.