Sharks winger Daniil Gushchin is headed back to the AHL’s San Jose Barracuda, per Max Miller of The Hockey News. Miller says this is not a permanent return to the minors for the promising youngster but rather a paper move to get him playing time with the Barracuda over the weekend. The Sharks do not return to action until Monday against the Canucks, by which time he’ll likely be back on the NHL roster.
The Sharks also announced that center Nico Sturm has taken a leave of absence to attend to a family matter and will miss the team’s next two games, meaning he’ll be away from the team for at least a week. Curtis Pashelka of The Mercury News reports the league granted a Sharks request for Sturm to occupy non-roster status while he’s away from the team, meaning he will not use a spot on the 23-man roster until he’s returned.
Gushchin has played in the Sharks’ last two games after a recall on Monday, recording an assist and an even plus-minus rating while playing top-six minutes. The 21-year-old hasn’t looked out of place and is off to an impressive start in 2023-24, racking up four goals and 13 points through 11 contests with the Barracuda.
It’s a promising trajectory for the 2020 third-round pick, who’s putting up quite good numbers at a young age and appears well on his way to an eventual top-nine role in the Bay Area. The 5-foot-10, 181-pound winger makes up for his lack of size with dogged effort and good puckhandling skills, as evidenced by his 45 points in 67 games during his rookie season with the Barracuda last year. That was good enough for second on the team, as were his 22 goals.
The Sharks have won three out of their last six outings, none more impressive than their 5-1 victory over the Blues last night. With confidence building in the room, the team likely feels less of a need to shelter their young players from blowout losses and could be more willing to give players like Gushchin some more runway at the NHL level.
Like many other Sharks, Sturm is off to a disappointing start this season, recording just two assists in 17 games while averaging nearly 15 minutes per contest. The 28-year-old German pivot is in the second season of a three-year, $6MM deal signed with the Sharks in free agency in 2022. He posted a career-high 14 goals and 26 points in 74 games last season and has been a decent defensive presence in the bottom six since gaining a full-time NHL role in 2020 with the Wild.
With a roster spot open for a recall in Sturm’s absence, someone like 21-year-old Thomas Bordeleau or 24-year-old Jacob Peterson could get a look with the Sharks early next week. They’ve played six games each this season but remain assigned to the Barracuda, where they’ve each put up solid offensive numbers.