Jonah Gadjovich still has a chance to make an NHL opening lineup this season. It just won't be with the Canucks.
The Canucks placed Gadjovich on waivers on Wednesday, with hopes of sending him down to the Abbotsford Canucks in the AHL. Instead, the San Jose Sharks, like their namesake, smelled blood in the water and claimed the big winger off waivers on Thursday.
"I'm super excited," said Gadjovich on Donnie and Dhali. "Obviously, my dream is to play in the NHL and for the Sharks to give me this opportunity, I'm going to do whatever I can to stick with that team and prove that they made the right decision."
Gadjovich was one of two second-round picks for the Canucks in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. The other, Kole Lind, was claimed by the Seattle Kraken in their expansion draft. Lind was also placed on waivers on Wednesday but went unclaimed.
Gadjovich had a strong camp, showcasing his improved skating ability, which was one of his primary weaknesses. It's an area of his game the Canucks had dedicated to helping him improve.
"The past four or five years I've spent a lot of time working on that," said Gadjovich after his first preseason game. "It's not something that's gonna change overnight, but I stuck with it. The Canucks have given me a lot of resources. I spent a lot of time this summer with [Canucks skating coach] MacKenzie Braid, doing a lot of skating in Toronto.
"I was just working on my stride, working on my quickness and I think it's come a long way, and it's something that I'm going to continue to work on and continue to get better at."
Unfortunately, it evidently wasn't quite enough for him to stick around with the Canucks during the preseason. He appeared in two preseason games, tallying one assist, but the Canucks were looking for someone who could play a different role to fill in the bottom of their roster. Head coach Travis Green confirmed that Gadjovich's lack of penalty killing experience played a role in putting him on waivers at this time.
"In Owen Sound, I penalty killed but I haven't done that in the American League yet, in pro hockey,” said Gadjovich. “If I get the opportunity to do that, that's something that I'm going to try to work into my game.”
An argument could be made that the Canucks didn't give enough of a chance to Gadjovich, who impressed last season with the Utica Comets, scoring 15 goals in just 19 AHL games. He played just one NHL game with the Canucks, lasting less than five minutes before a fighting major, ten-minute misconduct, and a tight-scoring game ended his night.
In San Jose, Gadjovich now has an opportunity to get into the lineup on a team that has openings in the bottom-six on the wing. The Sharks have just one more preseason game remaining on Saturday against the Vegas Golden Knights, representing Gadjovich's best chance to impress his new team and earn a spot on the roster.