For the first time in awhile, San Jose brass has a prospect problem of the good variety. In years past, the farm was fairly barren and it was hard to expect any call up from the Barracuda (RIP Worcester Sharks) to step in and help. However, this is not the case in 2016 as the AHL is plenty stocked with weapons that look promising for the NHL.
The prospect pool has thinned a bit recently due to Kevin Labanc playing so well Doug Wilson literally can’t send him back down. Timo Time is also very real, with the game-winning goal on his very first shot, so it looks like Meier will be in the show from here on out.
The beat down the Sharks laid on Montreal notwithstanding, the San Jose offense has looked anemic at best recently. Whether this is due to a usual mid season slump, an unlucky streak, or a complete failure of the offense, we can see it is not working. The power play has also not been scoring but we can chock that up to unlucky shooting percentages, for now. The Sharks PP is dangerous because of its extreme skill and the patience that skill implements, which should turn around.
Now with all that being said, the Sharks can easily try to fix the offensive woes that have plagued them. They can do this by turning loose a Barracuda kid, rather than recycling the Nieto’s and Haley’s and throwing the lines into the DeBoer Blender. Let us look into who would make the most sense to be next man up.
1. Nikolay Goldobin: If you read Goldobin’s name and immediately say “but his defensive game needs work” then you haven’t been paying attention to the San Jose roster. This is a team that employs arguably the deepest blue line in the league and one that is elite. The Sharks forwards are also extremely good in their own end. This team doesn’t need another player who is good at being defensively responsible; they need offense.
The small Russian kid is literally an offensive demon bursting with skill waiting to be unleashed upon the NHL. By all accounts he has “matured” and gotten better defensively and the coaching staff has talked highly of him this year. You can also hide someone like this by placing him with defensively responsible players. Put him with the Joe’s; throw him with Couture and Ward.
There are numerous ways to ease him into the big league without saddling him with the fourth line and watching him crash and burn. This season he has two goals and 14 points on 5.9 shooting percentage (SH%). This isn’t great but a few factors are at work here.
First, he is playing with inferior teammates to what would be with him in the NHL. Second, SH% varies wildly from season to season with the NHL average only being 8.9% Lastly, he had a 17.1 SH% over 60 AHL games last year which is a far bigger sample than the 19 he has played this year. If the scoring woes continue, it is time to give the talented Russian another shot in the NHL.
2. Rourke Chartier: All he does is score and score often. This is a kid that dominated junior hockey, specifically the WHL. In his last season, he put up 46 points in 42 games after missing the first half of the season with an injury. The year before saw him post 82 points in 58 games with 20 more points in 16 playoff games.
He is currently shooting 17.1% in the AHL and has been consistently solid by all accounts with six goals and 11 points. Drafted 149th overall he was not highly touted like some others, but the Sharks have a great track record with later round picks. He does play centre, which comes with a bigger learning curve and would mean he starts probably as the fourth line centre.
However, I think it is worth a shot to see what such a gifted offensive player can bring to the Sharks. He has yet to play in the NHL unlike most other potential call-ups. Also of note, the A+ name he has. Big shout out to Mr. and Mrs. Chartier here.
3. Daniel O’Regan: He played a whopping one game with San Jose before being sent back to, um, San Jose. The thing is, he performed well in his one game stint. There were no egregious errors, he didn’t look lost, and did the right things like cycling and making smart crisp passes. He is currently leading the ‘Cuda in points at 21 but again he plays centre. O’Regan tore up the NCAA while playing for Boston to the tune of 91 points in 80 games over his last two seasons, so he is yet another kid coming in with a background in putting pucks in nets. He is also a late round pick because San Jose scouting staff is top notch.
4. Marcus Sorensen: A little off the board as he only has eight points in 19 games, but we have to remember the stellar training camp he had. One of the final cuts, Sorensen made the coaching staff think long and hard about sending him to the ‘Cuda rather than keeping him up.
An offensively gifted player while with Djurgardens IF in Sweden, he plays with physicality and soft hands meaning he has the potential to be an impact player for the Sharks. Sorensen is also slightly older than most of the Barracuda players at 24, but that is only because he was already playing professionally a la Joonas Donskoi.
Sorensen has already been name checked by DeBoer this season, meaning he is on the minds of the Sharks brain trust. I wouldn’t be surprised if he actually is the next call up over the guys listed above.
5. Tim Heed: This is a long shot as he plays defense, but Heed deserves mention. Currently second in points for the Barracuda, Heed has been nothing short of a revelation this season. It would appear that he has jumped Mueller in the defensive pecking order, albeit Mueller plays a much more defensive style.
Heed’s major impediment to the NHL is the fact that San Jose already has seven capable, NHL caliber defenders on the roster. Dylan DeMelo has shown he can play, yet spends most of his time in a suit eating hot dogs in the press box. There is no point in calling up Heed and having him take up residence with the other scratches. Eventually push comes to shove and DeMelo will have to be traded or waived, which could clear a spot for Heed in the event of an injury. That is all very complicated and hopefully doesn’t happen but props to Tim Heed for killing it in the AHL so far.
San Jose finally has some talent in the pipe and letting it mature in the AHL is never a bad plan, ask Detroit. But with ageing players still holding key spots and the Cup window closing for the current iteration of the Sharks, the time might be now to mix in more youth. If the offense continues to be stuck in the mud, then the Sharks have to call up some ‘Cuda kids.