The San Jose Barracuda continue to struggle in the absence of some of last year’s top players. Missing their two best defensemen and three fairly consistent contributors on the scoresheet due to regular NHL time, the San Jose Sharks’ AHL affiliate hasn’t been able to capitalize on last season’s successful playoff run.
Nominal starter Troy Grosenick has stopped just 87 percent of the shots he’s faced (all strengths), and the team has been outscored by five goals on the season. The team sits in sixth place in the AHL’s Pacific Division with just seven points from their first eight games. They play one more road game in Ontario (Southern California, not Canada) today before returning home for a six-game homestand to hopefully right the ship a bit.
Last weekend, the ‘Cuda dropped a 3-1 decision to San Antonio, despite logging a season-high 39 shots on goal. Danny O’Regan scored his fifth goal of the season, but the team wasn’t able to generate any more run support, leaving Antoine Bibeau to collect the loss after allowing two goals on 22 shots.
The following evening, the Baby Sharks came oh, so close to pulling out a “W,” but ultimately lost in a shootout versus the Texas Stars. Diminutive (for a professional hockey player) Swede Filip Sandberg notched his third tally of the season before John McCarthy found the back of the net for the first time this year to even things up in the third. Grosenick stood tall in net during the shootout, but ultimately Travis Morin would be the only skater to light the lamp during the skills competition, sending the Barracuda home with another loss.
In a roster move on Monday, the Barracuda announced they recalled goaltender Stephon Williams from the Allen Americans of the ECHL. In five games this season, Williams has posted a .912 save percentage. Last season, he played 24 games with the AHL Bridgeport Sound Tigers (amphibious felines sound terrifying) where he offered the team an .891 save percentage.
During 58 career games with the Sound Tigers, Williams has logged a .899 save percentage.
It’s not all doom and gloom for the Sharks’ affiliates, however. Forward Adam Helewka, who just turned 22 this summer, leads the team with nine points in eight games. Perhaps even more impressive, the winger is fourth among all AHL skaters who have played at least five games with nearly four estimated primary points per 60 minutes of 5v5 ice time, per prospect stats. The ‘Cuda have scored 70 percent of all 5v5 goals while Helewka’s been on the ice. He’s probably a favorite for a call up, especially with Barclay Goodrow struggling to get into a game, Jannik Hansen a healthy scratch for four straight games, and the Sharks still struggling to find much depth scoring beyond Joonas Donskoi. Unfortunately, Helewka’s path to the big club is blocked by a Paul Martin injury that leaves Joakim Ryan a necessity and the team with only two other players — Timo Meier and Kevin Labanc — with waiver-exempt status.
The Sharks will have to:
- Be content to send Goodrow through waivers, or
- Move a player in a trade, or
- Send Meier back down in exchange for Helewka
— in order to recall Helewka. We’ll probably know more once Paul Martin is healthy and the team figures out what its next steps are with their younger blueliners.
On the Barracuda blueline, Jacob Middleton has been impressive so far. Of AHL defenders 22 years old and younger with at least four games played this season, Middleton ranks 12th of 60 skaters in estimated points per 60 minutes of 5v5 ice time. The Barracuda have scored just north of 55 percent of all 5v5 goals with him on the ice, the best number of the Barracuda defense corps (tied with Julius Bergman).
Jeremy Roy has also been solid in his brief time on the ice. His point production isn’t as impressive — his estimated points per 60 minutes ranks 26th out of those same 60 defenders — and the Barracuda have only scored 50 percent of all the 5v5 goals while he’s been on the ice. Still, when he’s off the ice, the ‘Cuda are only scoring 37.5 percent of all goals.
These metrics are fairly rudimentary evaluation tools, but there isn’t any better resource than prospect-stats.com out there yet for looking at AHL and junior production beyond counting stats. As the season wears on, we’ll undoubtedly see percentages regress and these numbers change, but for the time being, this handful of skaters has offered the most potential out of the young AHL season.
The team returns to the Tank on Sunday, November 5 and will stay there until November 22.