One of the more promising players in San Jose’s minor league affiliate, partially due to his speed, stick handling, and two-way play, and partially due to the relative shallowness of San Jose’s pool of wingers, Marcus Sörensen’s (yes with an umlaut, yes every time) 19-game NHL debut was a promising one.
Drafted in the 4th round, 106th overall, of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft by the Ottawa Senators, Sörensen nevertheless spent the next six seasons in Sweden before being signed on a one year deal as a free agent by the San Jose Sharks in May 2016. After making his presence known in the AHL early this year, tallying 34 points in 43 games for the Barracuda, Sörensen scored four points (1G, 3A) primarily skating with Micheal Haley and a rotating cast of Melker Karlsson, Timo Meier, and Chris Tierney in a fourth line role.
Sörensen managed to skate to a positive Corsi for percentage in his 10:48 of average ice time and was not particularly sheltered in his usage. He primarily skated against opponents’ bottom six, sure, but that’s what a fourth line does, and his zone start ratio of 50.86 shows that he wasn’t overly used in the offensive zone, a note that lends credibility to his current statistics.
Although one of the strong points of his game as a prospect was his passing ability, I’d like to see him take a little more advantage of shooting opportunities, as his 1.4 shots per game is lower than we’d probably like, even given his limited ice time. His 3.7 shooting percentage is likely to regress upward in the future, but without a few years of data to determine his career average, it’s hard to determine how high to expect it to go. Sörensen’s 15.7% in 43 AHL games earlier this season is promising, but the actual number is probably somewhere in between.
Sörensen was a high event player this year, and his individual Corsi for per 60 of 13.37 at five on five ranks sixth on the team. His defensive responsibility, while used as a positive over the last few years in Sweden, could use some development in the NHL as the Sharks both allow and generate more dangerous chances with Sörensen on the ice. Its hard to tease out how much of that is due to the possession drag of Haley, but as Sörensen adapts to the smaller ice and higher pace of North American hockey, I expect his defensive game to improve along with his scoring stats.
2016-17 Sharks 5v5 Usage Chart (via Corsica Hockey)
Marcus Sorensen Rolling 10-game score, zone, and venue-adjusted average CF% (via Corsica Hockey)
Sörensen showed creativity and calm in a secondary assist on Mikkel Boedker’s first period tally in a 4-3 game five loss in the first round series against Edmonton. Sörensen’s slap pass to Tierney down low works because four Edmonton skaters and goaltender Cameron J. Talbot are all fooled by the fake out. Credit to Paul Martin for holding the blue line and drawing the Oilers defense in close, but Sörensen does his part, faking the shot and freezing Talbot for the start to a crisp passing play that ends with Boedker scoring into an empty 4 x 6.
What comes next?
25-year old Sörensen is a pending restricted free agent this offseason, so his future is pretty dependent on whether the San Jose front office is impressed by his performance in 2016-17. Considering his regular deployment by the coaching staff in the regular season and playoffs, he seems to have their trust, and I’d be surprised to see him anywhere else next season. Sörensen is probably at best a middle-six winger, but San Jose’s current pro roster only has five wingers under contract (Boedker, Karlsson, Joel Ward, Jannik Hansen, Joonas Donskoi; you can count Tomas Hertl here, too, I guess, but I don’t) and, even adding in players on the Barracuda’s playoff run like Meier and Kevin Labanc, Sörensen may benefit from a lack of depth in the organization at his position. If he can adapt his game to the smaller ice and higher pace of the NHL, he has a future here.
After he wins a Calder Cup, of course.