Dark horse Ferriero starts well for Sharks

By Tanya Lyon

Originally drafted by the Phoenix Coyotes in the seventh round of the 2006 draft, Benn Ferriero was left unsigned by the Coyotes this summer after he spent four years fine-tuning his game at Boston College. After signing a two-year, $1.27 million contract as a free agent with San Jose, the 22-year-old was largely considered a dark horse to make the team.

But make the team he did, after impressing the Sharks brass with an impressive training camp and preseason that saw him tie veteran Patrick Marleau for the team lead in preseason scoring with two goals and five points in five games.

“I don’t know [if the Coyotes’ bankruptcy was a factor in letting me go unsigned]” said Ferriero. “We talked and I guess we just weren’t on the same page and things just didn’t work out, [but] I couldn’t ask to be in a better situation so I think it worked out for the better.”

The Boston native admits that not knowing anyone and not being known allowed him to enter training camp and just focus on the one thing he could control — himself.

“Coming into training camp, the organization didn’t really know me that much,” Ferriero said, “and I didn’t really know many people in the organization too well so I just wanted to come in and make a good first impression and I think I did that. I mean I came in and played my game and [I thought] if they liked it then I’d stick and if they didn’t then I’d go down and play in the minors. I think I fit well into their system and everything’s worked out for the best.”

Now, with the 2009-10 NHL season just a few games old, Ferriero isn’t letting up. He’s continuing to endear himself to the Sharks coaching staff with his high energy and hard work. In fact, Ferriero so impressed Sharks head coach Todd McLellan with his play in the Sharks first game of the season, a loss to Colorado, that it was rumored that the rookie would start his second game on the same line as forwards Joe Thornton and Dany Heatley. A last-minute change meant that Ferriero instead started the game with fellow rookie Frazer McLaren and veteran Manny Malhotra, but neither the buzz nor the late change fazed Ferriero who stated simply that the coaches “don’t have to explain themselves, [I] just have to go out and play.”

But keeping things simple has worked for Ferriero. It helped the rookie make the team and in just his second career NHL game, it allowed him to score his first career NHL goal. The  5’10, 185-pound center teamed up with two other rookies (recent call-up Frazer McLaren and defenseman Jason Demers) for his first career NHL goal in a game against the Sharks Pacific Division rivals, the Anaheim Ducks.

“It feels good,” Ferriero admitted. “I mean I was just trying to get down. There was a shot coming from up at the point, I was just trying to get down and screen or tip something. The rebound was laying there and I just banged it in. I think after how we started the game in Colorado, we needed a quick start so definitely getting on the board first was huge for us.  I think it really put the momentum in our favor.”

The goal which also happened to help McLaren and Demers earn their first career NHL assists was the first goal since October 4, 2007 when three rookies all combined for their first career NHL points. And for their head coach, the goal was just as important as the effort he saw his rookies put out.

“It was obviously an exciting night for them again to play either their first or second game and then to get rewarded early to get a goal and to get us going is nice," McLellan said. "I thought they really left their mark on the game. They contributed in a lot of different areas. We used them in penalty killing and even got a little power play at the end. We’re working with that theme of earning your keep every day and they did that and they’ll get a chance to continue to stay in the NHL and if they continue doing that they’ll never leave.”
 
And for his part, Ferriero has enjoyed playing under McLellan and the Sharks – a team that has allowed him to focus on the simple things.

“The coaches have stressed that whoever is playing best will have a chance to play on the ice," Ferriero said. "You have to come to the rink every day willing to compete and willing to get better and then the best players will get to play.”

The key for Ferriero and his fellow rookies throughout the season will be continuing to provide that hard work and energy on a consistent basis because according to his coach the rest of the team feeds off of it.

“We’re built a little bit different this year than we were last [year]," McLellan said. "Our third and fourth lines I believe are a little bit grittier. They’re a little bit more abrasive or sand paperish if you will and that’s a good thing — we need that. And with that comes energy and if they’re working hard and they’re involved physically then the rest of the team feeds off of their energy.  We’ve seen that [in the game against Anaheim.]”