The offseason roster overhaul by the San Jose Sharks brought in a lot of new faces not just to the big club, but to the AHL affiliate as well. There will be many chances for the youth on the Worcester Sharks to get a chance at the NHL. San Jose Head Coach Todd McLellan has referred to frequent promotions and demotions from the parent club as the “Worcester shuttle.” Rookies like Benn Ferriero, Jason Demers, and Frazer McLaren ,along with Jamie McGinn, will likely be on it.
Reaching the second round of the playoffs for the first time in the last three years last season, Worcester returns nine players who spent more than half the season there last year, including two all-stars and their leading scorer. All of San Jose’s top four prospects were on the Worcester opening-day roster this year. Worcester also boasts two rookie first-round draft picks from 2007.
The Sharks will get back Ryan Vesce, who led the team in points in 2008-09. The 27-year-old also started for the PlanetUSA All-Stars in front of a hometown crowd in Worcester. Vesce, the captain, along with veterans Steven Zalewski will anchor the team while 2007 first-round pick Logan Couture will get more time as the top-line center. Couture has a high hockey IQ and has incredible vision of the ice. The 20-year-old played in just the last four games and the playoffs for Worcester. He scored two goals and added an assist in 12 playoff games. Couture will play a more prominent role on the team this year and possibly could get a promotion at some point in the year.
McGinn was impressive in training camp once again, but because of his salary cap hit he was demoted to work on his game in Worcester. The 21-year-old played in 47 games with Worcester last year and registered four goals and two assists in 35 games in San Jose. McGinn would fit into a checking line in San Jose.
Worcester welcomes rookies John McCarthy and Brandon Mashinter into their lineup. McCarthy is a left wing just out of Boston University who had 29 points in 45 games in his senior season. He was drafted in the seventh round of the 2006 draft. McCarthy will likely be a role player. Mashinter is a 6’4 220-pound left wing who was signed as a free agent in the summer.
Veteran leadership should come from center Dwight Helminen, who was signed to a two-way contract in the offseason after playing 23 games with Carolina. Worcester also signed forwards who recently finished college. Corey Quirk played at University of Massachusetts-Amherst. Dennis McCauley is a 6’3 forward from Northeastern. Dean Strong played at University of Vermont with current Shark Torrey Mitchell for two years.
Other returning forwards include big winger Matt Jones who played in 46 games with Worcester last year. Andrew Desjardins returns from a season in which he had 99 penalty minutes and 22 points in 74 games. Dan Dasilva split time with Worcester and ECHL affiliate Phoenix last year, but will start 2009 with Worcester.
Three Worcester defensemen were in contention for the No. 6 spot on the San Jose Sharks. Derek Joslin and Mike Moore were the AHL veterans competing for a spot with hulking rookie Nick Petrecki. Jason Demers eventually won the sixth spot on the team but any one of these defensemen could make a trip to the parent squad on the shuttle.
Joslin returns after a good sophomore season that put him in the All-Star Game. He had 30 points in 63 games with Worcester but also played in 12 games with San Jose. Joslin is a smart defender who has a very hard shot and will even drop the gloves occasionally. Joslin will wear the ‘A’ as an alternate captain.
Many opponents will hesitate to step on the ice against the Worcester Sharks this season because of Petrecki. Petrecki is a big, mean, and nasty defenseman from Boston College. Petrecki will hit anyone, drop the gloves at any point, and protect his teammates at all times.
Moore will start another year in the AHL but if he continues to impress he could have a chance at the NHL with the Sharks. He had 18 points and 132 penalty minutes in 76 games with Worcester. Moore will continue to be a physical force on the blue line. Michael Wilson also returns to the Sharks after splitting time with Worcester and Phoenix last year.
Will Colbert, a 2005 draft pick, will get his first chance at professional hockey. He will accompany veteran signings Danny Groulx and Joe Callahan along with newcomers Joe Loprieno and Louis Liotti.
Worcester has two goalie prospects who have extraordinary potential and will likely split most starts as they are both in their first year professionally. Alex Stalock comes into his first year from University of Minnesota Duluth where he posted a 2.13 GAA in 42 games during his senior season. The 22-year-old uses a puck playing style similar to Marty Turco.
The other goaltender is 2007 draftee Tyson Sexsmith. The 6’0, 20-year-old comes straight from the Vancouver Giants of the WHL. Both goalies have the potential to be No. 1 goalies in the NHL and will give Worcester two solid goalies to rely on.