Sharks AHL/ECHL prospects 2009-10 review

By Matthew Zarb

The Worcester Sharks team made a big splash after a decent, but unspectacular start. With a roster laden with rookies, along with a steady cross-migration between the club and parent team San Jose, Worcester steadily came into their own after the calendar flipped into 2010. A glistening 31-13-1 record over the last two-thirds of the season put the Sharks at the top of the food chain in the Atlantic Division, and a fourth-overall place in the entire AHL. Several Shark prospects took another step towards permanent residency in northern California. 

Though they were eliminated in the second round of the Calder Cup playoffs, falling in six games to the Manchester Monarchs, the 2009-10 season should be considered a success. With several possible openings on the San Jose roster next season, the Worcester squad may lose several key performers. But reinforced by this year’s aggressive signings of college free agents and perhaps a few junior graduates, the Baby Sharks will look to extend their forward progress into the 2010-11 season. 

San Jose’s ECHL affiliate, the expansion Kalamazoo K-Wings (shared with the Philadelphia Flyers), also had an excellent season, finishing tied for second overall. Although eliminated in the Kelly Cup playoffs the Reading Royals, 4 games to 1, the first season in Kalamazoo exceeded most expectations.

Logan Couture, C, 20
Acquired: 1st round pick (9th overall), 2007

Despite injury and promotion, Couture played in only 42 AHL contests in his rookie season, but still showed excellent offensive instincts, accumulating 20 goals and 33 assists. He also contributed on special teams, tying for third on the team with six power-play goals and adding a short-handed tally for good measure. One of two Worcester Sharks named to the AHL 2010 All-Rookie Team. Couture was another member of the Worcester squad who saw time with San Jose this season, with a respectable nine points in 25 NHL regular-season games, and added three goals (in 12 games) through the second round of the playoffs, mostly in a checking-line role.
With the probable departure of Patrick Marleau, Couture will have an opportunity to compete for a top-six forward role with the parent Sharks next season.  

Nick Petrecki, D, 20
Acquired: 1st round pick (28th overall), 2007

Petrecki finished his AHL rookie season as a healthy scratch in the Calder Cup playoffs, but he did manage to appear in 65 games this season, finishing with 14 points (2 goals, 12 assists) and 106 penalty minutes, including eight fighting majors. Projected to be a physical, hard-hitting defenseman, Petrecki will need to work on his quickness and discipline in the defensive zone, and should benefit from another year or two in Worcester. Simple physical maturity should also benefit Petrecki moving forward, as he may not have fully grown into his massive frame just yet.    

Tyson Sexsmith, G, 20
Acquired: 3rd round pick (94th overall), 2007

Pushed aside by Alex Stalock‘s breakout season in the AHL, Sexsmith was briefly sent to the ECHL‘s Kalamazoo Wings, appearing in two games before his recall to Worcester. In only 13 appearances, he posted a 4-6 record, with a sub-par 3.94 GAA and .860 save percentage.  Obviously, Sexsmith would like to forget this past season and focus on making himself relevant again to the Sharks plans. Signed through next season, he still has some time to do so. 

Mike Moore, D, 25
Acquired: Free agent signing, 2008

A steady defensive defenseman for the Worcester Sharks, Moore did what was expected of him this season. One of the older players on rookie-laden Worcester, Moore continued to provide leadership and a physical presence. A feared open-ice hitter, which belies his off-ice humanitarian efforts, Moore will continue to work on becoming a dependable shut-down rearguard, which will be his ticket to progressing further in his careers. Modest offensive totals (3 goals, 19 goals in 64 games) were offset by his excellent +16 plus/minus rating. He is signed through 2012.  

Derek Joslin, D, 22
Acquired: 5th round pick (149th overall), 2005

With 32 points in only 55 AHL contests, Joslin continued to exhibit his offensive capabilities, while his +14 rating showed that he is no slouch in his own zone, either. Like the previous season, Joslin also made his way to San Jose, appearing in 24 NHL games, chipping in with three assists. A restricted free agent, Joslin has little left to prove in the AHL, and will hope for a new contract and an opportunity at next year’s training camp to win a spot as a fifth or sixth defenseman.  

Steven Zalewski, C, 23
Acquired: 5th round pick (153rd overall), 2004

Unlike several other Shark prospects, Zalewski played almost the entire season in Worcester, other than a three-game stint in the NHL. Counted on to provide offense while maintaining his defensive responsibilities, Zalewski put up good scoring totals (22 goals, 40 assists in 78 games), but a -13 plus/minus rating will need to be addressed. Not a flashy prospect, Zalewski will likely compete with, or complement, players such as Torrie Mitchell for third- or fourth-line duty with San Jose. Zalewski is a restricted free agent this summer, but his progression and versatility should earn him a new contract. 

Alex Stalock, G, 22
Acquired: 4th round pick (112th overall), 2005

Nothing inspires confidence like winning, and no goalie in the AHL won more games than Alex Stalock this season. Setting a new record for rookie goaltenders with 39 wins, Stalock was the driving force behind Worcester’s marvelously successful season. Seizing the No. 1 spot early on, Stalock appeared in 61 regular-season games, and was a steadying influence on the young Sharks. Despite modest statistics (2.63 GAA and a .908 save percentage), the former U of Minnesota-Duluth star simply willed his team to victory after victory. With Evgeny Nabokov’s pending free agency, it remains to be seen if Stalock will be competing for a job in San Jose next season, but the Sharks have always been patient with their goaltenders, mostly with positive results. Another season in the AHL wouldn’t be the end of the world, if only to further adjust to the intricacies of the pro game. Stalock already possesses excellent puckhandling skills, another relative rarity which could work to his advantage. 

Matt Jones, RW, 23
Acquired: Free agent signing, 2008

Splitting time between Worcester and Kalamazoo this season, Jones will need to rebuild his confidence if he hopes to progress. In 19 games for Worcester, the power forward had only eight points, while with the K-Wings he enjoyed a bit more success, putting up 17 goals and 11 assists in 35 games. Jones will need to better utilize his massive frame in the offensive zone, and become more aggressive, in order to carve out a niche for himself.

Benn Ferriero, RW, 22
Acquired: Free agent signing, 2009

Breaking training camp with the parent Sharks, Ferriero played in 22 NHL games to open the season. Sent down to Worcester, he shone on the Baby Sharks top line, scoring nearly a point per game (19 goals, 31 assists in 58 games). Without ideal size, Ferriero nonetheless brings an excellent mixture of fearlessness and hockey sense to the table. Able to play in all situations, Ferriero is another of San Jose’s crop of two-way forwards who will give the Sharks the secondary scoring and defensively-sound checking lines that are a key to success in the salary-capped NHL. 

Joe Loprieno, D, 23
Acquired: Free agent signing, 2009

Loprieno lost playing time to the trio of college free-agent defensemen signed by San Jose late in the season, and was a healthy scratch in the Calder Cup playoffs. A defensive defenseman who plays a simple game, he will have to improve his play next season to remain on San Jose’s radar. In 46 games with Worcester, Loprieno had four assists and 52 penalty minutes.

Brandon Mashinter, LW, 21
Acquired: Free agent signing, 2009

The sizeable forward prospect had a decent season in the AHL, potting 22 goals (including five on the power play) and 37 points in 79 games. With good skating skills and improving corner work, Mashinter will look to continue the sometimes slow process of developing a power game. Along with fellow prospect Fraser McLaren, Mashinter also did a good job of protecting his teammates, squaring off 13 times this season.   

John McCarthy, LW, 23
Acquired: 7th round pick (202nd overall), 2006

Playing on Worcester’s "Crazed Rat" Line, along with Andrew Desjardins and Dan DaSilva, McCarthy posted good numbers (15 goals, 27 assists in 74 games) while providing energetic forechecking. The former Boston U. Terrier will be in the mix for a future spot on San Jose’s checking lines. 

Justin Braun, 23
Matt Irwin, 23
Nick Schaus, 24

Acquired: Free agent signings, 2010

Three late additions, they stabilized the young Worcester backline. Braun and Schaus made an immediate impact, playing in all 11 of Worcester’s playoff games, each posting three assists. Irwin appeared in only one playoff game, being held scoreless. Each plays a typical collegiate-style game, with decent defensive-zone skills and some offensive upside. While all are under contract for next season, it remains to be seen where each falls into San Jose’s plans. A full season in the AHL should give a better read on their abilities. 

Frazer McLaren, 23
Acquired: 7th round (203rd overall), 2007

There is little dispute about McLaren’s role on the Baby Sharks, that of team enforcer.  Dropping the mitts readily this past season, McLaren performed his job adequately. He also chipped in with four goals and 11 assists in 52 contests.