Despite being in the bottom half of goal scoring in the AHL and being relatively average in team defense, the Worcester Sharks boast a record of 19-16-2-5, currently sitting fourth in the Atlantic division with 45 points. Jonathan Cheechoo currently leads the club in points, averaging a point-per-game through 38 games played; but in regard to young prospects, they have struggled offensively. There have been exceptions however, as Benn Ferriero, Justin Braun, Mike Moore, Frazer McLaren and Brandon Mashinter have all seen time with the NHL Sharks this season.
Frazer McLaren, LW, 23
Despite only playing six AHL games so far this season, Frazer McLaren has certainly had an eventful year. He managed to get into nine games in San Jose before being sent back to the AHL, but had spent most of his time on the injured reserve, missing 21 games due to a hip injury. Though he’s been known to provide a physical spark both in terms of his aggressive forechecking and his ability to drop the gloves, he’s been quiet in his six AHL games this season, perhaps still lingering from the hip injury. In those six games, McLaren has yet to register a point and has just two penalty minutes.
Brandon Mashinter, LW, 22
Currently with San Jose, Brandon Mashinter has played 31 games in Worcester this season, registering 15 points. Though unable to find any scoring consistency, having gone through lengthy goal-scoring stretches this season, Mashinter has provided adept secondary scoring for Worcester. He has yet to play for Worcester in the New Year, having played nine NHL games in San Jose, but it is likely he’ll be back in the AHL before the season ends; Mashinter, of course, has a few aspects of his game to work on before becoming a full time NHLer. He has, however, provided grit in San Jose since being recalled, and currently has a total of five fights in the AHL.
Tony Lucia, LW, 23
Lucia played four games last year for Worcester after finishing his collegiate career. He managed one goal in four games, getting a taste of what he’d experience in this, his rookie season; however, he has managed to get into just two games for the Sharks this season due to a concussion that has kept him out of the line-up since October. His return date is still up in the air.
Tommy Wingels, C, 22
Wingels has been thrust into NHL action in this his first professional season. He’s laced up the skates in five games for San Jose, but has spent the majority of his season, 35 games, playing for Worcester. After an impressive three year career at the University of Miami, the twenty-two-year-old has been fairly impressive in his professional debut, scoring six goals and adding six assists in those 35 games for Worcester. He was a fairly consistent secondary scorer in the first half of the season, however, he has yet to record a point in 2011 and has currently gone 12 games without a goal.
Benn Ferriero, RW, 23
Ferriero has been with San Jose since mid-November, and it appears, at least for this season, he will be going back-and-forth between the AHL and NHL. His call-up back in November to San Jose certainly was warranted, however, as the twenty-three-year-old was scoring at a point-per-game, equaling the production of current leading scorer Jonathan Cheechoo. In nine games in October, he was able to score seven goals and accumulated 11 points. His production was slowed in November, but yet, he was able to earn the call to San Jose. Since then, he has recorded eight points in 26 games and has been a productive bottom-six forward for San Jose. Ferriero was recently reassigned to Worcester.
Cam MacIntyre, RW, 25
An undrafted free agent, Cam MacIntyre has had a rough start to his professional career. The Princeton grad has appeared in 12 games for Worcester, and while registering four points in 12 games with limited ice time is impressive, MacIntyre’s minus-nine rating is rather concerning. His season, like many others on the Sharks roster, has been hampered by injury, but since returning to action in the New Year, he’s looked much better.
James Marcou, RW, 22
Marcou was an astute playmaker in the NCAA, registering 40 assists over 36 games in his junior year at UMass-Amherst, and to an extent, he has transferred that playmaking ability to his rookie season in Worcester. Behind veteran Cheechoo, he has been one of the Sharks most productive forwards, amassing 19 points in 41 games, 15 of which have been assists. Like many young players, inconsistencies have affected his game; he has scored the bulk of his points in October and December. He looks to be an impressive playmaking winger, and will likely be given increased responsibilities as the season progresses, especially with the injuries within the organization.
Justin Braun, D, 23
Before emerging in the last 15 games as an impressive rookie defenseman with the San Jose Sharks, Justin Braun was combining his steady defensive zone play with his offensive abilities. He was one of the top defensemen in Worcester, having totaling 12 points in 23 games, while being one of the few defenseman to sit on the positive side of the plus/minus scale. He had a great month of October and looked impressive in early January for Worcester, but has recently been called up to San Jose. One of the most impressive aspects of Braun’s game as emphasized through his stats is his ability to play defense without taking many penalties; he’s received just four minor penalties in 23 games.
Nick Schaus, D, 24
Another undrafted free agent out of the NCAA
, Schaus has been a decent find, at least for the AHL, if anything else. By no means has he been an offensive juggernaut on the back-end, but the twenty-four-year-old has played steady defensive hockey all season long and in all situations. Having suited up in all but two games for the Sharks this season, he has been a fixture in the lineup.
Nick Petrecki, D, 21
If Schaus has been a pleasant surprise, Petrecki, despite having similar offensive numbers, has been somewhat disappointing this season for the Sharks. In 36 games, the second-year pro has been unable to improve upon his offensive numbers from last season; he’s managed just seven points, including just two points in his last 17, and is only on pace to equal his rookie totals of 14 points. Not to mention, he’s been a minus-six up until this point in the season, and needs work on his defensive zone coverage. He has shown flashes of steady play, and it is true that his +/- is skewered by a game early in the season against Norfolk in which he was a minus-five. That said, Petrecki certainly hasn’t lived up to the expectations that come with the first round tag.
Matt Irwin, D, 23
Undrafted free agent and former teammate of Justin Braun and James Marcou, Matt Irwin has been another pleasant surprise for the Sharks. With little expectations, Irwin has become the second leading scorer on the blueline for the Sharks, registering 18 points in 36 games. He’s scored seven goals on the season, four of them being with the man advantage. Further, Irwin has been progressing offensively as the season goes on, scoring five points in his past eight games. He seems to be joining a group of young capable defensemen in the San Jose system.
Joe Loprieno, D, 24
Loprieno sits behind a glut of defensemen capable of making the jump to the NHL in the near future. He has played in just 27 games this season as a bottom pairing defenseman, scoring one goal and yet to register an assist. His play has been rather uninspiring, but he currently does fit in well as a fifth or sixth defenseman on the club.
Alex Stalock, G, 23
After a surprising rookie campaign in 2009-10 with Worcester in which he emerged as the club’s starting goaltender, Stalock has continued his strong play this season; in fact, his numbers have gone up in the two major statistical categories, posting a 2.53 goals against average and a .911 save percentage at the mid-point of the AHL season. He has certainly been one of the most important players for the Sharks this season and has been vital to their success, or, in some cases, lack thereof.
Tyson Sexsmith, G, 21
After an impressive junior career with the Vancouver Giants, Tyson Sexsmith has failed to meet expectations in his professional career. He was unable to hold a job between the pipes in Worcester and hasn’t exactly been a star in the few games he’s played in the ECHL. In just six games for the Stockton Thunder this season, Sexsmith has a 3-1-2 record to go along with a 2.93 goals against average and .881 save percentage. Adding to the disappointments of Sexsmith is the fact that he’s missed most of the season due to a broken hand suffered in a fight in early November. He’s close to returning to Stockton’s lineup, where he’ll need to prove himself before even earning consideration for ice-time in Worcester.