Barracuda at the Quarter Mark – the Forwards

The San Jose Barracuda opened the 2016-17 season drastically different from the teams’ inaugural year. Turnover in the AHL is nothing new, but the make-up of the San Jose Sharks’ AHL affiliate was as pronounced as the organization has ever experienced.

Sharks general manager Doug Wilson has added 44 new players in the previous three years and the new crop of young players and prospects joining the ranks has been impressive and drastically changed the demographic of the Sharks’ farm team. With the Barracuda recently completing the first quarter of its current campaign, a proper review is in order.

Turnover Has Been Massive

To start, the Barracuda look almost nothing like last years’ edition.

New Additions

Returning Players

Mantas Armalis – G

Troy Grosenick – G

Colin Blackwell – C

Julius Bergman – D

Rourke Chartier – C

Ryan Carpenter – C/RW

Tim Heed – D

Alex Gallant – LW

Adam Helewka – LW

Nikolay Goldobin – LW

Dan Kelly – D

Nikita Jevpalovs – RW

Kevin Labanc – RW

John McCarthy – C

Jon Martin – RW

Patrick McNally – D

Timo Meier – LW

Mirco Mueller – D

Jacob Middleton – D

Joakim Ryan – D

Danny O’Regan – C

Marcus Sorensen – LW

Alex Schoenborn – RW

The influx of young players making the jump to the professional ranks has dropped the average age of the Barracuda to 23 years old, the youngest in the AHL. Nine of the players were either in the CHL or NCAA last season, yet the new additions have made their impact known. Seven of the top 10 scorers on the ‘Cuda were not with the club last year.

Forward Group with Speed, Skill and Youth

The forward group brought in enough bodies to fill three forward lines and through the first 17 games of the AHL season has not disappointed. In fact, it’s been full of players who have surprised by adapting to the pro game nearly instantly.

Kevin Labanc scorched the AHL to start his professional career. He was held off the scoresheet as the Barracuda lost their season opener to the Stockton Heat. But the following seven games he’s played, Labanc potted four goals and nine assists.

San Jose Barracuda forwards Kevin Labanc and Nikolay Goldobin (Scott Dinn/San Jose Barracuda)
San Jose Barracuda forwards Kevin Labanc and Nikolay Goldobin (Scott Dinn/San Jose Barracuda)

He’s been called up to the Sharks twice and during a weekend off for the parent club was sent back to the Barracuda for a weekend series against the San Antonio Rampage where he jumped in with three assists. At only 20 years of age, the 2014 sixth round pick is exceeding his draft position. His on-ice vision and offensive instincts might be the best among the Sharks prospects, and Coach Sommer has said on numerous occasions that Labanc’s shot might be the best he has seen in his time with the franchise.

O’Regan on the Leaderboard

Center Danny O’Regan leads the team and is third in AHL rookie scoring with 18 points in 17 games after a four-year career at Boston University. Roy Sommer has used O’Regan extensively on special teams as well and during a one-game call-up with the San Jose Sharks, O’Regan’s first shift in the NHL came on the penalty kill. He’s a smart player that is already an option for the Sharks but is leading the offense for the Barracuda.

Timo Time Is Near

Headlined by 2015 first-round selection Timo Meier, there was plenty of buzz around the Swiss product who many expected to make the San Jose Sharks’ opening night roster. However, a bout of mononucleosis during training camp shelved those plans.

San Jose Barracuda winger Timo Meier (Scott Dinn/San Jose Barracuda)
San Jose Barracuda winger Timo Meier (Scott Dinn/San Jose Barracuda)

It ended up being for the best for Meier, as his play away from the puck was always in need of some tuning after two dominant years in the QMJHL where defense can be more of an optional part of a player’s overall game. Improvement away from the puck and getting into game-shape has rounded Meier back into form and a call-up at some point this season is likely in the cards. Meier’s goal scoring has followed him from his days in Major Junior and he paces the Barracuda with eight goals and in shots on goal with 55.

Depth Players Filling the Roles

The depth of the Barracuda is also mostly filled by younger players, using valuable roster spots in the AHL to groom potential NHLers as opposed to last year when it was mainly career minor leaguers. Former WHL power forwards Adam Helewka, Jon Martin and Alex Schoenborn, are adding much-needed size and sand to the small and speedy line-up and gaining valuable experience. Colin Blackwell, another NCAA product has been productive as well and shows an excellent

Colin Blackwell, another NCAA product, has been productive as well and shows an excellent compete-level and physicality despite being one of the smaller players on the team. Rourke Chartier has been an impressive, two-way center and already has ten points centering the second line.

Veterans Adding to the Squad

San Jose Barracuda forwards Barclay Goodrow, John McCarthy, John Carpenter (Scott Dinn/San Jose Barracuda))
San Jose Barracuda forwards Barclay Goodrow, John McCarthy, John Carpenter (Scott Dinn/San Jose Barracuda))

AHL veterans John McCarthy, 30, who has been part of the San Jose organization dating back to the Worcester Sharks days, except for a year sabbatical with the St. Louis Blues, captains the young squad. Flanked by Barclay Goodrow and Ryan Carpenter, this more experienced line provides steady amounts of leadership and scoring for Coach Sommer. Goodrow is the early leader for the Barracuda “Cy Young Award” with seven goals and two assists. Not surprisingly, the trio has been the line to calm things down on the ice and get the team back to playing the system. They have been effective on all fronts, from offense to leadership.

How It Translates to the Ice

For fans that have watched the San Jose Sharks for any length of time, you will quickly notice the same system is employed by both teams. The Barracuda like to hound puck carriers and use speed and puck movement to keep teams on their heels. On most nights it works very well.

Through the quarter mark, the Barracuda have not lacked scoring punch. However, the team looks very different when Kevin Labanc is in the line-up, and when he is up with the Sharks the team takes a step back. Goldobin, in particular, has missed his offensive partner. With Labanc in the line-up, Goldobin has had a skilled partner that helped him post two goals and nine assists, better than a point per game. When Labanc is up with the Sharks, Goldobin has just three assists.

O’Regan has taken over the top centerman spot in the line-up and has produced well whoever the wingers are. His complete-level, offensive smarts, and defensive acumen have drawn raves from the coaching staff and his fellow players. Marcus Sorensen has been the definition of feast or famine: all eight of his points have come in only three games. He has added speed and his forechecking sets the tone on most nights.

Skilled Players Adjusting to Physical AHL

One area where the team has struggled at times is in their physical play. Size is not a key attribute of the young players entering their first professional season. But like size, you cannot teach skill and this cohort of offensive players looks like the biggest talent infusion in the Sharks’ history.

The Barracuda are not running the table and the final game before hitting the quarter mark of the season was undoubtedly their worst game, a 4-0 shellacking at the hands of the Stockton Heat. But just like victories, defeats are a teaching tool. It’s part of the learning curve, but the Barracuda are in the bottom third of the AHL in both height (23rd) and weight (25th).

The key for this iteration of the team is they now have the offensive firepower to make some noise in the AHL’s second season. Their lack of size is something to watch for as the team moves into the next portion of the schedule.

AHL Standings as of December 9, 2016 (via
AHL Standings as of December 9, 2016 (via

Coming tomorrow: Barracuda at the Quarter Mark – Goalies and Defense