This season, the San Jose Barracuda feature 12 players playing their rookie season in the American Hockey League. Unsurprisingly, that many rookies make San Jose the youngest team in AHL, with an average age under 23. The youth infusion is led by The Kid Line with versatile pivot Rourke Chartier centering the Barracuda’s top scoring line flanked by Kevin Labanc and Nikolay Goldobin.
The Kid Line Producing
Kevin Labanc, last season’s leading scorer in the OHL, has adjusted to the increased competition quicker than many expected. The skilled right winger leads the Barracuda in goals with three and is tied with linemate Nikolay Goldobin at six helpers. Labanc did not offer much when asked what is helping him in the early going.
“It’s just getting shots on net,” Labanc said of his early success. “You get shots, and there will be rebounds, or it will go in. We get a lot of traffic in front of the net so just shot the puck and things start happening.”
Chartier plays a solid two-way game and has the skill to keep his wingers involved. The former Kelowna Rockets center is the glue on that line and his defensive game allows free reign for the other two to generate offense.
“It’s been a lot of fun. Obviously, they’re two high-skill guys,” Chartier said about his wingers. “Personally I just try to contribute defensively as the centerman. Just go to [open] areas and honestly, with those two guys and the skill they have, it’s easy playing with them.”
Goldobin, the grizzled veteran of the line with 78 AHL games of experience, has especially benefited from the two rookies, with two goals and six assists being second on the squad only to Labanc. Having the speed and creativity to keep up with the skilled Russian helped Labanc to establish his game early this season as well. The trio has consistently been the Barracuda’s most threatening combination through the first half dozen games of the season.
The man who drafted all three players, San Jose Sharks General Manager Doug Wilson is pleased with the early returns.
“They are very skilled, and they compete hard. It’s fun to see that type of talent level together. You talk to head coach Roy Sommer, and he likes the speed and puck possession of all the forwards. But it’s good to see their progress.”
The Barracuda are averaging over 36 shots on goal per game, and the ice is often slanted towards the opposing netminder when the Kid Line is out on the ice.
“The bottom line is we have a hell of a lot of scoring on our team,” said Sommer. “We’re always going to be in a game. In the past it was the first team to three [goals], now it’s the first team to six.”
Meier Getting His Groove Back
Timo Meier, who lost nearly five weeks of the early season because of a bout of mononucleosis has turned a corner since returning. Last weekend, the rust was evident as Meier played in his first professional games. His legs and hands were disjointed and he struggled defensively, but still managed two assists in a 6-5 loss to the San Antonio Rampage, the first points of his professional career.
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