At the time of writing, the Sharks are sitting in the 6 seed of the playoffs. With 53 points, they are four points clear of the chasing teams. However, this season has been anything but glamorous for Team Teal. Injuries, low production, and the usual calls for McLellan and Wilson’s jobs have made this season a bumpy one. Who has come to the rescue? Naturally, the kids you’ve never heard of! The Sharks rookies have been critical to survival this year.
Sharks Rookies Pulling Their Weight
Four guys have stepped up for Todd McLellan’s boys this season. These four have played more than a dozen games. Chris Tierney, Melker Karlsson, Mirco Mueller, and Barclay Goodrow each contribute in their own ways.
At twenty years old, Tierney is the second youngest of the new kids on the ice. Most of his body of work came early on in the season, but Chris Tierney has made an impact, if however slight. His foot speed impressed coaches and frustrated opposing defenses. He fit very well with Tommy Wingels on the third line that provided the Sharks with invaluable energy and forechecking.
Naturally, as a kid who can’t even drink legally, he’s got a lot to learn. But Tierney has shown flashes of his talent this season. His aforementioned speed combines with his disregard for personal safety as he has no issues doing dirty work along the boards or flying straight at opponents.
Of the Sharks rookies, no one else has laced them up more than Barclay Goodrow. And for whatever reason he is the most trusted of all the rookies. His zone start percentage is under 40% this season. Starting most of his shifts with his back inches from his own netminder makes his numbers skew south. So, if you’re seeing this and getting antsy in your seat, take that into consideration.
At even strength, spending most of his ice time with James Sheppard (not exactly Sidney Crosby) and beginning shifts in his own zone his numbers are bound to be low. He’s a -5, owns a -6.0 Corsi For relative, and -5.5 Shots For relative. But Goodrow has also been a fantastic student. He does his job no matter what line he is put on, and he has spent time on each one this season. His points per 60 is above one, however. That ranks him alongside Tomas Hertl in San Jose.
The kid I raved about at the beginning of the season, Mirco Mueller has been crucial to surviving the cutthroat Western Conference.
Mueller just chased down Gaborik. This kid is good
— Kenneth Laws (@Kenneth_LawsTHW) October 9, 2014
With a patchwork defense behind the venerable Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Mueller has been a godsend. He’s young and has tremendous upside. While he is not too offensively gifted, his positioning and hockey IQ shows signs of a veteran already.
An important thing to remember of these Sharks rookies is how little they have played in the league. Mueller is putting up defensive numbers on par with his linemates, however. His advanced stats are impressive. His CF% is at 53.1, he is well over 50% in goals for as well. So far, he has even managed to be a plus in the shot differential column. As I mentioned, his positioning and IQ are all developed well beyond his 19 years.
The prize gem of the Sharks rookies is far and away Melker Karlsson. Coming out of nowhere, he simply reeled off five straight games with goals. He is paired with James Sheppard most often, much like Barclay Goodrow. But unlike Goodrow, his offensive numbers are impressive. He already has 10 points in only 16 games this season.
Whether or not his production is possibly sustainable (it’s not), Karlsson has shown a fearless desire for goal. He’s earned a spot on the second power play unit and utilizes his footspeed to make things tough on opponents. He embodies teammate Tommy Wingels’ philosophy of out-working opponents.
The Kids Are Alright
They may not be taking the hockey world by storm like Tomas Hertl. But, these Sharks rookies are winning games all the same. Without these kids, the Sharks wouldn’t be able to ice a complete team. But that goes without saying. It’s easy to stop an offense that relies on four shooters (Marleau, Couture, Pavelski, Burns). But these young role players have made the Sharks not only competitive, but threatening. Every game they play is more and more experience they gain.