Earlier this month the San Jose Sharks signed college free agent Tim Clifton. The Sharks are busy every spring bringing in undrafted free agents from Europe, the CHL and the NCAA ranks and early returns show more of the same.
BREAKING: Per TSN's @frank_seravalli senior Tim Clifton has signed a two year contract with the San Jose Sharks.
— Quinnipiac Bobcats Sports Network (@QBSN) March 18, 2017
Degree Completed, Tim Clifton Eyes Next Chapter
Clifton, 24, completed all four years with the Quinnipiac Bobcats to finish his degree. He resisted all temptation to join the professional ranks after his breakout Junior year with Quinnipiac. The Bobcats advanced all the way to the National Championship before falling 5-1 to the University of North Dakota in a 5-1 decision. Clifton scored the lone goal for the Bobcats in that game.
Tim Clifton played 148 games scoring 43 goals and 48 assists, totaling 91 points for QU. Thank you, Timmy! pic.twitter.com/foF5OkMMWC
— Quinnipiac Men's Ice Hockey (@QU_MIH) February 26, 2017
He said that he enjoyed his time in Hamden, Connecticut and finishing school was essential to himself and his family.
“I loved college, I loved Quinnipiac, loved everything about it,” said Clifton about the decision to return for his senior year despite NHL contract offers at the conclusion of his Junior year. “Getting my degree was very important to me, important to my mother. Quinnipiac is a great place to play hockey, the coaching staff is wonderful. It’s not like I was just going to stay in a lull. You know they are always pushing their players, you know even the older guys, push them every day to get better. So that’s a great place to be, you know they push you they make you work hard, you know, I was happy to go back.”
The Sharks likely got some detailed scouting reports on Clifton either way: Sharks prospect Karlis Cukste was a teammate of Clifton’s this season. Did Cukste do any campaigning on the Sharks’ behalf?
“A little bit,” Clifton said with a smile. “I asked [Cukste] about the organization, and he said nothing but good things, so that didn’t surprise me.”
Tim Clifton Graduates to San Jose Barracuda
With many offers floating around, Clifton pointed to the Sharks’ professional conduct as key in his decision to sign with San Jose.
“From day one, [the Sharks] got in touch with me. They have been honest, they have been respectful,” he said. “They are a high-class organization. You know, I don’t think there is any other reason than they make you want to play here. I was happy for them to give me the opportunity.”
Asked about what fans can expect from the centerman, hard work was the first thing promised.
“I would like to think that I’m going to compete my hardest day in and day out. I’ll do whatever I can to help the boys win.”
GIF: Tim Clifton's team-leading 13th goal of the season gives QU the 3-0 lead. 🍎s produced by Whelan and Martin. pic.twitter.com/iqO1LNIbA8
— Quinnipiac Men's Ice Hockey (@QU_MIH) March 4, 2017
In his short time with the San Jose Barracuda, head coach Roy Sommer agrees.
“You come out of a program you’ve been with for four years, and you come to another program and organization, there’s probably going to be some changes. But hockey’s hockey. The thing you want to see most out of the games is [a player’s] compete level, and that’s definitely there.”
“The guys are bigger, older, games faster, but I think the biggest thing I noticed was faceoff circle,” Clifton reported as the most significant difference in his short time in the AHL. “Now, centermen, they’re elite, they have been playing the game for a long time. They’re skilled; they’re stronger. The refs are dropping the pucks differently than in college. That’s the biggest adjustment I had to make. Being a centerman, I need to win faceoffs for the team.”
“It happens every year in the American Hockey League. No matter what team you’re on, your draft picks come in when they get knocked out of Juniors. Your free agents come in that you’re trying to sign and you got to get them in games. It’s a little hectic. I’m sure it gets other guys’ attention.”
Sommer pointed to Clifton’s puck hunting and solid positioning as two areas he has liked in the two games Clifton has played.
“Real smart. [Clifton] hunts pucks; he’s got a good stick. He’s done a good job as far as getting a stick on pucks. He gets after it,” Sommer said of the new center. “he didn’t play a lot of minutes the one game we were down, shortened the bench down a little bit. So far, what I’ve seen, I’ve liked. You can tell he’s a natural center. He’s always in good spots for the breakouts. He’s not above things and or he doesn’t get too far ahead of plays. He was good in his first two games.”
Barracuda Welcome New Addition
So far, the tight-knit Barracuda have welcomed the new center to the team. Clifton has played mainly a bottom-six role as he adjusts to the Sharks’ system and gets familiar with the new surroundings.
“The boys are great. They welcomed me right in and treated me like one of their own. As a guy coming in mid-season in the midst of a first place team that’s a nice, easy transition for me.”
Part of that progression is joining a team vying for first place overall in the AHL and already locked into to the Calder Cup playoffs with a good chance to make some noise in the postseason. The Matawan, New Jersey native said he was excited to be part of an extended run this spring with his new club.
“Yeah, very exciting. I’m honored and happy that [the Sharks Organization] wanted me to be a part of this journey with them.”
Both the Sharks and the Barracuda are excited as well to have Clifton on the squad as well.