Over the past several days, the San Jose Sharks have held their annual prospect development camp, giving the organization a chance to survey and advise its youngest athletes a couple months in advance of training camp. The San Jose Barracuda are expected to see a massive roster turnover for the 2016-17 season, which will include many of these prospects. With new blood filling up the majority of the Barracuda forward corps next season, it would seem peculiar that the Sharks organization decided to clog things up even further by adding two more forwards. The question is, why are veterans Micheal Haley and John McCarthy coming back next season?
It is likely that more than half of the Barracuda’s forward assembly will be made up of first-year professionals, even if top prospect Timo Meier makes the NHL roster directly out of training camp. Gone are veteran AHLers like Bryan Lerg, Jeremy Langlois, Frazer McLaren, and Jeremy Morin. The group of new arrivals features Danny O’Regan, Kevin Labanc, Rourke Chartier, Alex Schoenborn, Jake Marchment, plus Marcus Sörensen (formerly of the Swedish Hockey League), and Adam Helewka and Jon Martin, who are both remain AHL rookies despite minimal experience as pros last season. As the remaining forwards were Nikolay Goldobin, Nikita Jevpalovs, and Alex Gallant, the Barracuda lacked a veteran presence who could help the fledglings transition to the pro game.
Micheal Haley is a player who has started from the ground, up. Haley began his pro career on an ECHL contract, eventually earning himself a gig with the AHL’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers, before signing NHL contracts with the New York Islanders, New York Rangers, and the Sharks. It is a difficult path that very few advance from (most players on ECHL contracts never even see AHL action) and shows just how high his work ethic is. Haley is a very versatile player for the Barracuda, who can play all three positions, plugging in on any line. Say what you want about his NHL role, which has primarily been as an enforcer, but he also can be used as needed by the Sharks. At the AHL level, Haley is a much more-rounded player who is counted on in all situations. These are great qualities to rub off on the many Barracuda forwards aspiring to reach the next level.
Aside from one half-season in the St. Louis Blues system, the Sharks organization is the only one John McCarthy has ever known in his seven-year pro career. No player has played for a Sharks farm team more than McCarthy (344 games). After struggling offensively with just five goals in his first 45 games last season, he found his mojo for the stretch drive to the playoffs, posting 11 goals in his final 22 games. He will likely end up as more of a role player going forward, playing key minutes on the penalty killing unit, as most of the youth are expected to drive the offense. If all goes well, seeing McCarthy go from being the third-leading point-scorer to centering the fourth line will speak volumes of the sudden influx of forward depth the Barracuda will see next season.
Without McCarthy and Haley, the Barracuda’s most-senior forward would have been Ryan Carpenter, who also would have been the only member of last season’s captainship group to return. While Carpy is 25 years old, an outstanding leader, and a frontrunner to be the next captain, even he only has two full seasons of pro experience on his résumé. If there ever was a player who could provide additional guidance for the Barracuda, it’s McCarthy, who was the Worcester Sharks’ captain for the 2012-13 season. Both he and Haley were the primary alternate captains last season.
With a nucleus so young, the Barracuda had to be picky about which veterans they could fit into their system, who could provide the leadership to help develop the Sharks’ prospects while not inhibiting their ice time. The organization determined that Haley and McCarthy are the men to balance out this promising group next season. When each were resigned, it probably created a quizzical look on many faces. It was once thought that if any AHL players would be resigned, fan-favorite Trevor Parkes would be atop the list. However, when you read between the lines and see what the Barracuda truly need, Micheal Haley and John McCarthy are the two with the most to offer.