Barracuda Host Gulls
The San Jose Barracuda will face the San Diego Gulls in a pair of afternoon games at the SAP Center. The Barracuda (8-6-0-1)* currently sit in 6th place with a win percentage of .559 earning 19 points so far this season. The Gulls currently sit in second place in the pacific division with a record of 11-6-1-0 with a .639 win percentage and 23 points. So far the San Diego Gulls have owned the season series by beating the Barracuda in their last two meetings outscoring the Barracuda 7-2 as well.
* AHL Standings: W-L-OTL-SOL
The Barracuda have struggled with consistency so far this season unable to string together more than two wins in a row over the course of their first 17 games. When the offense has been working the defense and goaltending have failed and other nights it’s been the opposite. While the play has not exactly been consistent there is a lot to be excited about as a Barracuda fan so far this year or Sharks fans looking to the future. The infusion of rookie players from the 2014 draft class and prior has given fans players that are actually in the system to actually carry the team rather than a few players surrounded by AHL Journeymen.
The Gulls have a good mix of players on their team lead in scoring by 27-year-old veteran Corey Tropp (6 goals, 13 assists, 19 points). Brandon Montour, a 22-year-old defensive prospect for the Anaheim Ducks is in second in points scoring with 5 goals, 11 assists, and 16 points. Rookies Kevin Roy and Kalle Kossila have also chipped in 13 points each. In goal former Montreal Canadiens prospect Dustin Tokarski leads the way with nine wins.
Barracuda Forwards Impress
The forward core is where the Barracuda have seen most improvement where the line of Kevin Labanc, Rourke Chartier, and Nikolay Goldobin gave opposing team’s fit before the San Jose Sharks came calling forLebanc and while Chartier has continued to perform Goldobin has had a hard time adjusting to life after Labanc. Danny O’Regan, who many thought was the product of Jack Eichel, his linemate at Boston University has proven that he has some talent of his own leading the Barracuda in points with 18 (7 goals and 11 assists). O’Regan was also given the opportunity to play with the big club as a reward for his strong play so far as well as injuries. Other rookies have joined the party late like 2015 first round pick Timo Meier who got off to a rough start to his professional career by getting mononucleosis in training camp. When he finally entered the lineup, he struggled to find his game taking more penalties than points. However over the course of his last nine games Meier has turned his season around and now leads the team in goals (8) and is second in points with 14. The drawback for the Barracuda at first is that it seems like it is only a matter of time before the Sharks will come calling for him. Adam Helewka rejoined the lineup late in the season and has looked very good so far but it would be unwise to expect him to maintain his 25% shooting percentage over the course of the season.
Returning players to the Barracuda have also played a big part in the teams’ offense, the eternally dog-housed Barclay Goodrow has scored seven goals, Ryan Carpenter has eight points and Nikolay Goldobin has 14 points (2 goals 12 assists). I think many fans were looking for more from Goldobin this year and while paired with Labanc before his call up he looked like they would get it. However, in the absence of Labanc he has struggled to find consistency and watched as other players have been called up to the big club with lesser draft pedigrees. Another disappointing player on the offensive end of the puck has been newcomer Marcus Sorensen has struggled to adjust to the North American game after looking really promising in the prospect camp, unfortunately when he started to play pro’s his game dropped off.
Defense and Goaltending Shows Improvement
On the defensive end of the puck, the Barracuda have improved as well Tim Heed has really impressed at the AHL level and brought some veteran stability to the young defensive corp. The Barracuda have also enjoyed improvements from both Joakim Ryan and Julius Bergman. Bergman, in my opinion, has shown the most improvement thus far from his time last year and while I wouldn’t get your Bergman Sharks jersey made just yet it is a very positive sign for the second-year pro. Ryan also continues to improve and has been very steady on the Barracuda blueline although I still question if there is an NHL defenseman there, others are very high on him. Mirco Mueller on the other hand while improving has not improved enough to live up his first round drafting. While he has been called up to the Sharks a couple of times this seasons it has only been to sit in the pressbox. I often wonder if the Barracuda’s issues on defense come from having not enough diversity in the type of defenceman.
In the net Troy Grosenick has been good overall although missing some time with injury so far. Grosenick put in the work over the summer and it has shown motivated by being passed on the depth chart by current Sharks backup Aaron Dell. His game has been more technically sound and he has made plenty of saves so far that he wouldn’t have made last season. Mantis Armalis has been a mixed bag so far but also has shown improvement as he continues to make adjustments to the smaller ice surface of the North American game. He performed admirably in the absence of Grosenick.