Four of the five Sharks on the ice for the team’s first goal on Saturday night finished last year with the AHL’s San Jose Barracuda.
Barclay Goodrow, the goal-scorer, Danny O’Regan, Ryan Carpenter, and Joakim Ryan all played big roles for San Jose’s minor league affiliate. As did Kevin Labanc, Timo Meier, and recently recalled Marcus Sorensen, with the latter two rejoining the team in last spring’s Calder Cup playoffs.
Nearly a third of the Barracuda’s playoff roster is getting a look with the big club, and that doesn’t even include Tim Heed, the Barracuda’s second-leading point producer last year. The Swedish defenseman was placed on Injured Reserve (IR) ahead of Saturday’s game.
Other injuries have pressed San Jose’s youth movement into action. Joonas Donskoi and Paul Martin are also on IR, while Mikkel Boedker and Melker Karlsson missed Saturday’s loss in Tampa Bay.
Donskoi (seven), Boedker, and Karlsson (three each) have scored just over a fifth of San Jose’s 64 goals through 25 games this season. That’s a lot of production, and their absence demonstrates the limits of San Jose's organizational depth.
As The Athletic’s Zachary DeVine noted in late November, there’s really nobody left with the Barracuda for the Sharks to call up. Six of the Barracuda’s eight leading scorers from a season ago are up with the Sharks or on IR, in the case of Heed.
Meier and Labanc aren’t even among that group, but throw them in and that’s essentially the entirety of the Sharks’ NHL-ready youth movement. They may even be the only ones who qualify, as the only players on the roster younger than 23 years old.
As much as the Sharks have touted their youth movement, and as much as the Sharks need them right now, they aren’t yet a transformational group. Nor have they pushed all of the veterans ahead of them out of the lineup.
Saturday night was as difficult of an assignment as they’ll face all season, playing the league’s best team on the second half of a back-to-back. The Sharks played like a team relying on not-ready-for-primetime players to fill in offense.
They were outshot 43-27 in all situations, including 39-26 during five-on-five play. O’Regan, Goodrow, and Carpenter acquitted themselves nicely, holding a slight puck possession edge in a little over 11 minutes together.
Of course, they also finished 18th, 17th, and 16th, respectively, on the team in five-on-five ice time.
The season is only 25 games old, and there’s time yet for the Sharks’ youth movement to fully establish themselves. Heed, when healthy, and Ryan arguably have, while Meier’s spent time on the top line.
The youth movement will remain on full display while the Sharks deal with injuries. Staying there when the team is fully healthy, however, may prove too difficult.