Sharks rookies continue developing at AHL level with Barracuda

Sharks rookies continue developing at AHL level with Barracuda

SAN JOSE – There have been a few shuffles of the deck as players in the Sharks’ organization have bounced between the Barracuda and NHL club.

Rourke Chartier, Dylan Gambrell, Antti Suomela, and Jacob Middleton may all currently be skating for the AHL squad, but they’ve spent time in the Joe Pavelski-led lineup as well.

NBC Sports California attended Barracuda practice on Thursday as the team reconvened for their first skate after the AHL All-Star break. Here’s a quick check-in on how those four players’ seasons are shaping up.

--Rourke Chartier spent the first part of the 2018-19 season playing fourth-line center for Team Teal. He’s since bounced between the two clubs, registering 13 points (four goals, nine assists) with the Barracuda.

“Going up and down, I think it has been a good experience,” Chartier said on Thursday. “I’ve had a lot of fun just playing hockey. Hopefully, I can catch some more rhythm in the second half, whichever team I’m on.”

The 22-year-old center said the rhythm he’s had so far can be contributed to having the opportunity to consistently play games. Even if he’s a healthy scratch for the Sharks one night, he can follow that up playing a couple games for the Barracuda and staying fresh.

“At the end of the day you want to be playing games and getting better here,” Chartier said. “So when I do get another opportunity (at the NHL level) it’s going to be a lot easier having played some games.”

--The last time NBC Sports California caught up with Dylan Gambrell, he was reflecting on the things he wanted to improve in his personal game at the NHL level. At the AHL level, though, the 22-year-old rookie has been one of the Barracuda’s top players.

“I think my development is going well,” said Gambrell, who is tied for third on the team with 24 points (nine goals, 15 assists) through 29 games. “Both teams are doing well too, so that’s been good.”

The University of Denver product brings a lot of speed to the Barracuda squad, which is considered one of the fastest teams in the league. Gambrell said the quickness of the AHL team has helped to prepare him for when he gets called up to the big club.

“It just makes it an easier transition,” he summarized. “There’s not as big of a jump, or at least you don’t notice it as much when you get called up.”

[RELATED: How Burns, Karlsson have impressed NHL All-Star goalies]

--Antti Suomela may only have seven points (two goals, five assists) in 17 games for the Barracuda. But head coach Roy Sommer said the Finnish rookie is bound to break out.

“With him, the work ethic is there, and he has a big compete to his game,” the coach complimented. “I think he just has to figure out the North American game. Things happen a lot quicker here than where he was at. But he’s picking it up.”

--Sharks fans are probably most familiar with defenseman Jacob Middleton because of his abrupt call-up to the big club earlier this month. A move made possible by the close proximity between the NHL and AHL teams.

“I think everyone -- all the teams that have come from out east, it’s a lot less wear-and-tear on your players,” said Sommer, whose players only have to jump across the practice facility when recalled. (Instead of having to make the long coast-to-coast flight the players took when the team was still located in Worcester, Mass.)

Sommer also echoed what Chartier said about getting players into games as opposed to them sitting around and getting rusty.

“Instead of guys just sitting for long periods of time, they get an opportunity to get in games and get their rhythm.”

Sharks credit perfect penalty kill in sealing big win over Hurricanes

Sharks credit perfect penalty kill in sealing big win over Hurricanes

SAN JOSE -- The Sharks' 5-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Wednesday night was no easy feat.

In fact, the team was fairly unhappy with how they played in the first period at SAP Center, despite heading into the first intermission with a 3-1 lead. 

But the Sharks were happy with was how their special teams propelled them to their third straight win. Although a potent power play helped get them on the board early, the penalty kill made the biggest difference.

"Our penalty kill, we've taken a lot of pride in it for a long time," coach Peter DeBoer said. "It's been good for a few years here."

The Sharks ended the night with the NHL's third-best penalty kill with a 91.7 percent success rate. San Jose has not allowed a power-play goal in each of its last three wins.

Evander Kane's first-period hat trick gave the Sharks a boost, but they spent too much time in their own zone at even strength Wednesday. The Hurricanes, who were playing the second night of a back-to-back, gave San Jose netminder Martin Jones plenty of work to do. Carolina dominated the shot clock and had the game's better chances.

But when things got extra interesting in the second period and the Sharks got into penalty trouble, their kill came to the rescue. Barclay Goodrow, a mainstay on San Jose's penalty kill, credited the Sharks' short-handed success to their pace.

"We're moving our feet, we're pressuring the opposition," he summarized. "We're forcing them to make plays a little quicker than they would like to. I think that, and we're blocking shots. And we're getting clears when we want to, so it's going well."

The Hurricanes had a golden opportunity to climb out of their two-goal hole late in the second period. Goodrow and Patrick Marleau simultaneously sat in the penalty box for hooking minors, giving Carolina 46 seconds on the 5-on-3. 

But with help from Jones, the Sharks penalty kill kept the 'Canes off the scoreboard.

"Your goalie's always your best penalty killer," DeBoer said. "He was really solid. I thought that first period [the score] could've been 3-3. He's given us two really good games in a row."

[RELATED: Watch Kane score Sharks' first-ever first-period hat trick]

While every game carries its own momentum, the Sharks undoubtedly would like for the success of their penalty kill to carry over into their next game.

The Sharks close out their three-game homestand Saturday night against the Buffalo Sabres, who currently have the second-best power play in the league. As a result, San Jose knows its penalty kill will once again be a key point. 

"We're going to be playing a good Buffalo team," Sharks captain Logan Couture observed. "I think they lost tonight but they've been playing very, very well. Their power play is very hot. So it'll be a good test for us."

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 5-2 win over red-hot Hurricanes

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 5-2 win over red-hot Hurricanes

SAN JOSE -- The Sharks knew the Carolina Hurricanes would be a big test Wednesday night at SAP Center. If that test was being graded, you would be hard-pressed not to give them an A.

Fueled by Evander Kane's first-period hat trick and a potent power play, the Sharks played perhaps their best game to date and stymied the Hurricanes in a 5-2 win.

Here are three takeaways from San Jose's third straight win.

Evander Kane, obviously

When a player becomes the first in Sharks history to score a hat trick before the first period ended, not giving him his own takeaway would be a crime. 

Kane's first goal deserves some recognition because of how quickly he scooped up the loose puck at Tomas Hertl's feet to chip it past Hurricanes netminder James Reimer.

But his next two power-play goals were also impressive, and his third was downright Pavelskian.

The Sharks struggled to get traffic in front of the net during their winless start, but Kane and his teammates have been much better lately getting in the goalie's grill. On Wednesday night, that effort paid off. Big time.

Martin Jones keeps rolling

When Jones made a swift glove save on Teuvo Teravainen 1:07 into the game, you could tell he was about to have another strong outing.

The 'Canes spent most of the game in the Sharks' zone, and Carolina dominated the shot clock for the duration. But Jones was in the zone.

The Sharks won't be happy that Jones faced a lot of strong chances, even if San Jose collectively did a better job at minimizing the turnovers in this game. At least with both goaltenders playing well, the Sharks have a better chance of keeping those mistakes out of the back of their net.

[RELATED: Sharks' Labanc keeping focus on future after turnaround]

A special night for the power play and penalty kill

When the Sharks' special teams were in a rough state at the very start of the season, coach Peter DeBoer said he wasn't worried about it. He had a feeling it would figure itself out, and he was right.

In addition to Kane's two power-play goals, the Sharks penalty kill came up big in the second period when they killed off the Hurricanes' two-man advantage. Even though Carolina was visibly tired due to playing on the tail end of a back-to-back, the Eastern Conference leaders were still getting some good looks in front of Jones. The Sharks penalty kill, however, was on point. 

That bodes well for Saturday when the Sharks host the Buffalo Sabres, who currently have the NHL's second-best power play.