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.”

2020 NHL playoffs: Everything Sharks fans need to know when tuning in

2020 NHL playoffs: Everything Sharks fans need to know when tuning in

Watching the Stanley Cup playoffs this summer must be a strange experience for Sharks fans.

Sure, it's weird for every hockey fan watching games played in front of empty arenas in the middle of August during a global pandemic. But Sharks fans haven't spent much of the last few years as passive postseason observers, advancing to at least the Western Conference final in two of the four years preceding 2020.

There are plenty of intriguing storylines now that the playoff field has been whittled down to 16 teams. Which should Sharks fans pay attention to? Here's a guide to the postseason for San Jose supporters.

The Villains

Sharks fans' rooting interests in the playoffs can be best described as "Anyone but the Vegas Golden Knights." Not only did San Jose and Vegas square off in the last two postseasons, but the Golden Knights now are coached by former Sharks bench boss Peter DeBoer.

You'd have a difficult time convincing teal diehards to root for Chicago in the first round, considering how many times "Chelsea Dagger" played in the Original Six franchise's Western Conference final sweep of the Sharks a decade ago. But when the alternative is seeing the DeBoer-led Golden Knights march toward a Stanley Cup, Sharks fans have an easy choice.

The Familiar Faces

My colleague in content Brian Witt highlighted some of the biggest former Sharks still playing for a Stanley Cup. Dallas Stars forward Joe Pavelski -- that's still odd to type -- leads the list, but there are quite a few players who once donned teal who are playing for hockey's ultimate prize.

The Eastern Conference could lead to some difficult rooting choices for Sharks fans, though. It's likely that two of the Philadelphia Flyers (Justin Braun), Tampa Bay Lightning (Barclay Goodrow) and Washington Capitals (Brenden Dillon) will square off, and each player still is looking for their first ring.

[RELATED: How Sharks benefit from Rangers winning NHL draft lottery]

The Jokes

Somewhat surprisingly, the NHL really has leaned into the weirdness of this year's Stanley Cup playoffs being played in two buildings -- Edmonton's Rogers Place and Toronto's Scotiabank Arena -- for audiences watching from their couches. There has been a tribute to the "fans" in attendance, a ban on the wave and even multiple appearances from designated hat throwers when a player scores a hat trick.

The NHL had to postpone a playoff game because Game 1 between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Columbus Blue Jackets at Scotiabank Arena went to five overtimes. Columbus' official account then tweeted this.

The Sharks had some fun with it, too. Collectively commiserating over the playoffs' fundamental strangeness is going to lead to a lot more over the next couple months, even if San Jose isn't a part of the postseason.

Sharks post hilarious tweet during Lightning-Blue Jackets five-OT game

Sharks post hilarious tweet during Lightning-Blue Jackets five-OT game

The Sharks aren't involved in the Stanley Cup playoffs. But like many hockey fans, they were excited to take in the opening games of four first-round series on Tuesday, all back-to-back starting at noon PT.

So much so that they cleared their calendar.

The Tampa Bay Lightning and Columbus Blue Jackets played the second of those four games, in what many expected to be a heated matchup after the Blue Jackets memorably upset and swept the Lightning in the first round last year. What they didn't expect, however, was that game going to an incredible fifth overtime and lasting well into the night.

Lightning forward Brayden Point ultimately ended the marathon at the 10:27 mark of the fifth OT, making it the fourth-longest game in NHL playoff history. Blue Jackets goalie Joonas Korpisalo stopped 85 of the first 87 shots he faced. He couldn't stop the 88th.

[RELATED: How Sharks benefit from Rangers winning NHL draft lottery]

Prior to the conclusion of the second game on Tuesday's slate, the league ultimately decided to move the fourth and final scheduled game between the Boston Bruins and Carolina Hurricanes to 8 a.m. PT on Wednesday morning.

So, thanks to the Lightning and Blue Jackets, the Sharks can watch a full game before Wednesday's boring weekly meeting.

Well, that is unless it goes to a fifth OT.