SAN JOSE -- The Sharks didn’t hold a practice Tuesday. But there still was news out of the South Bay, as Finnish rookie center Antti Suomela was reassigned to the AHL Barracuda for the first time this season.
The 24-year-old tallied eight points (three goals, five assists) in 27 NHL games since making the Sharks' roster out of training camp. It's unclear as of right now how much time Suomela -- who spent time centering the third and fourth lines -- will spend in the AHL. But the reassignment will, no doubt, give the Finn an opportunity to log game time.
Sharks fans likely noticed the absence of that No. 40 sweater recently, since Suomela was scratched two games in a row after Czech winger Lukas Radil was recalled from the AHL club.
Radil, who brings three years of KHL experience to his NHL campaign, scored his first NHL goal Saturday against the Arizona Coyotes. He also set up defenseman Radim Simek’s first NHL goal Monday against the New Jersey Devils.
Given Radil’s current success playing with Barclay Goodrow and Melker Karlsson on the Sharks' fourth line, it wouldn’t make sense to take the line apart. So, instead of having Suomela practice with the Sharks and then having him post up in the press box on game night, it makes more sense for him to get some games in with the Barracuda. That way, he can stay fresh and get a bit of a boost from playing with the AHL club.
Suomela impressed in his first couple of NHL games as the third-line center, finding success with Evander Kane and fellow countryman Joonas Donskoi on his wings. He scored his last goal on Nov. 13 against the Nashville Predators -- one day after being a healthy scratch, no less -- and tallied his last assist four days later against the St. Louis Blues. He had not scored a point in his last seven games prior to his reassignment.
As with the length of Suomela’s reassignment, it’s also not entirely known how the Sharks’ fourth line will shake out. While Radil has found success through a couple of games playing with Goodrow and Karlsson, it’s also possible San Jose could recall another one of its rookie centers to play on that line. Forward Francis Perron, whom San Jose acquired in the Erik Karlsson trade, currently leads the Barracuda with 22 points, and he hasn't seen any NHL time yet.
There also has been speculation the Sharks could be in search of a fourth-liner ahead of the NHL trade deadline. While Joe Thornton’s move to third-line pivot has helped spread San Jose’s depth throughout the lineup, having another weapon in the bottom six would behoove the Sharks if they want to make a deep playoff run. If that’s the case, we likely won’t see members of this season’s rookie contingent recalled unless there’s an injury to one of the Sharks’ staple forwards.
In the meantime, Suomela will join the Barracuda as they travel to Southern California this upcoming weekend for games against the San Diego Gulls and the Ontario Reign. The Cuda currently leads the Pacific Division of the American Hockey League with 33 points, and a 15-3-1-2 record so far on their 2018-19 campaign.