WorSharks get defensive as new season approaches

By Darryl Hunt - Last updated: Sunday, October 9, 2011 - Save & Share - Leave a Comment

As the Worcester Sharks head into their sixth season head coach Roy Sommer has a problem on his hands, but it’s not a bad one–the WorSharks have too many good defensemen on the roster. “It’s a great problem to have,” Sommer said to a group of fans at a recent season ticket holder gathering, “we’ve got a bunch of guys that all deserve to get some playing time and not enough spots every night.”

Returning to the blue line for the WorSharks is Sean Sullivan, the highest scoring player remaining on the roster from last season. Joining him in the offensive side of the defensemen is Justin Braun, one of the last cuts from San Jose’s camp and a victim of lots of defensive depth in the organization. As San Jose has their own glut of defensemen Braun will likely spend most of his time with the WorSharks, but if the injury bug bites the big club he’ll be the one to get the call. Also in the puck-moving mix is second year pro Matt Irwin, who can not only play well with the puck but can also throw his weight around with physical play if needed.

Team captain Mike Moore returns to anchor the hard hitting defensive side of the corps, with third year pro Nick Petrecki looking to take his game to the next level and show he deserved his first round draft status. Joining the WorSharks from the Abbotsford Heat is Matt Pelech, another physical defensemen who isn’t afraid to drop the gloves if needed. The WorSharks could roll out three pairings of a hard hitting defenseman teamed with a legitimate puck moving offensive threat, something many AHL teams will have problems playing against.

Rounding out the defensive corps are two highly touted rookies, Sean Acolatse and Taylor Doherty, who both have tremendous upside. Acolatse brings a blend of offensive talents and physical play with him in his rookie season, while Doherty brings his 6’7” frame and the will to use it against onrushing forwards.

Fans shouldn’t read too much into any defenseman being assigned to the ECHL, because just like in San Jose it’s likely the numbers game of getting guys playing time more than being unable to compete at their current level that will be the reason behind the transaction.

Another issue for Worcester will be in net, mostly in knowing who will be in it from game to game. With Alex Stalock recovering from last season’s freak injury where a nerve in his left leg was severed and out for most of the season, the number one job for the WorSharks looks to fall on Thomas Greiss. But with injuries in San Jose to Antti Niemi and Antero Niittymaki for now Greiss will be starting the season as the big club’s starting goaltender. A possible hiccup in the equation is Greiss needs to clear waivers to go to the AHL, and it’s far from guaranteed that will happen. Harri Sateri, who was penciled in as Greiss’ back-up on the WorSharks, will be on the bench in San Jose until one of the NHL goalies gets healthy enough to play.

That leaves Tyson Sexsmith as the go to guy in Worcester to start the season. Sexsmith, who in the last two seasons found himself as an injured goaltender surrounded by healthy ones, needs to make the most of his chance as this season is likely his make or break year in the Sharks organization. Sexsmith will split time here with rookie Thomas Heemskerk, but both could be headed to the ECHL once the goaltending situation sorts itself out.

The WorSharks are likely going to need every bit of defensive help they can get as their already weak offense, which ranked 27th in the AHL in goals scored, lost their three top point getters from last season. With Jonathan Cheechoo off to the St. Louis organization, and Dan DaSilva and T.J. Trevelyan heading to Europe San Jose did not dip into the free agent market to secure some goal scorers for their minor league franchise. Instead the Sharks signed journeyman Ben Guite as a veteran presence and will rely on rookies Mike Connolly, Marek Viedensky, and James Livingston to replace the lost offense.

Worcester does have some potential top six talent returning in Benn Ferriero, Brandon Mashinter, and John McCarthy, but with no established play making center on the roster who will be setting them up for scoring opportunities is a huge question. Tommy Wingles, currently in San Jose but could find himself as the odd man out there as he currently doesn’t need to clear waivers, could provide some temporary relief if he’s here but it’s more likely he’ll be racking up frequent flier miles on the Worcester Shuttle.

For Worcester Sharks news throughout the season follow Sharkspage and Darryl Hunt on twitter. You can also follow Sharks AHL in Game for live game updates from the team.

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