With the NHL and AHL free agency period set to start tomorrow this is a good time to see what the Worcester Sharks roster looks like heading into the chaos of the mad summer scramble for free agents, and some other news from around the AHL.
Minor league rosters tend to have a decent amount of turnaround from season to season, and this coming season doesn’t look like it will be an exception. The WorSharks have just 10 players that ended last season with years remaining on their contracts and are expected to play in the AHL next season. Forwards Brodie Reid, James Livingston, Marek Viedensky, Curt Gogol, and Sebastian Stalberg; defensemen Sena Acolatse, Taylor Doherty, and Matt Tennyson; and Harri Sateri should all see significant time wearing the “W” shield logo of the WorSharks. Goaltender Thomas Heemskerk is also under contract to San Jose, but barring injuries looks to be heading back to the ECHL for his second pro season.
San Jose has three prospects that have graduated from the Canadian junior levels that are eligible to join the WorSharks for next season, lead by highly touted forward Freddie Hamilton, who averaged just under a point per game in four seasons with the Niagara IceDogs of the OHL. Defenseman Konrad Abeltshauser, who played for the Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL, is coming off his best season in juniors but rumors coming from the local media in Halifax are hinting that San Jose may assign him back to the Mooseheads for an over-age year. Doing so burns a year off his entry level contract, so the Sharks will have to be certain it’s the right thing to do for his development. Goaltender J. P. Anderson rounds out the junior group, and if he’s not returned to Sarnia Sting of the OHL for an over-age year of his own he’s likely headed to San Jose’s ECHL affiliate.
UM-Duluth forward Travis Oleksuk was signed as a collegiate free agent by San Jose, and is another player expected to pump up the offense of the WorSharks next season.
The organization has several restricted free agents (RFAs), many of which earned contract offers from the San Jose Sharks. The players offered contracts, which virtually guarantees they’ll be returning to the organization, are defensemen Matt Irwin, Matt Pelech and Nick Petrecki; forwards Tim Kennedy, Brandon Mashinter, and Frazer McLaren; and goaltender Alex Stalock. While it hasn’t been officially announced by the Sharks yet there are very credible reports Irwin has re-signed with San Jose for a one year, two-way deal.
The players not offered NHL contracts by San Jose were Benn Ferriero, Tony Lucia, James Marcou, Cameron MacIntyre, and Tyson Sexsmith, who along with John McCarthy, Mike Moore, and Ben Guite will be unrestricted free agents (UFAs) come July 1st. Additionally, the WorSharks had several players under AHL contracts that will also be UFAs, including Nathan Moon, Jack Combs, Ryan Del Monte, Brain O’Hanley, and Jimmy Bonneau. Del Monte has already signed a contract with Starbulls Rosenheim of the 2nd Bundesliga (Germany) so he will not be returning to the WorSharks next season, and there are several unconfirmed rumors Combs is also headed overseas. With San Jose having sent a contract offer to McLaren one has to wonder if enforcer Bonneau, a fan favorite, is in the organization’s plans for next season.
Since the end of last season the WorSharks have already signed two free agents forwards, Yanni Gourde and Daniil Tarasov, to contracts with the club. Gourde, who skated in four games with the WorSharks to end last season notching a goal and two assists, won the Jean Béliveau Trophy as the QMJHL’s top scorer and the Michel Brière Memorial Trophy and the league’s MVP. The four year veteran of the Victoriaville Tigres was also named a QMJHL First Team All-Star. Tarasov, a native of Russia, played the last two seasons with the Indiana Ice of the USHL and put up an impressive 84 goals and 132 points in 117 games. Last season he was named to the All USHL First-Team.
While there’s been nothing close to an official announcement from the Sharks organization one of the most prevalent rumors is the organization will be switching its ECHL affiliation from the Stockton Thunder to the expansion San Francisco Bulls. Organizationally the Sharks do not believe in using the ECHL much for player development, so other than what will likely be two goaltenders fans shouldn’t expect many other San Jose owned players to be playing for the Bulls next season.
Despite both the NHL and ECHL having released their schedules for next season the AHL still has not done so as they share some arenas with NBA teams and must wait until those schedules are out to finalize their own. With no franchise relocations happening this off-season the WorSharks schedule should be much like this past season’s. There was an affiliation switch recently, with the Calder Cup champion Norfolk Admirals and Syracuse Crunch trading NHL partners. The Admirals are now the AHL affiliate of the Anaheim Ducks, while the Tampa Bay Lightning have affiliated with the Crunch. Worcester did not play the Admirals last season as they instead had two trips into Canada to play at St. John’s.
The AHL does allow teams to announce a handful of dates before the entire schedule is finalized, and with that the WorSharks have announced six home dates for next season and the promotions involved with those games.
Saturday, Oct. 20, 2012 – opening night at the DCU Center
Saturday, Nov. 3, 2012 – Sharks player autograph card giveaway
Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012 – Sharks movie poster giveaway
Friday, Dec. 28, 2012 – postgame fireworks
Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013 – bobblehead night & Auburn vs. Wachusett HS Doubleheader
Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013 – Shrewsbury vs. Algonquin HS Doubleheader
There was some divisional movement in the Western Conference announced by the AHL a few days ago, with the Abbotsford Heat (Calgary) moving to the North Division, the Grand Rapids Griffins (Detroit) moving to the Midwest Division, and the Charlotte Checkers (Carolina) moving to the renamed South Division. The WorSharks did not play any teams from the Western Conference last season.
There were several rules changes announced by the AHL for next season, with the biggest being video review will now be used to determine goals when appropriate. The referees on ice will have total control of the system and determine its use, and will view replays from a monitor at the scorer’s table. The AHL has also adopted two of the NHL’s rule changes that include a minor penalty for covering the puck with an open hand to prevent an opponent from playing the puck, and the rule that penalizes players in face-offs from using their hands to deflect the puck.
The AHL will also be testing a new icing rule for the first month or so of the season. The rule is if the puck has already crossed the goal line on a potential icing play the players will no longer race to touch the puck but will race across an imaginary line between the two defensive zone face-off dots. If the defender wins the race the play is blown dead and icing is immediately called. If the attacker wins the race play continues until one of the two players touches the puck under the previous rule. If the puck has not crossed the goal line when the players break the plain of the imaginary line play will continue under the previous rule.