The San Jose Sharks have long been criticized for a lack of NHL-ready prospects in their farm system. In fact, The Hockey News ranked the Sharks dead last in the NHL in their annual "Future Watch" issue last spring.
But that doesn't mean that there aren't a few rookies who could see action for San Jose during the coming campaign. Here is a look at the top five rookies most likely to see ice time for the Sharks this season and a projection of their 2013-14 NHL statistics.
Feel free to comment on the projections of any of these players or to mention a player you feel has a great chance to play for the Sharks this season and should have been included on the list. Indicate why you feel your choice will make the NHL this season and how you feel they will do.
Nieto could be among the first callups to San Jose if injuries hit.
Long Beach, California native Matt Nieto was selected by the Sharks in the second round of the 2011 NHL draft.
The speedy winger turned pro last season after the college season ended at Boston University. In 11 games with Worcester, Nieto scored twice and added four assists.
Expect Nieto to begin the season in the AHL, but he will probably be one of the first forwards called up if injuries hit the Sharks. He is probably one year away from challenging for a full-time position on the Sharks' roster.
Projected NHL Stats: GP: 12 Goals: 2 Assists: 3 Points: 5
Matt Tennyson has a chance to see some action in San Jose this season.
Matt Tennyson has a chance to see some action with the Sharks this season. He is presently battling for a roster spot on the San Jose blue line.
The Minneapolis native has good size at 6'2" and 205 pounds. He spent most of last season in the AHL but made his NHL debut with the Sharks, picking up two assists in four games.
At 23, it's time for the former Western Michigan University star to establish himself. He has shown some offensive potential in the AHL but needs to translate that to the faster game at the NHL level.
Projected NHL Stats: GP: 15 Goals: 0 Assists: 6 Points: 6
At 24, Petrecki is running out of time to establish himself as an every day NHLer.
Nick Petrecki probably would have made the Sharks last season but injuries slowed his progress. The former Boston College star played 42 games in the AHL and played in one game for the Sharks.
Petrecki would add an important physical element to the San Jose blue line. He stands 6'3" and weighs 230. He has never failed to top 100 penalty minutes in a season in college or in the AHL, including 135 in just 42 games with Worcester last season.
Having Larry Robinson on the bench to coach Petrecki should aid his development. In the long run, the Sharks look for Petrecki to play a role similar to what Douglas Murray did when he was with the club.
Projected Stats: GP: 47 Goals: 1 Assists: 6 Points: 7
Stalock is battling for the backup goalie spot behind Antti Niemi.
Alex Stalock is already 26 but has only played in three NHL games during his hockey career. The former Minnesota-Duluth star is the favorite to win the backup goaltending job this year behind Antti Niemi.
Last year, Stalock played parts of two games with the Sharks, totaling 42 minutes. In the AHL, he went 17-16-4 with a 2.60 GAA and a .912 save percentage. He got off to a slow start last season after coming off an injury-riddled campaign in 2011-12 but improved his play as the season went on.
Stalock is on a two-way contract this year and is battling Harri Sateri for the backup goaltending job. His experience gives Stalock an edge although both will probably see some time as Niemi's backup over the course of the season.
Projected Stats: GP: 15 GAA 2.72 Save Percentage: .904 W-L-OTL: 4-3-1
Hertl is the most likely rookie to crack the roster in San Jose.
The rookie likely to have the greatest impact on the Sharks this season is 19-year-old Tomas Hertl.
The Sharks selected Hertl with the 17th overall selection in the 2012 NHL draft. He has already played two professional seasons in his native Czech Republic. Last year, he scored 18 goals and 30 points in 42 games.
Hertl is playing against men in the Czech league, which gives him an edge in experience. He obviously has to adjust to playing the more physical North American style in smaller NHL rinks.
He has a good shot and is considered a good passer as well—it's just a question of whether or not he's ready for the NHL at the start of the season. Even if the Sharks have him start the year in the minors, expect Hertl to be a part of the big club as soon as the organization feels he is ready.
Adding Hertl to the third line with Joe Pavelski would give San Jose three lines that could put the puck in the net consistently and solve the issue with scoring depth that hurt them last season.
Projected Stats: GP: 63 Goals: 14 Assists: 25 Points: 39