The San Jose Sharks use their farm system, the Worcester Sharks, like no other team. It seems as though players are called up and sent down on a routine basis.
This can put a toll on players, who despise the long flight to the East Coast.
However, the Sharks do have some young talent in Worcester, some of them who have already played in an NHL game. These players may the secret weapon for the Sharks down the stretch, or at the very least, contribute positively to the club.
An example would be Benn Ferriero, who scored the game-winning goal against Detroit in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals in last season's playoffs. He was a frequent traveler between the San Jose and the Worcester Sharks during the regular season, and scored the goal in his first career playoff game.
Here's to the hope that there will be other players from Worcester who contribute just as positively as Ferriero down the stretch for the San Jose Sharks.
Wingels is another classic example of how the Sharks have used their minor league affiliate. He has been sent up and down several times in the past few seasons. In eight career games with the San Jose Sharks, he has one assist.
Wingels started the season playing on the second line due to the injury of Martin Havlat. However, the coaching staff felt that he still needed some seasoning, so they sent him back down to Worcester.
Wingels is a speedy winger who, with his prior NHL experience, should get at least one call-up by season's end. He will be a great fill-in if and when one of the Sharks' forwards go down.
Like Wingels, Mashinter is a forward who has seen some time in the NHL. In thirteen games with the Sharks last season, he had no points and a minus-two rating.
For those who have not had a chance to see Mashinter, here's hockeyfuture.com's scouting report:
"The Sharks perceive Mashinter as a potential power forward. As his numbers have improved, Mashinter has maintained the requisite physical play. His skating needs to improve. He plays with good acceleration, but needs to improve his stride. A hulking winger, Mashinter willingly digs for the puck in the corners with enthusiasm, playing with both physicality and grit."
As the season grinds along, and as the coaching staff feels that the team is lacking in energy and enthusiasm, we could see Mashinter being called up to provide a spark for this team.
John McCarthy has not seen any time with the Sharks this season, but he certainly has experience with them. In 37 games with the big club last season, he had two goals and two assists.
McCarthy was drafted in the seventh round in 2006, but has certainly surpassed the expectations. He has eight points in 14 games with the Worcester Sharks so far this season.
McCarthy is a prolific passer, and definitely could come up to help the Sharks at some point this season.
Well, this seems like a no-brainer, but the aforementioned Ferriero has already been sent up and down several times this season.
In four games so far this season, he has one goal; and with the Worcester Sharks, he has 10 points in eight games.
Ferriero contributed big-time down the stretch last season, notching five goals and four assists in 33 games, including a huge overtime winner against the Red Wings during the playoffs.
There is no doubt that Ferriero will be playing for the San Jose Sharks sometime before the end of the season.
I'm going to throw Conolly in there as a surprise pick. He has 15 points in just 14 games with the Worcester Sharks so far this season, leading the team.
Not many people have heard of this guy.
"Connolly, 21, was the third-leading scorer for the NCAA Champion University of Minnesota-Duluth of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association with 54 points (28 goals, 26 assists) in 42 games. He was named 2010-11 NCAA All-American (second team), 2010-11 All-WCHA (first team), 2010-11 insidecollegehockey.com WCHA Player of the Year and selected to the 2011 NCAA East Regional All-Tournament Team," according to sjsharks.com
At just 5-foot-7, Conolly is small but is fast and is great on the power play.
Who knows? Call him up—he may turn out very well for the Sharks.—