Defensman Nick Petrecki will be one of the rookies in the "YoungStar Tournament"
The familiar tapping sound of a puck making contact with a composite hockey stick, the same tap is heard twice more as crisp tape-to-tape passes are completed before a zing pierces the cold air as the same puck hits the back post of the empty goal net.
And then the whistle sounds.
Over 30 Sharks rookies and prospects stopped their skating, passing and shooting and converge around Worcester Sharks head coach Roy Sommers as he instructs the young players during the second day of rookie practice.
During a quiet Saturday morning practice, in the seclusion of the south rink of Sharks Ice at San Jose, the rookies performed various drills under the guidance of Sommers and Vice President and Assistant General Manager Wayne Thomas.
“We have guys here for all different kinds of reasons,” said Thomas. “We’re evaluating where they are going to fit within our organization, if they are signed already, and also if they qualify for an entry-level deal, an American Hockey League contract or an NHL contract.”
A good evaluation instrument for the Sharks hockey operations staff will be having the youthful Sharks participating in the Inaugural “YoungStars” rookie tournament that begins this Sunday in Penticton, British Columbia.
“It’s great to get back involved in a four or five-team tournament,” Thomas said. “You get to see the young players from other organizations and have them go up against our guys.”
San Jose has participated in some form of a rookie tournament in recent years, however the past few years’ tournaments were much smaller in degree than this season’s.
“This year’s tournament is very similar to the tournament we had within our division with Anaheim, Phoenix, L.A. and ourselves,” added Thomas. “We had it for three or four years, but unfortunately it fell apart for a couple of reasons like teams going to Europe for training camps.”
The five teams involved in the “YoungStar Tournament,” the Sharks, Anaheim Ducks, Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks, will play a round-robin type tournament over a span of five-day starting tomorrow.
Thomas cites many benefits for players, who come from either the Juniors, Europe, Canadian or American colleges, to be involved in tournament like this.
“It allows them to measure themselves up against people in their own age group and see where they are at personally in their career,” he said. “Hockey is a very physical game, a very competitive game, a lot of times physical and aggressive players can’t really show what they have when they are competing against guys with the same jerseys on.”
But the “YoungStar Tournament” doesn’t solely benefit the young players involved.
“It’s a great opportunity too for hockey operations staff,” Thomas added. “Not only to evaluate our players but to see four other teams and see where their players are. And to evaluate ourselves in how it’s going in recruitment and free agency, etc. It’s an enormous benefit for the players and the staff.”
Thomas said that the same evaluation process will be used on the rookies as with everyone else at this year’s tournament. The Sharks staff will be looking at how well the players compete and well as their hockey sense in a game situation
“Everyone is at a different spot,” said Thomas. “We have 18-year-olds who are potentially looking for an entry-level contracts, we have kids from American and Canadian universities looking for free agent contracts.”
The Sharks rookies and prospects will have one final day of practice before flying north to Canada to take on the Anaheim Ducks’ rookies Sunday, Sept. 12 at 7:30 p.m. The game will be carried live on sjsharks.com.
San Jose will play the Vancouver Canucks Monday, Sept. 13 at 7:30 p.m. and their final game of the tournament will take place Sept. 15 against the Edmonton Oilers.