The name of the game for players at training camp is opportunity and there is always a surprise on the opening night roster when a player grabs that opportunity. This year the Sharks have a bevy of young talent eyeing a big league spot, but the question is who might grab the golden rings this falls.
There is a chance one of them is making a name for himself right now and could play 82 games and it may not be someone everyone is talking about.
“Last year everyone was talking about a handful of defensemen who could make the team and no one ever mentioned Jason Demers
,” said Sharks Head Coach Todd McLellan. “He ended up having a good camp and that is how it works.”
In order to make an impression like Demers did, the prospects will need to work quickly.
“I can’t stress enough to our players that this happens really fast,” said McLellan. “We have our trip to Anaheim and then after the split squad with Phoenix. We get on a plane for Europe five days later. The time to perform is now. If you miss that window, you are going to run out of days. Competitively speaking, if I’m one of those guys, I have to know the calendar and I have to know how it’s working. If you wake up one morning and a whole whack of players are going to Worcester and you’re on that plane, you’re days are done (to make the opening night roster).”
There is a the chance that the player making an impression will be in Worcester instead of Sweden for opening night, but that the impression made in the upcoming five preseason games and subsequent practices could make them the first inevitable call up from Worcester.
“We’re eligible to have 50 players under contract and within those 50 players there is a pecking order,” said McLellan. “If you’re not able to crack the opening day roster, now is the time to enhance your chance to be that guy who is called up. They have to be really competitive and understand what we are trying to do. It doesn’t start when they get to Worcester, it starts now.”
“I’m just going to do what I do and play my role,” said roster hopeful John McCarthy. “When I get a chance in the scrimmages to play well defensively and offensively, I need to play smart and show what I can do.”
The hope of a future call up is always on the minds of the Worcester team.
“Last year we had a ton of guys that had a shot to come up and play and that is a motivation factor,” said McCarthy. “If you do what you need to do you can get a call-up.”
It wasn’t long ago that players like Ryane Clowe
, Torrey Mitchell
and Devin Setoguchi were bubble players themselves and they can relate to the situation.
“I remember that time and it’s all about opportunity,” said Setoguchi. “If you can rise to the challenge when you get on a line with a couple of NHL guys, you have to be better and make them better. I remember it plain as day. During the exhibition games you’ll be given a chance to play with better players and you have to rise to the challenge and make the best of your opportunity.”
Clowe recalls proving himself to the staff that he was NHL ready.
“I think every training camp you have an idea where you are at,” said Clowe. “I remember my year, Marcel (Goc) and I were coming out of the lockout and I was excited for camp knowing that if I had a good camp, the spot was mine. I think most guys will grab that opportunity.”
The players must play within themselves, but still yet distinguished themselves, all while keeping a calm mindset even through their future year is being decided.
“You can’t be nervous,” said Clowe. “If you get nervous you get tight, then you’re not playing your game. Most of the time the guys take the opportunity because they know the door can shut pretty quick.”
“There is a little bit of a tradeoff, you don’t want to overextend yourself and stick out in a bad way,” said McCarthy. “There are so many eyes on you at all times, even in practices and scrimmages. You’ve got to make sure you’re in the right place and doing what you need to do.”
The games start Wednesday and that is when the spot light will shine the brightest.
“I just remember wanting to get in the games,” said Clowe. “I felt that showed more than practices. I was nervous, but it was an excited nervous to show what I can do.”
In the second scrimmage of training camp, team A grabbed a 3-1 victory. Logan Couture
led the way scoring the game’s first goal and assisting on Jamie McGinn’s winner. McCarthy also scored for Team A while Kent Huskins bagged a tally for Team B.
In the nets for Team A, Antero Niittymaki stopped all 13 shots he faced and Alex Stalock
prevented 11 of 12 attacks. For Team B, Antti Niemi
turned away nine of 11 shots and Harri Sateri
knocked down 12 of 13 shots.
Sharks roster hopeful Cam McIntyre hasn’t skated yet during the exhibitions due to a groin injury.
“He’s still off the ice trying to get healthy,” said McLellan. “At this time of the year you can’t fool around. When he’s 100 percent, he’ll go again.”