The Jury is no longer out; moving the San Jose Sharks American Hockey League affiliate from Worcester, Mass. to San Jose in 2015 has been a smashing success for the Sharks player development program.
Over the last three seasons, 20 players have skated for both the Barracuda and Sharks - including 12 players on the Sharks current roster.
In 2016-17, with one of the AHL's youngest rosters, the Barracuda racked up countless accomplishments including capturing a Western Conference regular-season championship, and advancing to the Western Conference Final - both of which had never been accomplished by a Sharks affiliate. In addition, Head Coach Roy Sommer was named the AHL's Coach of the Year (Louis A.R. Pieri Award), Goaltender Troy Grosenick was voted the AHL's Goaltender of the Year (Aldege "Baz" Bastien Award), and Forward Danny O'Regan was awarded AHL Rookie of the Year honors (Dudley "Red" Garrett Award).
Seven players from last season's Barracuda Conference Finals team have spent significant time on the Sharks roster this season including Timo Meier, Kevin Labanc, Joakim Ryan, Tim Heed, Barclay Goodrow, Marcus Sorensen, and Danny O'Regan. An eighth - Ryan Carpenter - played 16 games with San Jose before being taken on waivers by the Vegas Golden Knights.
Naturally, any team would be negatively affected by losing seven of its top players from one season to the next, but the Barracuda have made admirable strides integrating new players into their line-up this season and are staying in the playoff hunt.
Perhaps no one has had a bigger impact than standout rookie Rudolfs Balcers, who represented the Barracuda at the AHL All-Star Classic earlier this week. The 20-year-old native of Liepaja, Latvia was selected by the Sharks in the fifth round (142 overall) of the 2015 NHL Draft and signed his entry-level deal with San Jose after development camp this summer.