CSN Bay Area Insider Kevin Kurz continued his outlook series of San Jose Sharks with Freddie Hamilton Monday, Sept. 1. The younger brother of Boston Bruin Dougie Hamilton is just one of half a dozen pictured reserves, and the caption summaries of their status are worth being examined further.
For purposes of this article, a reserve is defined as a player with NHL experience likely to spend time in the AHL this season. In order of likelihood of playing time in San Jose, they are Matt Tennyson, Tye McGinn, Hamilton, Eriah Hayes, Taylor Fedun and Micheal Haley (note that spelling of his first name is correct).
The Sharks have 12 forwards they cannot send to the minors without clearing waivers. They also have Tomas Hertl and Matt Nieto they will not be sending to the minors. That means if no other forward is on injured reserve when Raffi Torres comes off, McGinn, Hamilton, Haley and Hayes are going to be in the AHL unless they are playing so well as to force general manager Doug Wilson to move or even waive one of those protected forwards.
It is unlikely Wilson would get rid of a player he just signed like the cheap John Scott or the sandpaper Mike Brown. Kurz has speculated that Adam Burish could be gone, but his versatility and personality serve the team well. He can play center or wing and kill penalties, instigate and then back it up by tossing off the gloves. He is a former teammate of potential new captain Joe Pavelski at the University of Wisconsin, and followed that 2006 NCAA championship with a 2010 Stanley Cup championship as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks.
Wilson could look to deal someone like James Sheppard or Tyler Kennedy that have at least some trade value but have not found their niche in San Jose yet. More likely, he will opt to give his reserves more playing time in the AHL to grow into their NHL potential since at least two forwards are scratched every night.
Scratching veterans like Burish, Brown or John Scott does not stunt their potential. With one forward out, there are two spots available and one of them is likely to go to a young reserve. If there are more injuries, more reserves will get their shot while at least one veteran sits in the press box every night. Since the Sharks will have more injuries, it is clear that more than one of the reserve forwards will play during the 2014-15 NHL season.
McGinn is the most ready to help. The 24-year old brother of former San Jose forward Jamie McGinn has seven goals in 36 NHL games over the last two seasons with the Philadelphia Flyers and 34 in 100 AHL games over that same span.
He needs to work on defending and Wilson may deem him old enough to keep even if coach Todd McLellan is not dressing him, but the team did not give up a third-round pick for him to be scratched for long. McGinn will thus probably spend time at both levels at some point during the 2014-15 NHL season.
Even if there are no more forward injuries, the Sharks are likely to want to see what others can do. Hamilton did not fare well in brief NHL stints last season (no points, minus-5 in 11 games), but found his offensive game in the AHL with 22 goals and 21 assists over 64 games.
Just 22, Hamilton should continue to develop and will play in every game while on San Jose's roster during the 2014-15 NHL season. If he does better than last season, those stints could get extended and this is the best thing for the franchise because he has the most upside on that list.
By contrast, Hayes is already 26 and has played just four more NHL games than Hamilton. He scored one goal but just 25 total points in 66 AHL games the rest of the season. He has less upside, but is a solid enough reserve to not be a liability while he is on the ice.
Wilson probably put Haley on the roster in case too many other fighting Sharks are out. The 26-year old has played 54 games including two in the Stanley Cup playoffs over four seasons, with two goals, an assist and a minus-10 rating. He is almost as likely to be called up and scratched as to play or even not get called up at all.
There are other forward prospects that could play for San Jose in the 2014-15 NHL season: Nikolay Goldobin and Chris Tierney in particular could get a few games, but are unlikely to see as much time as those defined as reserves. The blue line is in a similar situation, with two potential prospects that might get into the mix and one reserve that may not play at all.
Veteran Scott Hannan is likely there to take the sixth spot only if one of the young players cannot handle it. He can be scratched and provide a coach's eye in the press box but skate with the team in practices. If he only occasionally rotates in, that will not hurt but help his game as the season wears on. That is likely the only dressed role to be had, unless someone can also outperform Matt Irwin.
Expect Mirco Mueller to take the first nine games of San Jose's 2014-15 NHL season and be sent back to juniors. Whether Hannan comes out of that press box after that (assuming the rest of the unit is healthy) depends on the play of other prospects Tennyson, Taylor Doherty and Fedun.
Tennyson has played four games for the Sharks, scored two assists and gone plus-2. The 24-year old is the only one on the list to play with this team at this level, so he should be the most ready to challenge Hannan for that last active spot.
The 6-ft., 7-in., 235-lb. Doherty has no NHL experience and is thus not on this list, but is neck-and-neck with Tennyson for that last spot. The 23-year old has been the top blue-line prospect San Jose has for a couple seasons, and they are likely to give him a look at some point.
That could leave Fedun bumped from playing in the 2014-15 NHL season unless there are multiple injuries at one time. He has two goals in four games for the Edmonton Oilers, but no assists and was minus-1. He is not only on a new team now but a better one that might make it hard for him to get out of the AHL unless he adapts quickly and makes an impact at that level.
Still, the Sharks have plenty of players they can call upon to fill in even with Torres out and both Mueller and Goldobin in juniors. In addition to an extra veteran forward, there are four reserves up front and four blue-line options as at least band-aid solutions.