Sharks’ Trio Passes Leadership Test During Stint In Worcester
SAN JOSE — Tomas Hertl and Barclay Goodrow passed their tests with flying colors.
The San Jose Sharks sent Hertl and Goodrow down to the AHL for two games with the Worcester Sharks during the NHL All-Star break over the weekend to see if the youngsters could be leaders amongst players in their age and peer groups and the organization is giving the 21-year-olds passing grades.
“That was a bit of the test — can you go there and be leaders?,” head coach Todd McLellan said. “Here they’re important players, but they haven’t established a real-firm leadership role yet. Over time it’ll happen, but down there they were leaders and that was a good test.”
McLellan included 19-year-old defenseman Mirco Mueller, who was in Worcester prior to Hertl and Goodrow’s reassignment for a conditioning stint, in his assessment.
Hertl and Goodrow both played two games with the Worcester Sharks over the weekend in a “playoff-type atmosphere” against the Albany Devils and they competed like players who are worthy of their NHL jobs.
Hertl picked up two assists during the stint, while Goodrow posted an even plus/minus rating.
“They competed extremely hard,” McLellan said, referring to Hertl, Goodrow and Mueller. “Battled like they were with the team and they wanted to win. I was told the last game was like a playoff-type atmosphere where it was very intense and they were key people.”
The atmosphere was so raucous, a brawl broke out between the squads during pregame warmups prior to Saturday’s contest because the Worcester Sharks took exception to a hit that occurred in Friday’s contest.
“It was a lot more talking than actual fighting. It was a fun experience,” Goodrow said. “There was a lot of smiles on guys faces when that was going on, not necessarily the guys that were in the thick of things. But for an outside guy like me just looking on, it was pretty funny.”
Hertl added: “I’ve never seen [that] before.”
By sending Hertl to Worcester, the Sharks provided the sophomore with an additional opportunity to learn nuances of the center position, this time against AHL-caliber talent. Hertl played four games down the middle prior to the All-Star break, but returned to the wing on the third line for the team’s bout with the Los Angeles Kings on Jan. 21.
The 21-year-old said the trip to Worcester gave him an opportunity to work on his faceoffs. In four games at center, Hertl has won just 44 percent of his draws (16-of-36).
“I need just [to] play more because of faceoffs. It’s tough, too,” Hertl said, referring to playing center in the NHL. “NHL is tough guys, too, and I just keep working, be hard on faceoffs.”
McLellan said he expects Hertl to play center when he looks at the Sharks long-term picture.
“We’d like to get to that at some point,” McLellan said, when asked if he wants Hertl to be a full-time center before the end of the season. “We liked what he did. Based on our injuries now and the way we’ve moved people around, he’ll play the wings for a couple of games again. He has to be prepared to play all over.”
While Hertl went to Worcester to work on his faceoffs, Goodrow was reassigned for “self evaluation”.
“The ability to evaluate himself versus his peer group. It’s as simple as that,” McLellan said. “Your self evaluation, I think, is very important. Where do I fit in? Where do I belong? I have only known the National Hockey League, I don’t know what life is like in the American Hockey League. His two games there exposed him to it. He was able to look around and evaluate himself and look at many other 20, 21, 22-year-olds, and then come back here. I think he appreciates where he is.”
McLellan said the experience offered Goodrow a “reflection point”.
“This [21-year-old] left major junior with the dream of playing in the NHL and it’s come true,” he said. “He also has to know what else exists out there. Not as a threat or anything like that, but he has to know, that’s what most players go through to develop.”
The Sharks coach insisted that Goodrow wasn’t sent down as a punishment.
“I think he’ll be a better player for spending 72 hours in Worcester,” he said. “No punishment at all, for any of them.”
In reassigning Hertl and Goodrow to Worcester, the Sharks had to weigh the benefits of the experience against the cost of young players losing rest. During his time in the Czech league, Hertl never played more than 43 games in a season. Likewise, Goodrow maxed out at 63 regular season games during his time with the North Bay Battion in junior hockey.
“He’ll get time if he needs it,” McLellan said, referring to Hertl specifically. “It was more important for him to continue to work on faceoffs, play center ice down there.”
Hertl and Goodrow found out that they were headed to Worcester after the Sharks 4-2 win over the Kings on Jan. 21. As a result, Hertl cancelled plans to visit Los Angeles with his girlfriend, but Goodrow managed to squeeze in a quick visit to Toronto before returning to the Bay Area on Monday.
The young Sharks flew out to Worcester on Jan. 22 and experienced a five-hour delay at the airport.
Goodrow said he can see the benefits of moving the organization’s AHL franchise to San Jose next year.
“It makes for a really long day, especially with a game the next day, so I think it will be a lot more useful,” he said.