The San Jose Barracuda are one of the youngest teams in the AHL, with an average age of 23.6 years old.
Before San Jose’s first round series with the Stockton Heat, the Barracuda had just 12 players on their 30-man roster with AHL Calder Cup Playoff experience, yet the leagues fifth youngest team was able to finish with the second-best regular season record only behind the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
San Jose went on a 14-game winning streak from late January to March 1 and not once did they use the same lineup due in large part to multiple recalls to the NHL.
Nine different players from the Barracuda appeared in at least one game with the San Jose Sharks this season, and two players, Marcus Sorensen and Timo Meier played heavy minutes in the Sharks first-round Stanley Cup playoff series against the Edmonton Oilers.
As the Barracuda make a quest for their first Calder Cup their success will be contingent on the little postseason experience they have.
“I took a lot from my experience with the Sharks and even being with the Barracuda with all the success we’ve had,” said Barracuda forward Timo Meier. “During the playoffs you can’t give the other guy anything and you’ve got to finish every check. It was a great experience playing some Stanley Cup playoff games and now I’m trying to bring that down here.”
12-year veteran Zack Stortini won a Calder Cup with the Hamilton Bulldogs in 2007 and leads the Barracuda with 61 AHL playoff games in his career. John McCarthy who won a NCAA National Championship with Boston University in 2009 is second on the Barracuda in playoff games played with 17.
Tim Heed won a Swedish Hockey League Championship with Skelleftea in 2014 and Nikita Jevpalovs helped the Allen Americans hoist the Kelly Cup last season. Rourke Chartier (Kelowna Rockets, WHL), and Meier (Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, QMJHL) each made it to Memorial Cup Finals during their junior careers.
Marcus Sorensen rode a 10-game point streak with the Barracuda into a permanent job with the San Jose Sharks at the end of the season and tallied a goal and an assist in six playoff games for the Sharks.
“It was a good experience for my game. Unfortunately, it came to an end, but I take a lot of goods thing from it,” said Sorensen. “I learned how to play in front of the net which is huge during the playoffs with less time and space.”
Kevin Labanc didn’t appear in any Stanley Cup games, but the 21-year-old forward did play in 55 contests for the Sharks this season.
“That experience, being up with the Sharks, prepared me for this moment in a lot of ways.” Said Labanc. “The way those guys hold themselves, Burns, Marleau, Pavelski, Thornton, they’re all professionals, and you just want to take away the little things from their game and apply it to your own and prepare for playoffs in that way.”
No matter what happens, the future of the Sharks will gain invaluable experience during their time in the Calder Cup Playoffs, and San Jose hopes that experience includes winning a championship.