May 23, 2018

Hey all, what's going on? It's another week, which means it's time for another Broadcast Blog.

The IIHF World Championships ended on Sunday with the Swedes claiming gold for the second consecutive year, topping Sharks power-forward Timo Meier, prospect Noah Rod and the rest of Team Switzerland. The conclusion of the tournament officially means the Sharks and their prospects are now all on summer vacation.

For organizations such as the Sharks, having their players compete in the World Championships is undoubtedly a point of pride, but they provide much more than that, it’s another development opportunity. 

Even for Meier who broke out in his first full year in the NHL, scoring 36 points (21 goals, 15 assists) in 81 games with Sharks, the World Championships were another measuring stick for the former 9th overall selection in the 2015 NHL Draft. In seven games, Meier averaged a point-per-game (two goals, five assists) in his first WC, and was a huge reason why Switzerland advanced to the gold medal game where they eventually settled for silver after a 3-2 shootout loss to Sweden.

After this past seasons performance, I think it’s safe to say Meier is going to be a Shark’ for a long time so let’s focus on the players that will be with the Barracuda next season.

For starters, four ‘Cuda skaters were selected to represent their native country at the 2018 World Champions, Rudolfs Balcers – Latvia, Manny Wiederer – Germany, Noah Rod – Switzerland, and Radim Simek – Czech Republic.  Simek didn’t compete due to an undisclosed injury he suffered during the Calder Cup playoffs with the Barracuda.

Although Meier and Balcers were both selected by the Sharks in the 2015 draft, Balcers is seven months younger than his fellow 2015 draftee and didn’t carry the same type of hype Timo did entering his first pro season. Balcers was selected 133 picks after Meier in the ’15 draft and despite scoring 40 goals in his only season in the WHL in 2016-17 and being one of the best players at Sharks Development Camp last summer, I'll admit, I wanted to see him in action before I got too excited.

Well, Balcers didn’t disappoint in his first season with the 'Cuda. He scored in his first pro game on October 7 at Stockton, then didn’t score for 15-straight games, but did display excellent playmaking ability, collecting nine assists during that span. He would find his scoring touch in bunches as the season continued, and ended with 23 goals which tied Danny O’Regan for the Barracuda’s rookie goal scoring record while pacing the team in every single offensive category.

For Barracuda fans, like yourself, you knew how good Rudolfs was last year and the potential he possesses. But for the rest of the hockey World, Balcers made a dramatic introduction when he scored an overtime winner against Norway on May 5, which had the entire hockey world talking.

Balcers would end the tournament as his nations top point getter (four goals, two assists) and goal scorer.

I’d expect Balcers to spend the majority of 2018-19 in the AHL, don’t forget he’s only 21-years-old, but I’d be shocked if he doesn’t get a handful of games with the big club as well.

Rod, who joined the Barracuda for the second consecutive season after the conclusion of his year with Genève-Servette HC, left the Barracuda after playing in just nine games to join team Switzerland’s World Championship training camp.

Having the ability to play alongside Meier and against NHLers was an excellent opportunity for the former 2nd Round pick of San Jose in 2014, who admitted it was the best opportunity of his career thus far.

The same can be said for Wiederer, who too admitted the opportunity to represent his country and get international games under his belt was huge for his development. 

I expect all three players to take the lessons learned from the WC into development camp, training camp, the season and beyond. Playing against high-level competition with the pressure of your respective nation weighing on your shoulders can only make you a better player.

That’s it for me, hope you have a safe and enjoyable holiday weekend and we’ll talk to you all next Thursday.

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