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The San Jose Barracuda are proudly at the service of the San Jose Sharks, as all AHL clubs are for their NHL affiliate. And as it so often does around the NHL trade deadline, NHL clubs are forced to trade prospects to bolster their roster for the playoffs, pulling from their farm team.
On Tuesday night, news broke that the Sharks had traded Barracuda forward Nikolay Goldobin and a conditional fourth-round draft pick to the Vancouver Canucks for speedy veteran winger Jannik Hansen.
A plethora of talented wingers within the Sharks organization made the once first-round pick, Goldobin, expendable for the organization, but has left questions for the Barracuda.
San Jose (AHL) was riding a 14-game winning streak before the trade but suffered a 2-1 shootout loss to the Texas Stars on Wednesday.
San Jose still sits atop the AHL and has a five-game lead on the Pacific Division’s second-place San Diego Gulls.
Goldobin missed a pair of games for the Barracuda during the winning streak after a recall to the San Jose Sharks, so the club knows it can win without #82, but when a player of Goldobin’s ability leaves everyone must raise their level of play to compensate.
“He (Goldobin) was gone with the big club for a bit, so we know what it’s like to have him out of the lineup,” said Head Coach Roy Sommer. “I think he was the best player in the American Hockey League with the puck on his stick, so he’ll be missed, but we’re here to serve the big club, and they found a piece they needed, and I feel like we have the depth to make up for his absence.”
San Jose has plenty of firepower without Goldobin. The Barracuda are the only team in the AHL with 10 or more double-digit goal scorers (10), and their +51 goal differential ranks third best in the League.
Aside from Goldobin’s absence, Marcus Sorensen has been extremely impressive for the Sharks in their last two games, which begs the question of whether the Swedish speedster will stick with the big club down the stretch. Sorensen is riding a 10-game point streak in the AHL and had three goals in two games before his recall.
In late January, the San Jose Sharks traded Tommy Wingels to the Ottawa Senators for a draft pick and two players, Buddy Robinson and Zack Stortini. Before Wednesday, neither player had experienced a loss with the Barracuda.
Robinson has been a huge offensive piece and has found instant chemistry with Rourke Chartier and Adam Helewka and has alleviated some of the pressure when key players are out of the lineup.
San Jose has received steady production up and down its lineup and especially from its league-leading rookie Danny O’Regan who is pacing all freshman with 45 points. On the backend, Joakim Ryan and Tim Heed have been shutdown defenders and major offensive contributors. So the cupboard is far from bare. The list of weapons for the Barracuda goes on and on.
Goldobin’s departure will test San Jose’s depth but will also allow other players to fill in in roles they would otherwise not get an opportunity. For example, Colin Blackwell was awarded his first power play time of the season on Wednesday and impressive rookie Timo Meier has now joined a line with O'Regan and Nikita Jevpalovs.
Confidence from Head Coach Roy Sommer comes from the fact that during San Jose’s 14-game winning streak the Barracuda never used the same lineup more than once and 10 different players have been recalled to the NHL at various points this season.
Statistically, San Jose has the best goaltender, best rookie, and the best defenseman in the League and arguably more depth than any other team.
Only time will tell, but the Barracuda still seem to be poised for a long playoff run.