The San Jose Sharks recently completed a Jekyll and Hyde homestand.
San Jose went just 2-3 while opening up the season with five-straight games at home.
On a positive note, the two wins came among the final three games of the homestand and the one loss saw them dominate the shot clock against a well-rested Islanders team. Ergo, as the Sharks get set to start their road portion of the schedule, there are numerous positive points to their game.
First and foremost is that rookie defensemen Joakim Ryan and Tim Heed have fit in nicely. Slotting in on the second and third pairs respectively, Ryan and Heed have played solid hockey thus far. It’s not surprising that this little three-game stretch of quality play from the Sharks has coincided with their insertion into the lineup.
Furthermore, captain Joe Pavelski has started to heat up the last two games after an extremely quiet first three contests. While he didn’t score against the Islanders in the fourth game of the homestand, he pumped five shots on goal and had at least three quality scoring chances. He followed that up with a goal and an assist against Montreal. Sure, the goal went in off his skate, but that’s hockey’s way of evening things up for the chances he had against New York. Plus his assist (as seen below) was an incredibly sexy kick pass to set up Logan Couture for a slam dunk open net.
And finally, Tomas Hertl has started to heat up as well, both at even strength and on the power play. Hertl was moved from third-line center to second-line wing ahead of the Buffalo game and that change is certainly working thus far. Against Montreal Hertl picked up an assist at even strength and added a power play goal, albeit it off a fortunate bounce.
With Hertl’s emergence for the time being back up as a top-six winger, that opens the door now for someone to take over the third-line center role and try to run with it. Chris Tierney shined in that spot in San Jose’s first win of the season over Buffalo with linemates Timo Meier and Joonas Donskoi. However, that line has since been broken up. For a stretch of time against the Islanders it was Ryan Carpenter centering Meier and Donskoi. Against Montreal, it was Tierney centering Meier and Mikkel Boedker.
Hertl is currently playing well on the wing, Tierney is still inconsistent and Patrick Marleau is in Toronto. These are the three players who basically accounted for 90-plus percent of the Sharks’ third-line center minutes the past two seasons. Therefore, the time is now for the Sharks to give top prospect Daniel O’Regan a real good look at his natural center position.
It certainly would have been a waste to play O’Regan in a fourth-line role at the start of the season, but with Hertl back up on the wing, it makes little sense to keep O’Regan down with the Barracuda. There is no question that third line center is the ideal spot for O’Regan and right now that role is far from locked down.
Pedigree & Potential
Last season O’Regan was named the AHL’s rookie of the year. He led the Barracuda in scoring with 58 points in 63 games, 13 more points than the next best forward on the roster. In four years playing at Boston University, O’Regan accumulated more points than any other NCAA player during that time with 154 points in exactly 154 games. Some might argue his stats (50 points in 41 games) during 2014-15 were padded by playing alongside Jack Eichel, but Eichel recently told Mercury News reporter Paul Gackle that he wouldn’t have had the year he did without O’Regan.
After just a random sprinkle of three NHL games last year, there is no NHL book yet on O’Regan. However, taking into consideration his pedigree from the lower levels, it would be shocking to see him not at the very least develop into a solid fourth-line NHLer for a few seasons. His ceiling again though is much higher, a second-line center in the future isn’t out of the question. For now though, the opportunity to start should be on the the Sharks’ third line.
Additional Value & Versatility
The potential benefits of O’Regan’s game are more than just scoring potential though. He brings an addition of speed to the lineup, something that the Sharks can always use more of with Marleau’s departure and Boedker’s struggles. Not to mention Marcus Sorensen is also currently with the Barracuda. As a right-shot centerman, O’Regan could also be an added benefit to the second power-play unit. He could take right-side draws in the offensive zone so that the onus doesn’t fall on the left-handed Hertl to take all the faceoffs.
In addition to his speed and power-play ability, O’Regan also brings a Melker Karlsson-like tenacity to the ice. For a team like the Sharks, who can at times be guilty of being too cute and passive, they can often use an extra pinch of straight-ahead, tenacious forechecking.
O’Regan’s natural play style isn’t the only thing that provides added value and versatility. If he gets called up and DeBoer needs to juggle the lines, shifting from center to wing is a far easier transition than vice versa. In theory, O’Regan could play in all 12 forward spots in a lineup. He can also penalty kill if needed and there are plenty of familiar faces from last year’s Barracuda team in the current Sharks lineup. O’Regan skated quite a bit last season on forward lines with Meier and Kevin Labanc and he is of course very familiar with Ryan and Heed on the back end. It shouldn’t be difficult for O’Regan to quickly find some chemistry with Sharks teammates.
After a two-goal and one-assist performance Wednesday night, O’Regan now has four goals and six points in four games to start his season with the Barracuda. The Sharks, if they decide to call him up in the near future, would be calling up a confident player. They would also be calling him up to a team that is currently playing well and wouldn’t be looking for him to be any type of savior. That’s also a key, there wouldn’t necessarily be any pressure on O’Regan to light the world on fire right away.
So should the Sharks call up O’Regan right now? Let your opinion be heard in the comments section below!