Sharks Rookies Continue Developing at AHL Level With Barracuda

SAN JOSE – There have been a few shuffles of the deck as players in the Sharks' organization have bounced between the Barracuda and NHL club.

Rourke Chartier, Dylan Gambrell, Antti Suomela, and Jacob Middleton may all currently be skating for the AHL squad, but they've spent time in the Joe Pavelski-led lineup as well.

NBC Sports California attended Barracuda practice on Thursday as the team reconvened for their first skate after the AHL All-Star break. Here's a quick check-in on how those four players' seasons are shaping up.

--Rourke Chartier spent the first part of the 2018-19 season playing fourth-line center for Team Teal. He's since bounced between the two clubs, registering 13 points (four goals, nine assists) with the Barracuda.

"Going up and down, I think it has been a good experience," Chartier said on Thursday. "I've had a lot of fun just playing hockey. Hopefully, I can catch some more rhythm in the second half, whichever team I'm on."

The 22-year-old center said the rhythm he's had so far can be contributed to having the opportunity to consistently play games. Even if he's a healthy scratch for the Sharks one night, he can follow that up playing a couple games for the Barracuda and staying fresh.

"At the end of the day you want to be playing games and getting better here," Chartier said. "So when I do get another opportunity (at the NHL level) it's going to be a lot easier having played some games."

--The last time NBC Sports California caught up with Dylan Gambrell, he was reflecting on the things he wanted to improve in his personal game at the NHL level. At the AHL level, though, the 22-year-old rookie has been one of the Barracuda's top players.

"I think my development is going well," said Gambrell, who is tied for third on the team with 24 points (nine goals, 15 assists) through 29 games. "Both teams are doing well too, so that's been good."

The University of Denver product brings a lot of speed to the Barracuda squad, which is considered one of the fastest teams in the league. Gambrell said the quickness of the AHL team has helped to prepare him for when he gets called up to the big club.

"It just makes it an easier transition," he summarized. "There's not as big of a jump, or at least you don't notice it as much when you get called up."

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--Antti Suomela may only have seven points (two goals, five assists) in 17 games for the Barracuda. But head coach Roy Sommer said the Finnish rookie is bound to break out.

"With him, the work ethic is there, and he has a big compete to his game," the coach complimented. "I think he just has to figure out the North American game. Things happen a lot quicker here than where he was at. But he's picking it up."

--Sharks fans are probably most familiar with defenseman Jacob Middleton because of his abrupt call-up to the big club earlier this month. A move made possible by the close proximity between the NHL and AHL teams.

"I think everyone -- all the teams that have come from out east, it's a lot less wear-and-tear on your players," said Sommer, whose players only have to jump across the practice facility when recalled. (Instead of having to make the long coast-to-coast flight the players took when the team was still located in Worcester, Mass.)

Sommer also echoed what Chartier said about getting players into games as opposed to them sitting around and getting rusty.

"Instead of guys just sitting for long periods of time, they get an opportunity to get in games and get their rhythm."

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