SAN JOSE – Thomas Bordeleau was skating toward the neutral zone when linemate Jayden Halbgewachs took control of the puck. Bordeleau then received a pass from Halbgewachs and took a few strides before he fired a shot that handcuffed Bakersfield goalie Stuart Skinner.
Lane Pederson pounced on the juicy rebound and tapped it into the Condors’ net for a one-goal Barracuda lead 60 seconds into the first period.
That’s how Bordeleau signaled his arrival to San Jose on Wednesday, assisting on a goal on his first shift in his debut with the Sharks’ AHL affiliate.
“Definitely a little confidence booster,” Bordeleau said of the initial point.
Bordeleau, who was signed to amateur tryout on Tuesday, would add two more assists in the second period on goals by Jasper Weatherby and Patrick Holway as the Barracuda closed out its final game at SAP Center with a 6-3 loss to the Condors.
“I thought he was pretty good,” Barracuda coach Roy Sommer said of Bordeleau, one of the Sharks’ second-round picks in 2020. “I think he thinks the American League is going to be easy – three assists in his first game. Kind of hard to do. But I didn’t like our game for the most part. I thought we had one line going.”
These are some staggeringly difficult times on the ice for the Sharks organization.
The parent club – on a seven-game losing streak – is on the verge of being mathematically eliminated from the playoffs for the third straight year for the first time in team history. The Barracuda (20-39-3-2), decimated by call-ups after the March 21 trade deadline, is now 0-10-1 since March 19 and is in last place in the AHL’s Pacific Division.
Between the losing and the seemingly never-ending revolving door of players (the Barracuda has now used 50 players for the season), Sommer said this has easily been his most challenging year as an AHL head coach.
“I’ve never had a season like this in my 26 years with the organization. It’s never been this rough,” Sommer said Wednesday morning. “You lose five games in a row and it’s like, ‘Oh, my god, the roof is falling in.’ Now we’re at – I don’t even know what it is now.
“But we’ve gone through some big stretches where we haven’t won games and it’s tough. I don’t care if it’s the American League or the NHL or AAA hockey or squirts, you lose that many games in a row and it makes it hard.“
That’s why Bordeleau’s arrival to the Bay Area comes at a critical time.
He’s providing the Barracuda with a little bit of a shot in the arm, although the team’s struggles this season have been mainly a result of its inability to prevent goals. And as the Sharks’ second-ranked prospect behind William Eklund, Bordeleau’s presence in the organization provides hope that some better days are ahead.
You may have noticed that the Sharks’ social media accounts, from team president Jonathan Becher’s Twitter account on down, have spent almost as much time promoting the organization’s prospects this season as they have on the current club.
They did not undersell Bordeleau’s run to the Frozen Four with Michigan, or his arrival in town after he had 67 points in 61 games with the Wolverines. Nor have they been shy about trying to familiarize the Sharks’ fanbase with other notable prospects in the pipeline.
The Sharks, of course, can’t be blamed for trying to sell the future, not when the NHL team and the farm club have lost a combined 18 straight games.
For now, Bordeleau, 20, is still trying to get settled in after a whirlwind few days.
Just seven days ago, Bordeleau was playing in a national semifinal game in the Frozen Four with the Michigan Wolverines in front of close to 18,000 people at TD Garden in Boston. With Michigan, he was a member of a high-profile college hockey program, one lined with NHL draft picks and future stars.
That seemed like a world away on Wednesday.
Only a few dozen fans were inside SAP Center by the time Bordeleau, making his AHL debut, stepped onto the ice for a solo lap a half-hour prior to the Barracuda’s game with Bakersfield.
“It’s a quick turnaround,” Bordeleau said Wednesday morning. “Coming back from Michigan and playing at TD Garden less than a week ago, it’s definitely weird, but obviously there’s excitement.”
But as unglamorous as it might have seemed Wednesday, it was at least a start for Bordeleau, who had his first practice with the Barracuda on Tuesday when he was placed on a line with Pederson and Halbgewachs. His post-collegiate career is now underway.
“He’s going to be on the power play, he’s going to play big minutes because we’re so depleted,” Sommer said. “Maybe if he was coming with some teams in the past, it’d be hard for him to probably get in the lineup, or be a third fourth-line guy. But he’s going right in, playing with two of our better players. He looks like he can handle it.”