By Phil Stacey
---- — John McCarthy believes in looking at the bright side of things.
Would he rather be in San Jose right now, in training camp with the Sharks and fighting for a job in the NHL? Of course he would.
But nobody who skates for a living is playing in the NHL these days, not with the players being locked out by the owners and no end to the stalemate in the foreseeable future.
So the next best thing is still being able to play — and play close to home.
Now in his fourth professional season, McCarthy is at training camp with the Worcester Sharks. The former St. John’s Prep standout has played with San Jose’s American Hockey League affiliate for parts of the last three seasons and is familiar both with his surroundings and what’s expected of him.
“It’s cool being close to home. My parents can come out and see a lot of our games, and I can bring a few of the guys home for a home cooked meal every so often, too,” laughed the 26-year-old forward.
“I’m the type of player that will do whatever role that’s given to me and give it my all. The coaches will steer me in the right direction, and I’ll do what they want me to.”
A veteran of 51 NHL games with San Jose, McCarthy is able to play in the AHL because of a loophole where he wasn’t required to go through waivers prior to going to the minors (where San Jose could have potentially lost him to another NHL team). Because he was on the Worcester roster at the end of last season and for the AHL playoffs, he qualified to play there again if there was a lockout to begin the 2012-13 season. (Once the lockout ends, he’ll be back to his ‘regular’ two-way contract he signed with the organization, paying McCarthy one salary if he’s in the NHL with San Jose and another if he’s down with Worcester).
Last season, the Sharks asked McCarthy to take on more of a scoring role in Worcester and he responded, potting 20 goals and 47 points in 65 games. He also had a bit of snarl to his game with 47 penalty minutes and was a plus-7.
“I was asked to step into a more offensive role, which I love, and was fortunate to have success doing it,” said the 6-foot-1, 200-pounder. “The team has added a few offensive pieces this year, veterans who have proven they can put points on the board, so I don’t know if my role will change or not. Like I said, whatever they want me to do, I’ll do.”
McCarthy spent the summer skating with fellow Bostonians at his alma mater, Boston University, to get ready for the upcoming season. He was also kept abreast of the negotiations between the NHL Players Association and the league’s owners by Joe Pavelski, San Jose’s player rep.
For right now, he’s focused on making himself the best player he can be in Worcester, whose website proclaims ‘We’re playing hockey â€” no matter what.’ The Sharks opens their season next weekend with a pair of games in Norfolk, Va; their home opener is Saturday, Oct. 20 against the Albany Devils.
“I assume the San Jose management and coaches will have a stronger presence in Worcester while (NHL players) are locked out,” said McCarthy. “It’s another chance for me to prove myself to them and what I can do. Any chance to have them watch you play is a good thing.”