SAN JOSE – It lasted just one short week, but the abbreviated training camp in January provided rookie defenseman Matt Tennyson a chance to get his feet wet at the NHL level before he was reassigned to Worcester.
Now, Tennyson is back, and there’s a good chance he’ll make his NHL debut in the middle of a playoff race on Monday night against the Vancouver Canucks.
“I think it just got my eyes open to all the other guys and see what the talent level is like, and get comfortable with the systems and all that,” Tennyson said of the seven-day camp that was hurried together after the end of the lengthy NHL lockout. “It was a good experience to be here for training camp, and I think it helped the last 20 or so games I was in Worcester since.”
He arrived around 11 p.m. late Saturday on direct flight from Boston to San Francisco, recalled after Jason Demers was injured on Thursday against Detroit. He was one of just a few Sharks players that skated on Sunday, as most took the day off or went on the ice with their kids to mess around on what was Easter Sunday.
Tennyson said: “It’s been a crazy 24 hours with the long flight last night, and getting in and skating this morning. I’m just excited to be here.”
The 6-foot-2-inch, 205-pounder is the first product of the Jr. Sharks to join the team, signing an entry-level deal a little more than a year ago. The 22-year-old grew up in the Midwest, though, and was born in Minnesota before relocating to the Bay Area when he was 14.
At age 17, he went to the NAHL’s Texas Tornados for a season, spent the next year in the USHL in Cedar Rapids, and then enrolled at Western Michigan University where he played for three years from 2010-12.
He joined Worcester late last season after signing with the Sharks, and in 67 games over parts of the last two seasons, has six goals and 23 assists for 29 points and 44 penalty minutes.
Todd McLellan, who spent time in Worcester during the lockout, was impressed with Tennyson in training camp.
“I thought he was very mature for a young man that hadn’t played any NHL exhibition games,” McLellan said. “He walked into a locker room and really hadn’t met anybody because of the lockout. He handled himself very well. I think his experience in Worcester helped him that way. He adapted real quick, and took his game from here back to Worcester, and has excelled since.”
What kind of player is he?
“He’s got a very good right-handed shot, a puck-moving defenseman. He’s an important piece of our future.”
As a teenager, Tennyson attended some Sharks games when he lived in the area, and said he looked up to former defenseman Matt Carle as a guy he tried to emulate. Carle was traded to Tampa Bay as part of the trade for Dan Boyle in 2008, and is back with the Lightning after a stint in Philadelphia.
“He had just come out of [the University of Denver] when I got here, so he was a guy that I watched and looked up to when I was playing midgets for them,” Tennyson said. “I got to go to a couple games, and it was a good experience.”
Like Carle, Tennyson mentioned he’s a guy that likes to contribute in the offensive end.
“I’d say I’m a two-way defenseman. I like to jump up into the play and shoot the puck a lot,” he said. “But, I also like to be responsible defensively, as well. It’s a big part of the game and you have to be good defensively, as well.”
If he does play, expect Tennyson’s parents to be at the Shark Tank. They live in Los Angeles.