VANCOUVER, B.C. – When the San Jose Sharks opened training camp, coach Todd McLellan knew very little about rookie Benn Ferriero.
McLellan knows a lot more now, and definitely likes what he sees.
Ferriero, a longshot to make a talent-rich Sharks team when the pre-season began, scored his third goal of the exhibition campaign Wednesday night as San Jose fell 4-3 to the Vancouver Canucks in a shootout at General Motors Place.
“He’s a guy that came out of nowhere,” said McLellan. “I didn’t know much about him. He’s earned a right to stay another day every time we play. I’m real happy with him.”
Ferriero, a 22-year-old Boston native, was cast adrift by the Phoenix Coyotes after they selected him in the seventh round (196th overall) in the 2006 NHL draft. After completing his fourth and final season of eligibility at Boston College in the spring, he did not get a contract from Phoenix and signed with the Sharks.
“I just wanted to come in and make a good first impression,” said Ferriero, a five-foot-11, 192 pound forward. “I didn’t really know too many people in the organization until later in the summer and they didn’t really know me.”
Ferriero briefly got credit for another goal before the officials ruled that he did not deflect Rob Blake’s point shot, which created a 3-3 tie with 1:09 left in regulation time.
McLellan showed his confidence in Ferriero by giving him the last shootout attempt, although he was foiled by Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo.
“You’ve got to take some positives away but you also have to realize we gave up a two-goal lead in the third period and I couldn’t bury the last one in the shootout to keep it going,” said Ferriero. “Take some positives, but also look where you can improve.”
Mason Raymond scored the shootout winner on a forehand-to-backhand spinorama and also scored Vancouver’s first goal, which launched the Canucks’ comeback.
“We struggled the first two periods,” said Raymond. “The third period went a bit better, but I think the play was a little bit scrambly.”
The Shark forward generating the most pre-season buzz, newly-acquired Dany Heatley, did not make the trip to Vancouver. McLellan said Ferriero’s strong play factored into his decision to keep Heatley at home. He refuted suggestions earlier in the day that Heatley was kept behind after being criticized by Canadian media for demanding a trade from the Ottawa Senators.
McLellan said Heatley also stayed behind to undergo fitness testing, which he had missed before the trade. He is slated to play Friday against Anaheim.
Alex Edler scored in regulation for Vancouver and also notched a key shootout goal that drew the Canucks even after Joe Pavelski had put the Sharks ahead temporarily in the extra session.
Edler delighted the crowd by pulling the puck back, as San Jose goaltender Evgeni Nabokov dove to poke it, and then roofed the puck from a sharp angle.
Both of Vancouver’s shootout goals were controversial – Raymond moved the puck backwards and Edler scored from behind the goal-line – but McLellan wasn’t complaining.
“We’re in the entertainment business,” said McLellan. “(Raymond’s goal) was a heck of a move. I thought both Raymond’s and Edler’s goals were tremendous moves. They earned the opportunity to score goals and they put it in. (Vancouver) deserved to win, basically, in the shootout.”
Despite Ferriero’s miss, the Sharks coach indicated he has a legitimate chance to start the season in the NHL, despite his lack of experience.
“It really doesn’t matter to me who plays on our hockey club,” said McLellan. “We want the best players – and he’s been one of the top players.”
But he did not expect to make such a comment before training camp began.
“He was signed very late,” said McLellan. “He came to training camp and made an impact in some of the rookie games and just continued on from there. But to be very honest with you, we didn’t pencil him in very deep into training camp, because we didn’t know very much about him.”
Kent Huskins scored San Jose’s other regulation-time goal.
The Canucks remained a perfect 6-0 in exhibition play while San Jose fell to 2-3.
Vancouver outshot San Jose 29-27. The Sharks went two-for-five on the power play while the Canucks were blanked on three attempts.
Notes: Jason Demers recorded three assists for San Jose while Sharks centre Joe Thornton provided a pair of helps playing on the nominal No. 1 line with Ferriero and Devin Setoguchi . . . Heatley has gone without a point in two pre-season games . . . Canucks prospect Michael Grabner, in a battle to make the team, drew into the lineup after he was supposed to have the night off. He filled in for Dave Scatchard, who sat out with a sore groin . . . Canucks forward Alex Burrows underwent a role reversal as he centred a checking line that included Darcy Hordichuk and Jannik Hansen. On Monday against Calgary, Burrows played wing on Vancouver’s top line alongside the Daniel and Henrik Sedin . . . Canucks prospect Evan Oberg is a second cousin of former Alberta cabinet minister Lyle Oberg.