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Jaycob Megna Talks Ryan Merkley’s Development, Becoming a Dad

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Source: San Jose Barracuda

Jaycob Megna wasn’t sure what his role would be when joining the San Jose Sharks organization, but he’s now the team captain of the Barracuda and partnered with their top defensive prospect.

Megna, 28, has had a leadership role with all three of his AHL teams. He was team captain for the San Diego Gulls and an alternate captain for the Chicago Wolves last season. The Barracuda named their leadership group Feb. 6, with newcomer Megna as the third captain in franchise history.

“It’s not so much getting on guys when they’re not doing it right,” Megna told San Jose Hockey Now Saturday. “But if they can look at you as an example and say, ‘This is what’s made him successful and he’s still approaching it this way in his seventh year in the league,’ then that’s a good standard.”

Through 18 games in his first full professional season, Merkley has been paired with Megna, a seven-year pro. Megna described Merkley as “fun to watch,” even while he’s on the ice with the San Jose Sharks 2018 first-round draft pick.

“Sometimes you find yourself watching him and going ‘Wow’ at some of the stuff he does,” Megna said. “He’s got some stuff to figure out still, but he’s definitely on his way.”

Megna also explained the increased difficulty offensively-focused defensemen have when making the jump to professional hockey.

“If you’re more of a defense-first guy, they can ease you in more,” Megna said. “But when Ryan goes up [to the NHL], they’re going to want him to be him. So the more he can get things fine-tuned down here, the better he’ll be set up when he’s playing with really skilled guys like himself.”

Megna has been a reliable presence, as the only Barracuda to play in all 23 games this season. In the Gulls’ six-year AHL history, he’s also San Diego’s games played leader.

“When he’s out there, he puts a lot of fires out for other people,” head coach Roy Sommer said. “If something breaks down out there, he always seems to be in the right place to bail them out.”

Megna has played in 333 AHL games and 43 NHL games. Last year, he played under head coach Rocky Thompson with the Chicago Wolves. Thompson joined the San Jose Sharks as an associate coach Sept. 22, 2020.

“The year I spent there with him was awesome,” Megna said. “He’s definitely a guy that knows a lot about hockey and he played a big role in me deciding to sign with the organization.”

Among the many changes Megna has experienced in the last year, the biggest by far is becoming a father. He and his wife, Kasey, celebrated their daughter’s first birthday Mar. 30.

“I’ve actually gotten to be around for a lot more than I would have otherwise,” Megna said of new fatherhood during a pandemic. “It’s crazy how much she’s grown and changed in just a year.”

Megna explained one of the many surprises fatherhood brings:

“I will do anything to get a laugh. There’s certain things where you don’t [want to] embarrass yourself … But when you have a kid, it doesn’t matter. Anything you can do to get her to laugh or smile, you’ll do it. You don’t care about looking stupid or making fun of yourself. It’s been a lot of fun that way, where half the day, you feel like you’re just laughing and smiling the whole time.”

Cuda Split Weekend Road Games

Maxim Letunov scored the Barracuda’s lone goal in a 4-1 loss to the Bakersfield Condors (14-9-0-1) Saturday. The goal, assisted by Evan Weinger and Robbie Russo, was Letunov’s fourth goal in four games and his sixth of the season.

Merkley returned Saturday from a wrist injury that kept him sidelined for four games. Goaltender Sam Harvey (1-2-1) made 26 saves in his first start since Mar. 24.

The game was the start of San Jose’s busiest stretch of the season —  three back-to-backs, for a total of six games in eight days.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever had this many games with the back-to-backs,” Megna said. “So this will definitely be a test.”

The Barracuda (9-8-4-2) snapped an eight-game winless road streak against the Ontario Reign (9-15-3-0) Sunday afternoon.

The Barracuda were without Stefan Noesen for the first time in 12 games, as he was involved in a three-way trade that sent him to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Lean Bergmann and Sasha Chmelevski returned to the lineup, while Nick DeSimone was out.

Chmelevski, who did not play Saturday, opened the scoring just four minutes in when Alexander True found him with a backdoor pass. Rookie Brinson Pasichnuk also earned an assist.

Just 2:30 later, True set up another Chmelevski goal. Chmelevski’s second goal of the first period was also his fifth of the season. The Reign responded with their own goal halfway through the first period to make it a 2-1 Barracuda lead.

While playing four-on-four, Pasichnuk snapped in his first professional goal, set up by his defense partner, Nicolas Meloche.

With seven minutes left in the second period, slick passes by Ivan Chekhovich and Joel Kellman set up Scott Reedy’s first professional goal. It was also Reedy’s first point after four straight games with the Barracuda, giving San Jose a 4-1 lead.

Late in the third period, Jacob Middleton capitalized on a misplay to earn a breakaway, then cleaned up his own rebound for his third goal of the season.

Zach Sawchenko (1-1-0) stopped 29 of 30 shots in his first start since Mar. 21. It was just Sawchenko’s second start of the season. True’s pair of assists elevated him to the Barracuda’s top scorer at 16 points, just one point ahead of linemate Joachim Blichfeld.

The 5-1 win was the Barracuda’s first road win since Mar. 5. They host the Texas Stars for the start of a four-game series Tuesday.

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