by Lindsay Kramer || NHL.com
Benn Ferriero might be the first player to start winning an NHL job by losing a fight.
Ferriero was playing in a rookie game in the San Jose Sharks’ camp this season against an entry from Anaheim. He dropped the gloves with one of the Ducks players, and came out of it with a severely tenderized face.
Ferriero spent his five minutes in the box and then went back to the bench. Worcester Sharks coach Roy Sommer, who was coaching the San Jose team, thought Ferriero might need a few more moments to recover. But when Ferriero’s line came up for its shift, he was ready to go again.
"Let’s just say he didn’t win," Sommer said of the fight. "I thought he was done. He jumped right out. That kind of opened everyone’s eyes. He’s tough, intense."
Yeah, but more than that, Ferriero was a guy who knew he needed to make an impression, and fast.
"I didn’t really think too much about it," he said. "I didn’t see any reason I shouldn’t be out there with my line."
Shortly thereafter, San Jose didn’t see any reason why Ferriero shouldn’t be on its roster. The Sharks took the unheralded seventh-round pick (by Phoenix in 2006) and immediately put him in their lineup for 22 games (two goals, three assists).
Since coming to Worcester, Ferriero has lost none of his scrap — he’s contributed nine goals and 12 assists in 18 games. Sommer calls his line — along with Logan Couture and Steven Zalewski — the best he’s seen in the AHL this season. During the Sharks’ six-game winning streak which began on Boxing Day, that trio has chipped in with 12 goals and 17 assists.
"I thought I’d have to spend a little time in the AHL (first)," said Ferriero, 22. "I just wanted to go in and make a good first impression on the staff and organization. I think (he started there) because I could play all parts of the game. At first I was a little more wowed. As time went on, I got more comfortable as I got more games under my belt. Hopefully, soon, I’ll be back up there."
Ferriero has a way of quickly getting his sea legs under him.
He grew up in the charming fishing town of Essex, Mass., and he took full advantage of its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean. Ferriero has owned a 22-foot boat since he was 12, and it’s served as his oasis in the summer while he enjoys his second-favorite life-long passion — fishing.
"During the summer, I try to keep my mind off hockey as much as I can," he said.
He’ll escape a couple miles out into the ocean, searching for, among other things, that perfect striped bass. He hit paydirt last summer by hauling in one that tipped the scales at 44 pounds. Although that delicacy would have provided a week’s worth of meals, Ferriero tossed it back out of respect.
Just like hockey fights, you give it your best, win some, lose some, tip your cap and go on your way.
"That’s a real big fish," Ferriero said. "Stripers over 50 pounds are winning tournaments. The real big ones, you just throw them (back) in, let them live."
Ferriero didn’t sail too far away to enjoy college hockey, lacing them up at Boston College. He showed steady offensive growth his first three seasons, with, 25, 46 and 42 points, respectively. The years were also a lesson in perseverance — the Eagles lost in the NCAA title game when Ferriero was both a freshman and a sophomore before capturing that prize when he was a junior.
"It was tough to swallow at the time," he said of the losses. "But we got one, so that was good. It makes it a little more sweet when you learn how hard it is to win one."
His numbers dropped off as a senior, although his stock as a potential pro might have reached its apex. Injuries on the BC blue line necessitated a little creative thinking, and Ferriero, who hadn’t played that position in years, was moved there for several games. That new perspective started to give him a versatility that would catch San Jose’s attention a year later. In a pinch, Sommer knows he can use Ferriero on the power-play point.
"He’s a two-way guy. Those guys are invaluable," he said.
"It was all right. I held my own," Ferriero said of his experiment on defense. "When you can look at the game from a different point of view, it helps you in the long run."
The Coyotes still weren’t impressed enough to give Ferriero a contract offer he considered appropriate, so he signed with San Jose as a free agent. The move offered contrasting bi-coastal possibilities.
Start in the AHL and Ferriero would play in a city just 90 minutes away from his hometown. Make the NHL and he’d live about as far away as he could within the borders of the United States. That latter possibility seemed kind of remote because, as Sommer noted, he came into camp not even on the edge of the radar screen, but completely off of it.
Then, the 5-foot-11, 192-pound Ferriero showed he has a game much bigger than his body and even one of the most skilled teams in the NHL decided it had to chip out a little niche for him.
"I’ve improved a lot over the last year," Ferriero said. "I think I’ve gotten a lot faster, a lot stronger. My shot’s a lot stronger. Those three things have helped me the most. It just seemed like San Jose was the right fit because of the system they play. They play a really upbeat offensive system. You can really skate."
From what Sommer’s seen, Ferriero uses his speed with a purpose.
"He’s a playmaker. He’s got great hockey sense," Sommer said. "He’s smooth. He finds guys. A lot of guys go to where the puck is. He goes to where the puck is going to be."
Ferriero appreciates such freedom these days, and it’s just this week that he is starting to feel completely without restraint. His surprise arrival in San Jose and his split time between the parent Sharks and the farm team had him living in a hotel from the start of training camp right through the celebration of the New Year’s arrival.
"It’s gotten a little long. I’m tired of it. I have one bag. I have it packed. A computer. That’s about it," he said. "You learn to deal with it. When I get lazy, I call up room service. Getting your room cleaned for you every day is nice."
There’s only one place, besides the rink, that makes Ferriero feel as limitless as the distant horizon. In that regard, San Jose is every bit the equal of his backyard.
He didn’t have a lot of time to check out the Pacific Ocean in his first swing west, but if Ferriero eventually makes that a more permanent residence he knows where he’s heading for his diversion.
"Yeah. Definitely. I don’t know too much about the fishing out there," he said. "But I’m sure once I got into it, I could figure it out."