Charlotte Checkers Training Camp in photos: Day 1

Just a few shots from the first day of AHL training camp at the Extreme Ice Center in Indian Trail:

Danny Biega and Kyle Bonis participate in a drill at Charlotte Checkers training camp. (Photo - J. Propst)

Danny Biega and Kyle Bonis participate in a drill at Charlotte Checkers training camp. (Photo – J. Propst)

Victor Rask at Charlotte Checkers training camp.  (Photo credit - J. Propst)

Victor Rask at Charlotte Checkers training camp. (Photo credit – J. Propst)

Rookie forward Kyle Bonis. (Photo - J. Propst)

 

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Defenseman Austin Levi (Photo credit: J. Propst)

Charlotte Checkers coach Jeff McDaniels looks on during training camp. (Photo - J. Propst)

Charlotte Checkers coach Jeff McDaniels looks on during training camp. (Photo – J. Propst)

 

Sean Dolan returns for his third season with the Checkers. (Photo - J. Propst)

Sean Dolan returns for his third season with the Checkers. (Photo – J. Propst)

 

Stefan Della Rovere joins the Checkers after a stint with the Blues organization. (Photo - J. Propst)

Stefan Della Rovere joins the Checkers after a stint with the Blues organization. (Photo – J. Propst)

 

 

Five new players to watch in Charlotte: Checkers training camp edition

 

Checkers training camp here in Charlotte is set to begin at 10am tomorrow at the Extreme Ice Center in Indian Trail, and while I’m looking forward to seeing many familiar faces, there are a number of new additions worth mentioning.  So here are a few of the players I am most anxious to see on the ice this year:

 

Danny Biega – Biega is set to begin his first full professional season, after spending four years at Harvard.  He played with both of his brothers while there, and his oldest brother Alex is going to be a member of the Utica Comets this season (who, as we all know, despite being in the same conference, will not face Charlotte).  Biega played one regular season game for the Checkers last year, but sustained an upper body injury that took him out for the last 15 games of the season before he returned for the playoffs. Biega is the kind of player who could make a big impact from day one with the Checkers.

 

Austin Levi at Checkers Training camp in 2012. (Photo - J. Propst)

Austin Levi at Checkers Training camp in 2012. (Photo – J. Propst)

Austin Levi – Levi spent five seasons with the Plymouth Whalers, an organization that brought the Checkers guys like Chris Terry, Michal Jordan, Brett Bellemore and Justin Peters.  Last season, he served as an alternate captain for the Whalers.  Levi is a big, physical defenseman who knows how to shut down the opposition.  Levi’s size and work ethic should prove to be valuable assets to the Checkers this year.

 

Keegan Lowe – Lowe’s family is about as Canadian as they come (his mom was an Alpine skier at the 1988 Calgary Olympics, and his dad is a six time Stanley cup winning defenseman), but since Keegan was born in Connecticut while his dad was playing for the New York Rangers, he’s played for Team USA at international competitions. Keegan grew up in Edmonton where his dad is currently the President of Hockey Operations for the Oilers. Keegan’s Edmonton Oil Kings made it to the Western Hockey League finals last year, a seven game series with Victor Rask’s Calgary Hitmen, who ultimately won the series.  Lowe’s still developing, but should add a lot of depth to the developing defense corps in Charlotte.

 

Brendan Woods – Brendan joins the Checkers after two years at the University of Wisconsin.  He was born in Pennsylvania (like Lowe, his dad was playing hockey at the time), but grew up in Saskatchewan. His dad is an ECHL hall of famer and current NHL assistant coach of the Anaheim Ducks.  Woods is a big forward who plays center and right wing, and should learn a lot in his first professional season this year.

 

Aaron Palushaj – A gritty right winger, Palushaj is about to enter his sixth professional season, after spending two years at the University of Michigan.  He’s played for the Peoria Rivermen, Hamilton Bulldogs, Montreal Canadiens and Colorado Avalanche before signing a contract with the Carolina Hurricanes this year.  Over the summer, he won a bronze medal for Team USA in the World Championships.  Assuming he clears waivers (he’s already been claimed once in his career, which is how he ended up in Colorado last year), he’s going to be a lot of fun to watch in Charlotte.

 

Victor Rask played 10 games for the Checkers last season. (Photo: J. Propst)

Victor Rask played 10 games for the Checkers last season. (Photo: J. Propst)

Victor Rask – Victor spent the first month of the season with the Checkers last year before the Hurricanes reassigned him to his junior team, the Calgary Hitman. He had five points in 10 games with Charlotte.  Rask is a physical player with phenomenal offensive potential.  As a member of Sweden’s World Junior team, he’s won consecutive medals, a gold in 2012 and silver in 2013.  Rask played in the WHL for two years, and this will be his third season in North America.

 

Roster notes:

  •  Earlier today, the Hurricanes placed the following players on waivers: Nicolas Blanchard, Michal Jordan, Justin Peters, Zach Boychuk, Aaron Palushaj, and Jared Staal.  It is presumed they will be assigned to Charlotte if they clear at noon tomorrow.
  • Chris Terry, Zac Dalpe, Brett Bellemore, Brett Sutter and Riley Nash, who were all Checkers regulars last year, remain at Hurricanes camp, all with very good chances of making the NHL squad this year.  They would require waivers to be sent to Charlotte.
  • Jeremy Welsh and Ryan Murphy remain at Hurricanes camp and would not require waivers to be assigned.

All Checkers practices this week are open to the public from 10am-noon in Indian Trail. There’s also a preseason game against the Admirals on Friday, September 27, and there’s Norfolking way the Checkers are going to lose!  I’ll see you at training camp!

 

Case For/ Case Against: The Checkers Blue Line

First of all, good luck to the Checkers today in Norfolk.  They face a brand new Admirals squad full of Anaheim Ducks prospects.  (Side note: As one who works in the theater with dancers and actors, I always feel like I should tell the team to “Break a leg” or in ballet terms, say “merde” but alas, I will stick to “Good Luck!” in terms of hockey!

Part two of the case for/case against is here!  A quick analysis of all of the defenseman on the Checkers roster, and what their overall pros and cons are in regards to making the AHL squad out of  camp.

There are a lot of forwards… it might take me years to sift through them all, so don’t expect that post for a couple more days!

So… which defensemen do you think will make the Checkers squad?  I’d say at a minimum, the team will keep seven players, but with such a deep talent pool, eight is a definite possibility as well.  I think it’s going to boil down to four or five guys fighting for the last two spots!

 

DEFENSEMEN

Brett Bellemore

The Case For:

  • Bellemore has completed three full seasons in the Hurricanes AHL organization.  Prior to that, he was a member of the OHL’s Plymouth Whalers.
  • A stay-at-home defenseman, he has been paired primarily with Michal Jordan for the past two season, and spends a great deal of time on the penalty kill, and leads all Checkers defensemen in short-handed assists.
  • He’s reliable and consistent, both of which are incredibly valuable traits to the Checkers.
The Case Against:

  • Bellemore has been a consistent, reliable defensive e force in the organization since his first full pro year.  He doesn’t have the flash and scoring of some prospects, but his consistency will continue to benefit him.

 

Justin Faulk

The Case For:

  • Faulk’s resume includes an NCAA title his rookie year at the University of Minnesota – Duluth, a trip to the AHL Eastern Conference Finals the same year with the Charlotte Checkers, and most recently, being named to the NHL All-Rookie team in 2012.
  • Faulk is still incredibly young at only 20 years old.  As the youngest Hurricane during the 2011-12 season, he led the team in ice time.
The Case Against:

  • The only reason that would prevent Faulk from playing for the Checkers this season is if the lockout ends and he ends up in the NHL. Since the NHL schedule has been cancelled until October 24, I’d expect Faulk in a Checkers sweater until at least then.

Marc-Andre Gragnani

The Case For:

  • Gragnani is a four-year veteran of the AHL, and completed his first full season in the NHL last year with Vancouver and Buffalo.
  • An offensive defenseman, during the Sabres playoff run in 2011, he led all skaters with seven points.
  • During much of Checkers training camp, he’s been paired with Justin Faulk, a duo that I would expect to do great things together.
The Case Against:

  • Along with Hurricanes prospects Ryan Murphy and Bobby Sanguinetti, Gragnani was expected to fight for a spot on the NHL roster in Raleigh.  With the NHL lockout continuing, Gragnani’s immediate future seems to be locked in Charlotte.

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