Charlotte Checkers training camp update: Day four in pictures

First, some photos from camp today.

Matt Marquart (and his hair) score on Charlotte Checkers goaltender extraordinaire Mike Murphy. (Photo - J. Propst)

Matt Marquart (and his hair) score on Charlotte Checkers goaltender extraordinaire Mike Murphy. (Photo – J. Propst)

Beau Schmitz participates in Charlotte Checkers training camp. (Photo - J. Propst)

Beau Schmitz participates in Charlotte Checkers training camp. (Photo – J. Propst)

Stefan Della Rovere, Beau Schmitz, Mark Flood and Jesse Deckert participate in a Charlotte Checkers training camp drill.  (Photo - J. Propst)

Stefan Della Rovere, Beau Schmitz, Austin Levi and Jesse Deckert participate in a Charlotte Checkers training camp drill. (Photo – J. Propst)

Adam Brace, signed to an AHL contract over the summer, participates in his first Charlotte Checkers training camp. (Photo - J. Propst)

Adam Brace, signed to an AHL contract over the summer, participates in his first Charlotte Checkers training camp. (Photo – J. Propst)

Brodry Sutter, who served as the captain of the Hurricanes at the Traverse City tournament, participates in a drill at Charlotte Checkers training camp. (Photo - J. Propst)

Brodry Sutter, who served as the captain of the Hurricanes at the Traverse City tournament, participates in a drill at Charlotte Checkers training camp. (Photo – J. Propst)

A few training camp thoughts and observations: 

  • Currently, there are 7 defensemen, three goalies and 13 forwards participating in training camp, including Stefan Della Rovere, who is still unsigned.
  • In Raleigh, the following players are considered to be “on the bubble” as far as making the Hurricanes roster:  Brett Bellemore, Ryan Murphy and Matt Corrente at defense, and Chris Terry, Zac Dalpe, Jeremy Welsh, Brett Sutter, Riley Nash and Nathan Gerbe.  What does that mean for Charlotte?  Well, two of the defenseman and probably three or four of the forwards will probably end up in Charlotte depending on waivers.  All but Welsh will have to clear waivers to be assigned.
  • The Hurricanes cuts could happen as early as Friday night, following the Hurricanes final preseason game in Raleigh.
  • So who makes the Checkers team after camp?  It’s still too early to tell, though many have asked for my opinion. I’ll just say this… I’d guess one goalie, two defensemen and three forwards get sent to the Florida Everblades, but I’m not sure who the skaters will be quite yet.
  • Jason Shaya was on the Powerplay Post Show today, the only AHL-only radio show.  It’s an internet-based show, and you can listen to Bob Howard’s interview of the great Checkers broadcaster here.
  • Sorry on the delay on posting this! Real life tends to interrupt, and in this case, it was a visit to the always awesome US National Whitewater Center for their Thursday night Riverjam.

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!

 

Hurricanes Preseason Game 1: Blue Jackets defeat Carolina 5-4

Hear that squeaking? That’s my writing rust breaking free after a summer away from the rink. Thank goodness for preseason… maybe I’ll remember how to do this again after a game or two!

Last night in Raleigh, the Hurricanes participated in their first preseason game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Jackets had a couple of other games this week – on Sunday at home, and followed by a split squad game where half the team played at home, and the other half was in Minnesota, so the rust seemed to be a bit less apparent in the first period, though their lineup was not nearly as stacked as that of the Hurricanes, who’s lineup was nearly completely composed of Hurricanes regulars, and a few guys on the cusp of making the team this year (specifically, Brett Bellemore, Chris Terry, Nicolas Blanchard, Brett Sutter and Michal Jordan).

I could recap the game goal by goal, but really it was a preseason game, at times a bit hard to follow because of a lineup that consisted of about 50% Canes regulars, and 50% Canes hopefuls .  The bottom line is due, I’d say, to sloppy play and still developing chemistry (or a lack thereof), and the Hurricanes lost 5-4 to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

A few relatively disjointed thoughts:

  • Michal Jordan netted his first and second NHL points with assists on goals by Alexander Semin and Jeremy Welsh.
  • Chris Terry, the Checkers alternate captain last season, also had an assist on the Welsh goal, and drew the Nikita Nikitin penalty which led to the Checkers first power play goal.  Terry spent time on both the power play and penalty kill.  As has been mentioned and written about by many others, including the great Paul Branecky, Terry is having an incredible camp, and his on-ice performance last night was quite notable.
  • Former Checker Drayson Bowman had five hits, which was second on the team to Tim Gleason’s seven.  Does anyone need a refresher on what Mr. Bowman looks like? Don’t get me wrong, he’s a phenomenal athlete, but he’s not exactly the type I’d expect to be on the giving end of huge hits, and with sizable men like Mike Komisarek and Kevin Westgarth on the ice for Carolina, I was a bit perplexed why they weren’t the ones dishing it out, and young Bowman was
  • Columbus’ goaltender Mike McKenna, who came into the game in the second in relief of Curtis McElhinney after he allowed three goals in five minutes, was perfect.  McKenna allowed zero goals on 12 shots.  He’s is a prolific tweeter (follow him, it’s worth it!) and is set to be the Springfield Falcons goalie this year.
  • At the end of two periods, shots on goal were in favor of the Hurricanes 26-15.  The third period had the Blue Jackets outshooting the Hurricanes 16-8. The third period was just sloppy all the way around, but again, it’s a preseason game, and the first one that, and I have confidence it will get better.  But still, yikes.
  • Six hours in the car and about 350 miles round trip makes for a long day, but it’s totally worth it! I need to get to more games in Raleigh. It’s great to see the NHL perspective i comparison with the AHL which I admittedly follow much more closely. I may have to check my calendar to see what other games I can attend this year!

Checkers training camp notes:

Earlier in the day, the Hurricanes announced that they had reduced their training camp roster to 35.  Sent back to the OHL was Brock McGinn, who spent time with the Checkers last year.  Assigned to Charlotte were Mike Murphy, Brody Sutter, Danny Biega, Victor Rask, Keegan Lowe, Austin Levi, Brendan Woods, Rasmus Rissanen, Beau Schmitz, Justin Shugg and new to the organization Mark Flood.  They will all be at Charlotte Checkers training camp which begins on Monday.

Case For/Against: The Checkers Forwards

Right now, the Checkers have 24 players on their roster, not including Jeff Skinner, who is still eligible to play in Charlotte if he decides to join the team.

Of the 24, two are goaltenders and seven are defensemen.  The remaining 15 are forwards.  While there aren’t limits to the number of players an AHL team can carry on its active roster (unlike the NHL, where teams are limited to 23 players), I would find it highly unlikely for the team to have three extra forwards beyond the playing needs of 12.

With that in mind, I would expect one or two more forwards to be cut prior to the first game in Houston this weekend.  I had begun a “Case For/Case Against” that included all of the Checkers forwards, but in the interest in time, decided to only expand upon the players who are still on the fence.  Let’s be real… there are a number of forwards (eight, in my mind) who are locks to make the AHL squad so I did not write them up individually.

The “Locks” are:

Nicolas Blanchard

Drayson Bowman

Zach Boychuk

Zac Dalpe

Riley Nash

Jerome Samson

Brett Sutter

Chris Terry

So that leaves seven guys who are “on the fence” and competing for five or six spots on the final roster.  Who do you think is going to make the final cut?

Sean Dolan

The Case For:

  • Dolan is an undrafted center and a four-year veteran of the University of Wisconsin where he was captain his senior year, was signed by the Checkers last season to a PTO contract which soon led to a full contract for this season.
  • As a member of the Checkers last season, Dolan was quickly integrated into a squad that was constantly changing due to injuries and call ups, and showed he had an incredible ability to adjust his game and fit in where needed, even spending time on the top lines down the stretch.
The Case Against:

  • Experience.  With a number of forwards essentially locked into the AHL lineup, the competition to make the last spot on the squad is incredibly tough.  Even if Dolan starts the season in Florida, he  will certainly be one of the first called up when needed.

AJ Jenks

The Case For:

  • Jenks was a mid-season addition to the Checkers last year, the result of a trade that sent Jon Matsumoto to the Panthers organization.
  • Jenks, though new to the Checkers, is not a stranger to playing with other members of the team.  As a junior player in Plymouth, Jenks was teammates with Brett Bellemore, Chris Terry, Michal Jordan and a number of other current Checkers.
  • Jenks was a bit of an underachiever as a member of the Rampage last season.  He bounced between the AHL and ECHL before coming to Charlotte.  Things turned around quickly, and he finished the season in Charlotte as a valuable member of the team.
The Case Against:

  • Jenks was a bit of an underachiever as a member of the Rampage last season.  He bounced between the AHL and ECHL before coming to Charlotte.  Things turned around quickly, and he finished the season in Charlotte as a valuable member of the team.
  • Experience.  Jenks is still quite young, and though full of potential, he’s battling for a spot on the AHL squad.  With so many players who would probably have started the season in Raleigh with the Hurricanes, there is less room in Charlotte for guys who legitimately deserve to be here.

Victor Rask

The Case For:

  • Rask, a second round draft pick of the Hurricanes in 2011, has already shown the offensive abilities he has after only one season in the CHL.  As a first year player with the Calgary Hitman, he had 63 points (33g, 30a).
  • Rask has the potential to be a top-six forward at the NHL level.  He’s had a great AHL training camp, and had no problem keeping up with the pace of the game at this level.  He’s a physical and exciting player to watch.
  • Rask’s draft profiles all list his stick handling and ability to protect the puck to be some of his greatest assets.
The Case Against:

  • At 19 years old, Rask is young enough to play in the CHL, and has a spot waiting for him in Calgary with the Hitman should the Hurricanes feel that is a better place for his development.  Talent wise, he can and should be playing at the AHL (or NHL) level.

Justin Soryal

The Case For:

  • Soryal, a gritty, tough-guy undrafted forward, signed a one-year deal with the Hurricanes last season, and spent the year in Charlotte as an enforcer until a shoulder injury sidelined him for the rest of the season.  Upon his medical clearance, he was signed by the Checkers to a one-year AHL deal.
  • While Soryal frequently served as the team’s enforcer, he had a more well-rounded game than many in his position.  He finished the season with 10 points (4g, 6a).
  • As the only player on the roster who can be clearly defined as an “enforcer” in a league that seems to require them, Soryal has an outstanding chance at making the final AHL roster.
The Case Against:

  • As a player who is under contract with the AHL team and not the NHL Hurricanes, his chances to make the final roster are slightly less than those of the guys signed to NHL contracts, however this should not be a big concern as Soryal has a unique role as an enforcer on the team, and only he can fill it.

Jared Staal

The Case For:

  • Staal spent the offseason training with his big brothers, and it seems to have paid off.  He lost some weight, and has seemed much more physical during training camp this year.
  • Staal knows this is a make-or-break year for him.  It’s the third and final year in his entry-level contract, and  he has to make a great impression to get resigned as a RFA next summer.  This should light a fire under him (as it already appears to have) and great things could come out of one of the most talented hockey families of the modern era.
The Case Against:

  • Staal is not the strongest skater, and has had limited success at the AHL level.  He spent much of his first professional season in the ECHL, and was loaned to the Providence Bruins last season for the final month after being a healthy scratch for much of the Checkers season.
  • In less than three years as a pro, Staal has already been bounced around between NHL organizations, and has appeared on three different AHL teams plus the ECHL Everblades.

Tim Wallace

The Case For:

  • Wallace is an undrafted forward who spent four years at Notre Dame and five seasons with the Penguins organization, splitting time between the NHL and AHL teams.  Last year, he split the year between Bridgeport in the AHL and the NHL teams of the NY Islanders and Tampa Bay.  This summer,   Wallace signed with the Hurricanes as a free agent this summer.
  • Wallace is a gritty, physical player, and his pro experience will serve to be a great example to younger Checkers players.
The Case Against:

  • Wallace was expected to compete for a spot in Raleigh at the start of the season.  He is a great depth player for the Hurricanes.

Jeremy Welsh

The Case For:

  • Welsh was a highly sought-after free agent last spring.  He helped lead Union college to their first-ever NCAA Frozen Four appearance.  Welsh was never drafted, and chose to sign with Carolina following his college career (Other teams known to have been recruiting Welsh include the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks).
  • He has one game of NHL experience under his belt.
  • Welsh holds the Union College record for most goals scored in a season (27 in 2011-12).  He’s got the potential to be a great offensive player at the pro level, and his size (6’3) and hard shot make him incredibly valuable.
The Case Against:

  • His lack of pro games under his belt makes it a tougher battle, but Welsh’s immense potential should overcome this easily.

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.

Continue reading

Post game – Winnipeg at Charlotte

What a DAY!  Today, I was so proud to be a Charlotte Checkers hockey fan.  Being at TWCA, only a year after the Charlotte Checkers came into existence in their current form, they hosted a top-notch weekend full of events.  From the fan fest yesterday, to an NHL game that by AHL standards would be above and beyond a sellout, you did good, Checkers!!!  I have no idea why it took the Hurricanes 14 years to have an exhibition game in Charlotte, but I sure hope it becomes an annual event.

This was (at least?) the third NHL event in Charlotte during the past 17 years.  In 1994 and 1997, exhibition games were held at the old Independence Arena between the Nordiques and Capitals, and the Panthers and Bruins.  Until tonight, the Hurricanes had never played here.  I have to wonder what it would be like to have a regular-season game here…. what an event that could be!!

I’m going to write my thoughts and observations in my traditional “Quick Hits” format.

  • Carolina Hurricanes celebrate Zac Dalpe's GWG in the first period. The Hurricanes defeated the Winnipeg Jets 4-0 in Charlotte, NC. (Photo: J. Propst)

    I was glad this was more than just a Hurricanes game in Charlotte.  There were a lot of elements of the Checkers there, which as a Checkers fan and STH, is important.  I’m glad they implemented Checkers graphics and videos into the jumbotron, etc.  The only thing missing was a “Let’s Go Checkers” chant! 

  • “Our” guys were the stars of the show.  While Cam Ward was a well-deserved first star, the former Checkers stole the show.  Zac Dalpe scored the first (and game-winning) goal early in the first period.  Jerome Samson (the in-arena announcer pronounced his name wrong, I was disappointed!) and Riley Nash also added goals, with Nash and Justin Faulk each getting an assist on different goals.
  • Riley Nash was fantastic.  Before camp, he was rarely mentioned as one of the front runners for the one or two forward spots available in Raleigh, but after a game like tonight, the Canes have to be thinking of him favorably.  At the very least, he should be one of the top call-ups.
  • Once again, I was impressed by Brett Sutter.  He’s got what it takes to be in the NHL.  I love his grit and determination.  He’s in my own personal running for a Captain or Alternate in Charlotte this year.  (Because, you know, my opinions count on that!)
  • Jonathan Matsumoto was in top form tonight.  He nearly missed on a breakaway goal in the third period.
  • There are a few things I noticed about Friday’s game in Raleigh vs. tonight in Charlotte.  On Friday, the stars of the game were the Hurricanes regulars, and the guys locked into roster spots there.  Tonight in Charlotte, the CheckerCanes as I like to call them were the superstars.  They had a lot of confidence, and that confidence paid dividends.
A few “cultural” observations not related to the game:
  • Do NBA games in Charlotte have as many fans as the Hurricanes did tonight?  I need to get to a Bobcats game (if there are any this year) and compare…. I’ll call it research for this blog!
  • LOTS of Atlanta Thrashers fans in attendance tonight.  I was kind of sad for them, knowing they had their team ripped out from under them with absolutely no way to say goodbye or stop it from happening.  But I’m glad they made it to Charlotte, and hope they enjoyed cheering for the Hurricanes tonight (as the handful I spoke to told me they were!)
  • The new video screens on the scoreboard looked amazing!  So much clarity and hi-definition!  (Though, there is a noticeable seam on the bench side… it was a bit annoying for a graphics/lighting geek like myself!)
  • I’m so glad Wilson was a part of the event.  I’m glad there weren’t as many promotional activities for this particular game (though I do recognize their importance, even if they are a bit…. annoying), but just as was mentioned above, having Wilson there added to the Checkers home team atmosphere that made the event such a success.
  • I’m not the most patriotic person in the world, but I really dislike the extra additions to the American National Anthem.  I used to like RED, but I can’t get behind throwing every single player on the team into the anthem.  It seems a bit disrespectful to me.
  • I love hearing O Canada, and can’t wait to hear it this year at the Abbotsford games... though it’ll only be twice since the Checkers are being ROBBED by not getting to see the Hamilton Bulldogs or Toronto Marlies play!
  • I’ve decided that in addition to the costumes worn by the Checkmates, I have another very big pet peeve.  Rick Flair.  The more I see the videos of him and his leathery skin and fake blond hair, I get a bit more grossed out.  Is he really the type of “character” our hockey teams want to be affiliated with?  Yuck.  I will never woo.

 

 

 

 

Quick hits – Gameday in Charlotte

  • Riley Nash

    Riley Nash during the morning skate on Friday in Raleigh. He will play tonight vs. the Winnipeg Jets in Charlotte, NC. (Photo: Jenni Propst)

    It’s a big BIG day in Charlotte.  The Hurricanes face the Winnipeg Jets at TWCA at 5 p.m.  Tickets are still available, but I’m told the lower bowl is SOLD OUT!  Let’s show the NHL what Charlotte is made of!!!

  • A few game previews worth reading:  GoCheckers.com, Raleigh News & Observer, Carolyn Christians preview at Canes Country
  • Cam Ward is expected to play the entire game today in goal.  He played two periods on Friday in his first 2011-12 appearance, and was strong.
  • Other former Checkers and Hurricanes hopefuls expected to play include Zac Dalpe, Riley Nash (who will be centering a line with superstall and Rookie of the Year Jeff Skinner), Justin Faulk, Brett Sutter, Jon Matsumoto and Jerome Samson.
  • Chris Terry, Zach Boychuk, and Drayson Bowman, who all played Friday night, will be healthy scratches.
  • Mike Murphy is expected to travel with the Hurricanes to Winnipeg on Wednesday.  Murphy and Justin Peters still remain with the Hurricanes training camp, but are expected to start the season with the Checkers.
  • The Hurricanes made more roster cuts on Saturday.  They assigned  Nicolas Blanchard, Mike McKenzie, Cedric McNicoll, Jared Staal and Justin Shugg, as well as defensemen Michal Jordan and Rasmus Rissanen to the Charlotte Checkers.  
  • Blanchard and previously assigned Checkers Justin Soryal and Brett Bellemore were placed on waivers by the Carolina Hurricanes.  This should be a technicality due only to their number of games played and contract status/eligibility.  They will clear waivers at noon on Monday, and will not be available to start camp at 10 am on Monday at the Xtreme Ice Center.
  • The current Charlotte Checkers roster looks like this:
Matt Beca F
Nicolas Blanchard F *Must clear waivers
Mike McKenzie F
Cedric McNicoll F
Matt Pistilli F
Jared Staal F
Justin Shugg F
Justin Soryal F *Must clear waivers
Brett Bellemore D *Must clear waivers
Ryan Donald D
Michal Jordan D
Kyle Lawson D
Chris Murray D
Rasmus Rissanen D
John Muse G

Long overdue game notes and quotes from Friday’s game in Raleigh

Long overdue game notes from Friday.  The Canes lost to the Nashville Predators 3-2 in their second preseason game:

  • Crappy cellphone pic, but if there were 6000 fans at the game, there would be about one fan for every three seats...

    The attendance for the game is listed as 6375, but if there were actually more than 2000 people in the stands, it would be shocking.  Preseason games are usually poorly attended, but the small turnout was still surprising.

  • The following players were all competing for roster spots on Friday night, or will otherwise join the Checkers in Charlotte this season:  Brett Sutter, Drayson Bowman, Zach Boychuk, Chris Terry, Justin Faulk, Riley Nash, Justin Peters
  • Chris Terry

    Chris Terry makes his first NHL preseason start against the Nashville Predators. Photo Credit: Jenni Propst

    Friday marked Terry’s first NHL game (preseason or otherwise) since he was drafted by the Hurricanes in 2007.  He had no problems getting in front of the net and going after rebounds, and played a very physical game.  After the game, he said, “It was pretty good.  I was excited, a little nervous headed in, but overall thought it was pretty good for my first one.”  He also shared that his off-season training with Gary Roberts in Toronto gave him a huge improvement in his fitness and intensity.

  • Brett Sutter was incredibly physical, and had a lot of grit, characteristics that he displayed during his season with Charlotte.  He was going into the corners and playing with a lot of determination.  He seemed to really fit in with the Hurricanes, and had a very impressive performance.  He had over a minute of penalty kill TOI, in a game which only saw one minor penalty by the Hurricanes. 
  • Zach Boychuk seemed quiet and rather subdued.  In Charlotte, he was known for being one of the louder, chirpier players, but he seemed quiet Friday, at least at the morning skate and warmups when I was close enough to hear him.  Almost six of his 12 minutes of ice time came during the third period, when he played predominantly with Riley Nash and Brett Sutter.
  • Justin Faulk

    Justin Faulk makes his second NHL preseason start. He played the majority of the game with fellow rookie and D standout Ryan Murphy. Photo Credit: Jenni Propst

    Drayson Bowman had a very strong game.  He had a lot of finesse, which is not surprising having skated with the Hurricanes for the last month of the season last year.

  • Justin Peters played the final period, and stopped eight of the 10 shots he faced.  His performance did not leave me with a lot of confidence for the upcoming Checkers season.  He appeared in only 12 games last season, with a record of 3-5-1 (.875 SV%, 3.98 GAA).  This year, I would expect him to see much more ice time between the pipes, but with the strong end to Mike Murphy’s season last year and his undisputed number one goalie status, it will be interesting to see how the Checkers handle the goaltending situation this year.

Pregame notes – Nashville at Carolina

While I’m in Raleigh covering the Hurricanes game, my focus will continue to be on that of the prospects and former and future Checkers.  It’s a sticky thing to cover… I want to focus on these guys who will probably be spending another season in the AHL in Charlotte, but at the same time, right now they are Hurricanes, and deserve every chance to make the big squad!  With this in mind, here are my thoughts on the names most familiar to Charlotte Checkers fans!

Hurricanes Notes:

Tonight, the Hurricanes take the ice for their second preseason game, and their first home game in Raleigh.

Monday, the Hurricanes lost in Buffalo.  Notable 2010-11 Checkers included Zach Boychuk, Zac Dalpe, Jon Matsumoto, Drayson Bowman, Justin Faulk and Jerome Samson.  All of these players have made it through the first rounds of Hurricanes cuts, and remain on the training camp roster.

With so few preseason games, and as many as 60 players vying for NHL roster spots, each game is filled with pressure for the younger players to prove they have what it takes.  For many guys who will play in Charlotte this year, they may only get one game with the Hurricanes to prove themselves.

Tonight, Chris Terry, Brett Sutter, and Riley Nash are getting their first shot in the lineup, and making up the majority of the third and fourth lines. Justin Peters, Faulk, Boychuk and Bowman return for their second straight game.

Forward lines and defense pairings, per Michael Smith:

Ponikarovsky – Staal – Jokinen
Skinner – Ruutu – Stewart
Terry – Brent – Boychuk
Brett Sutter – Nash – Bowman

Pitkanen – Gleason
Kaberle – McBain
Faulk – Murphy

Ward
Peters

 

Predators Notes:

Tonight’s game against Nashville is of special interest to Checkers fans because the Predators are the parent club of the Milwaukee Admirals, and one of our Midwest Division rivals.  Ryan at the Admirals Roundtable shared a few players to watch in terms of future AHL talent.

The “Who will make the Predators roster” players to watch include Forward Craig Smith and Defenseman Ryan Ellis.  Both have a shot at cracking the Predators regular-season roster, but may end up playing in Milwaukee.

Other future Admirals to watch include Chris Mueller, Gabriel Bourque and Juuso Puustinen.  Mueller played in Milwaukee last season, and has had a very strong camp but all signs point to him playing in Milwaukee this season.

Camp bits and pieces:

  • Tonight, Cam Ward is expected to start in net, with Justin Peters backing him up.  Ward is expected to play on Sunday in Charlotte, and since this is Peters second appearance, I am hopeful Mike Murphy gets the call Sunday for the home crowd at TWCA.
  • Following the morning skate, Hurricanes Coach Paul Maurice stated that the Hurricanes defenseman all came to camp in great shape and very strong.  This makes the competition even more fierce for blueline roster spots.  Currently, there are about eight or nine guys vying for spots, with seven under contract at the NHL level.  The top two lines all played together in Raleigh last season, with newcomer Tomas Kaberle added to the group during the offseason.
  • Ryan Murphy and Justin Faulk are both fighting to make the Hurricanes squad.  They will be paired together for the second-straight preseason game tonight.
  • If you haven’t heard about the banana peel incident in London, ON last night, prepare to be disgusted.  A fan threw one at Wayne Simmonds during the Flyers/Red Wings exhibition game.  I was shocked and disgusted at this blatant exhibit of racism and offensive behavior by a fan.  Chip Alexander has more on the Canes reaction to the event.
  • The Hurricanes made six more roster cuts yesterday.  They had previously sent most junior players back to their respective CHL teams.  Yesterday, Defensemen Brett Bellemore, Kyle Lawson and Chris Murray, forwards Matt Pistilli and Justin Soryal, and goaltender John Muse were all assigned to the Charlotte Checkers, in time for AHL camp to begin on Monday.
  • I would anticipate another large cut tomorrow in regards to the AHL players, and possibly another one following the exhibition game on Sunday in Charlotte.
  • Go check out the new Checkers website!  It’s awesome!!!  A really slick re-desgn.
  • HOCKEY HOCKEY HOCKEY this weekend.  Checkers/Hurricanes Fanfest tomorrow at the Epicenter, and Sunday the Hurricanes game in Charlotte!