Another fine showing by the Charlotte Checkers today with a win against the Lake Erie Monsters. This game had a very different feel and pace from yesterday, with the coaching staff playing around with the lines throughout the contest. Defense pairings and forward lines were constantly in flux, which resulted in sloppy play by the Checkers at times. Justin Shugg netted two goals, and Justin Soryal scored the game winner in a 3-1 win over the Monsters.
Thoughts and observations:
- Brett Sutter. All I can say is wow. If this guy doesn’t have a letter on his sweater by the end of camp, I’m going to be shocked. He was feisty on the ice, using his body, taking hits, and making plays. He seems more mature on the ice, and has a greater level of confidence in his play.
- Zach Boychuk seemed subdued. I noticed this in Raleigh last week also, but he’s quieter, not as chirpy as he was last season, and very deflated/ Hopefully, he can find a way to make this stint in the AHL a positive thing and a learning process.
- Justin Peters made his first start in a Checkers sweater. He made 26 saves during the game. I think the biggest learning curve may be with the skaters in front of him, adjusting to Peters being in net. Half of the skaters today returned from last season’s squad, and had never played in front of Peters before. With time, this confidence level should increase. Peters still seems unsure, and some of his saves seemed sloppy, and was out of position on the goal that was scored on him. I think with time, he should return to the top-prospect form he was in Albany a couple of years ago.
- Matt Pistilli impressed once again. He reads plays well, and has a great eye for setting them up. I look forward to seeing this guy in Charlotte all season.
- Justin Soryal is going to be a great player to watch. He’s clearly physical, and knows how to use his fists, but I think he has a lot more hockey potential than many enforcers. While I’m certain he will take plenty of penalties this season, I think they will be the right kind, and not leave the team shorthanded on the ice.
- Before the game, a few of us made a list of where we think the Checkers roster will stand by opening night. This is all speculation, but we’ll see what comes of it.
- There are essentially four or five forwards fighting for one or two roster spots. Depending on how long Drayson Boyman and Riley Nash stay in Raleigh will determine how many players make the Checkers for opening night. The guys who I believe are all on the bubble include Justin Shugg, Cedric McNicoll, Mike McKenzie and Jared Staal. Matt Pistilli may have been a bubble player, but not after this weekend’s preseason games.
- Justin Shugg, who is in my opinion one of those player “on the bubble” made a strong case for himself to stay in Charlotte. He’s a clutch player, and may be able to beat out one of last season’s players for a spot in Charlotte.
- On the D front, assuming that Justin Faulk returns to Charlotte (and I think he will), one or two will probably need to be sent to Florida unless the Checkers plan to carry seven or eight Defensemen. Ryan Donald is the most likely candidate to go to Florida, and I would put Rasmus Rissanen or Mathieu Roy as the other outside candidate for that move
- I see at least three or four players all worthy of wearing a letter this season, and am anxious to see who ends up with one. Chris Durno is an obvious leader, and Nicolas Blanchard is the only returning captain from last season to the Checkers. Brett Sutter is proving to be a huge leader, and I have always been supportive of Chris Terry in a leadership role. Only time will tell.