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 – 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 – 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.
- 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!