Checking In with Brandon Stanley: Welp (February/early March update)

Checking In with Brandon Stanley: Welp (February/early March update)

The roller coaster of a year continues. Last time out I spoke of a wild ride that had skyrocketed heading down the stretch. The Checkers were playing at an extremely high level, showcasing their depth, flexing their muscle as one of the best teams in the AHL. Then, well, we all know what happened: NHL Trade Deadline Day. Gone are Kuokkanen, Gauthier, Priskie, and Luostarinen, plus veteran defenseman Fredrik Claesson. Geekie was called up (and made a huge splash, eh? Love the kid, but didn’t see this coming). Both goalies spent time in Raleigh, though Ned is now back. And now, I’m looking around the roster, and on many occasions asking… who? This is a business, and competing for a Calder Cup is a long way from Waddell and co.’s mind when trying to maneuver to bring a Stanley Cup back to Raleigh. I think the team has successfully put itself in better position moving forward, as Skjei is going to fit in nicely on an already-deep blue line with his grit and skating ability, Trocheck is a good middle-six center that fits the Canes’ system and is a rock-solid placeholder for when (if?) Necas moves to the middle, and Vatanen is going to add a much-needed offensive dynamic from the back end when (… if?) he finally gets on the ice, while also providing a balancing effect as a right-hand shot. But we aren’t here to talk about the big club; I guess, maybe, this has just been my way of avoiding talking about the losses of my large adult children. It stings a bit to watch so...
Checking In with Brandon Stanley for January — Geekie’s Streak, Kuokkanen and Friends Continue Ascent

Checking In with Brandon Stanley for January — Geekie’s Streak, Kuokkanen and Friends Continue Ascent

By: Brandon Stanley Welcome back, friends!   A bit of a disclaimer before we get into it; this series can, at times, be tough to do the way I want to do it. I don’t want to give you guys some half-hearted box score report that tells you who scored and barely anything else. But, life as a college student who works weekends doesn’t always allow for a ton of time to watch each game in its entirety and tell you every detail of every game that happened – though I sure as heck tried last year a time or two, and if any of you actually got all the way through some of my earliest “Checking-In” posts then you are very much a trooper. The problem is when I get behind, this turns into MORE games to cover, and it just gets worse, so… I’m sure you can see the dilemma I run into when my schedule tightens up. So, my apologies for not being particularly consistent with getting these up, but just know I do try my best to give those of you who can’t see the Checkers valuable, accurate insight into how players are doing and what to expect moving forward. I appreciate each and every one of you who reads and gives feedback here or on Twitter (and, especially, to Matt, who never gets on my case and continues to provide a platform and opportunity to do something I thoroughly enjoy). So, since this is a lot of games, these recaps are going to be short. If you want to skip this and get to...
Checking In with Brandon Stanley — Checkers make strong entrance into 2020

Checking In with Brandon Stanley — Checkers make strong entrance into 2020

By Brandon Stanley At the time of my last write-up, things didn’t look all that great for the Checkers. The defense was spotty. The offense and goaltending were pretty inconsistent. Overall, it really just looked like a transition year. Maybe a chance for young guns to get a long look and hopefully run with it, but to be honest the squad looked to probably not even be a playoff team. Alas, it’s amazing what two weeks can do for you. Now, the Checkers are in great shape, having ripped off a 7-1-0 record to roar into 2020 – and the playoff picture – on a very high note. The offense has found its footing with contributions from all over the lineup, both goalies have put forth outstanding outings, and suddenly the Calder Cup hangover looks to be over. Adjusted for games played (or by looking at points percentage), the Checkers now sit third in the Atlantic, after completing sweeps over two of the top three teams in the division. There is still half a season to be played, and this is clearly an example of how quickly things can change, but there is certainly a big arrow pointing very much “up” next to this team.    Game by game 12/17 – Checkers 6, Hartford Wolfpack 3 This game didn’t start particularly well. The Checkers were coming off a last-minute loss to Syracuse three days prior, and I groaned a bit when Vinni Lettieri did his best Alex Ovechkin impression just five minutes in, ripping a nasty one-timer high glove on Nedeljkovic for a powerplay goal. But from that point...
Checking In with Brandon Stanley — The mid-December edition

Checking In with Brandon Stanley — The mid-December edition

As we approach the holidays, the 2019-20 season has more or less solidified itself as a transition year for the defending Calder Cup champions. A repeat run is looking increasingly unlikely, as even a playoff spot is likely not in the cards at this point. However, that does not mean there are not some promising performances happening down in Charlotte. A few slow starts have started to turn around, and prospects that look like potentially big pieces down the road for the Canes have taken their games up a notch. The team is lacking the depth and firepower of the previous year, but these are some of the most promising performances as we hit right around a third of the way through the year. Instead of doing a game-by-game breakdown, for this edition we’ll take a look at how notable prospects are performing and what to watch for as we head into 2020.    Defensemen Jake Bean The good: The young offensive defenseman continues to be lethal offensively and on the powerplay, showcasing the skill that made him a highly-regarded defenseman and led to his first-round selection in 2016. Bean is leading the Checkers in points with 17 (5 goals, 12 assists) and still looks every bit the powerplay quarterback everyone hoped he could be. His shot has gotten significantly better since he first broke in as a pro, as his most recent goal against Syracuse displayed when he wired a wrist shot top-shelf from distance that beat the goalie cleanly. The bad: His defensive game hasn’t taken the step forward I’d hoped to see thus far. He’s not a physical...
Checking In with Brandon Stanley — 10/18 – 11/10 plus player spotlight on Alex Nedeljkovic

Checking In with Brandon Stanley — 10/18 – 11/10 plus player spotlight on Alex Nedeljkovic

Up and down we go, friends. The Charlotte Checker roller coaster is riding right along.  The Checkers, through the first month+ of the year, have looked about like what they are: a young team with a lot of new faces trying to find their identity. I headlined when the season started that they lost a 30-goal scorer, one of their best two-way centers, all three of their captains, and a few other important, ultra-talented others from their championship run that have graduated to the Canes. One night they’ll have a great showing and fill the net up, showcasing a steady defense and solid goaltending, the next they’ll look lost in their own end, hanging their goalies out to dry with odd-man rush after odd-man rush (hmmm… That sounds kind of familiar, actually). So, with three weeks’ worth of games to cover (eight games) and a player spotlight featuring a player that I think a lot of people are asking questions about at the moment, we’ll jump right in.   Charlotte Checkers 2, Utica Comets 8 So, yeah, this happened a couple weeks ago. We won’t dwell here long. The Checkers got punched in the mouth early and never recovered. Alex Nedeljkovic was pulled with about five minutes to go in the first period, with a sweet save percentage of .400 (three goals allowed on five shots), and Forsberg didn’t fare much better allowing the five more on 24 shots. Utica is a good team with some really nice young prospects, and they showcased their skill on this night. This was actually part of a month of October that saw...