Checking In by Brandon Stanley: Player spotlight on Janne Kuokkanen plus stats update

Checking In by Brandon Stanley: Player spotlight on Janne Kuokkanen plus stats update

In case you missed it yesterday, detailed recaps and notes from last week’s Charlotte Checkers’ slate can be found HERE.   Player Spotlight – Janne Kuokkanen After being one of the most dangerous players for the Canes in the preseason and looking like a legitimate candidate for the opening night roster, Kuokkanen was a victim of the numbers crunch and sent back to Charlotte. Considering that he will be just 20 years old for the entirety of the season, this is hardly reason for panic. He had just 73 professional games (including postseason) to his credit, and getting top line/first PP unit duties was likely the best choice for his development rather than a lesser role with the Canes. However, I think we’re getting close to the point where he may force the organization’s hand and earn a look with the big club. He has certainly been one of the best players on the best team in the AHL in 2018-19, scoring at over a point-per-game clip with 27 points through 26 games. One of the things that sticks out to me most about Kuokkanen is his smarts. He just seems to make the right play in any scenario, and unlike the stereotype with young, skilled European players he plays a mature two-way game already. He’s not quite the Aho 2.0 some of us pined for, back when he was drafted at near the same point of the draft the year after Seabass became a Cane, but I do see some similarities. For one, his confidence with the puck is top-notch, especially on the powerplay. Much like Teravainen with...
Checking In by Brandon Stanley: Charlotte Checkers weekly recap 12/3 – 12/9

Checking In by Brandon Stanley: Charlotte Checkers weekly recap 12/3 – 12/9

Welcome back! Hope everybody is staying warm and safe through this giant slush-fest. Last week, the Checkers finally hit a bit more spaced out chunk of their busy early-season schedule, with just two games over the course of the week. Friday was the first game they played since their big come-from-behind win over Providence last Sunday. This week, they finished off their current five-game road trip with games in Hartford Friday evening and Springfield the next night.   Game 1 – Hartford Wolfpack (New York Rangers affiliate) For the second time in three games, the Checkers headed to the Whalers old home arena, the XL Center (formerly known as Hartford Civic Center) to face the ‘Pack. Once again, it was a wild game with a first period filled with goals. Hartford would get on the board first, as Scott Darling gave up a pretty weak goal. About 8 minutes in, defenseman Brandon Crawley broke up a rush and skated the puck into the Charlotte zone. Shortly after crossing the attacking blue line, basically alone against three defenders, he fired a wrister that may have been screened a bit by Dan Renouf. Darling got a glove to it, but it bounced over him and into the net. As we approached the 15-minute point of the period the scoreboard still read 1-0, and chances had been relatively hard to come by to that point with many turnovers and blocked shots. Things would change in a hurry, though. First, the Checkers would tie the score thanks to a great offensive-zone shift from Nick Schilkey, Andrew Poturalski, and Greg McKegg. Poturalski and Schilkey...
Checking In by Brandon Stanley: Checkers continue to lead the AHL

Checking In by Brandon Stanley: Checkers continue to lead the AHL

This article is the second of two this week checking in on the Charlotte Checkers. If you missed it, you can find similar recaps and analysis of the four games during Thanksgiving week HERE.   After a successful 3-1 road trip, the Checkers had a much-needed four-day break before hitting the road again for five games. With new arrival Scott Darling in tow, they would play a back-to-back-to-back on the weekend. The first stop was in Providence Friday, then a short trip to Hartford for Saturday night’s bout, followed by the return to Providence for a Sunday afternoon matinee to close out the weekend. This was a big stretch, with the “four-point” divisional games on the line, against two Atlantic Division teams that (along with the rest of the division) are looking up at the Checkers in the standings. It is never a bad thing to pad your lead.   Game 1 – Providence Bruins (Boston affiliate)  In Scott Darling’s return, the Checkers played a close-checking match with the Bruins. Early in the game they looked to be quite rested and energized after a lengthy break. The Checkers had a couple nice chances in the opening frame, including a breakaway from Kuokkanen that Zane McIntyre made a strong pad save on. That chance seemed to give the Checkers a lift, as the next couple shifts the team got in on the forecheck and started to apply a good bit of pressure on Providence. Of note, Morgan Geekie returned to the lineup after being a healthy scratch, and looked to have some jump in his step playing on a line...
Checking In by Brandon Stanley: Recap of busy Thanksgiving week for Checkers

Checking In by Brandon Stanley: Recap of busy Thanksgiving week for Checkers

Welcome back! Hope everybody in the Caniac Nation and beyond had lots of good food and quality family time over the holiday. I am sorry for not getting in a recap of last week, but considering my mother’s birthday is the 23rd and my father’s the 24th in addition to the holiday, Thanksgiving week is always a hectic time for me. So, this week we get a double-edition which will include a recap of the highlights of last week followed very soon by the most recent week’s analysis as well.   Charlotte Checkers week of 11/19 – 11/25 Game 1 – Belleville Senators (Ottawa affiliate) The Checkers’ first game back on home ice after a six-game road trip was not pretty. It started off well enough, with Valentin Zykov banging in a goal on the powerplay from right in front of the net. Bean was atop the umbrella (powerplay formation with a single defenseman/player atop the zone and two flanking forwards in shooting positions near the tops of the circles, a la Ovechkin, Laine, Faulk back when he was scoring on the PP constantly, etc.), and had a nice shot fake to get the defense committing before sliding a pass to his right to Kuokkanen. Kuokkanen one-timed a shot-pass to Zykov, who was able to quickly corral and finish the rebound past Belleville goalie Filip Gustavsson. That was pretty much the last highlight for the rest of the game, as Belleville rolled to five straight goals from that point forward. The Checkers were thoroughly outplayed, and coach Mike Vellucci was adamant after the game that Alex Nedeljkovic (22 saves...
Checking In with Brandon Stanley: Jake Bean player profile plus ‘Odds and Ends’

Checking In with Brandon Stanley: Jake Bean player profile plus ‘Odds and Ends’

In case you missed it yesterday, my detailed recap of the Charlotte 2-0-1 road trip is HERE.   Player spotlight — Jake Bean Last week, Jake Bean had an incredibly strong week on the road. Wednesday night in Lehigh Valley, in particular, he was absolutely phenomenal. Every time the puck was on his stick it seemed like he made something happen. Perhaps more importantly, his defensive game does not look to be lagging so far behind. He maintains solid gaps and although he’s still not as physically mature as he needs to be for the NHL, he gets by because he has a very good stick. Jason Shaya, the play-by-play man of the Checkers, does a weekly “10 Thoughts” segment. It is very insightful regarding the Checkers, the organization in general, and occasionally even the hockey world at-large. In his most recent edition he mentions speaking to an NHL scout who raved about Bean after this game, saying he was probably the best player on the ice Wednesday night. I have to agree. Even aside from the assist, steady defense, slick passing, and constant takeaways, he just seems to already be a calming, poised presence on the back end. He never seems to get sped up; he just processes the play and makes smart decisions at his own pace. When facing forecheckers he’s incredibly shifty, evading checks and getting the puck out quickly. He is not the fastest straight-line skater, but his edge work and agility are fantastic. He moves really well at the blue line as well, making quick little moves to maneuver around opponents trying to pressure...