Checking In by Brandon Stanley: Charlotte Checkers New Year’s edition 1/7 – 1/13

Checking In by Brandon Stanley: Charlotte Checkers New Year’s edition 1/7 – 1/13

In case you missed it yesterday and want to catch up, part 1 of 2 which you can find HERE had recaps of the Charlotte Checkers games from the first week of January.   In a year that had seen more downs than ups (until recently) for the Hurricanes, it was a little hard to get too excited about what’s happening in Charlotte. Sure, they’ve been utterly dominant at the highest level of hockey in North America outside of the NHL, but at times it felt a bit hollow with little improvement being visible with the parent team. But there’s a reason we pretty regularly hear and see quotes saying something along the lines of “they’re building something in Carolina”. When guys like Greg McKegg and Saku Maenalanen come up and show off the depth within the organization, adding some grit and jump to a struggling team, and a 7-in-8 streak gets ripped off, it starts to really feel like that quote is coming true. And they’re not even the prized prospects everyone is waiting on, lest we forget. Now, I am starting to get excited. It’s really getting easy to believe the Canes are well on their way. The next couple years the team is only going to strengthen with the incoming graduations, as guys like Saarela, Roy, Gauthier, Bean, and others continue to show incremental growth down on the farm. Not to mention the growth in store for Svechnikov, Wallmark, Foegele, and even the yep-he’s-still-only-21 Sebastian Aho. Oh, and in the pipeline, we’ve still got Mattheos, Fox, Geekie, Luostarinen, and so on. I don’t mean to pander....
Checking In by Brandon Stanley: Charlotte Checkers New Year’s edition 1/1 – 1/6

Checking In by Brandon Stanley: Charlotte Checkers New Year’s edition 1/1 – 1/6

For those looking to catch up on the Charlotte Checkers, this is part 1 of 2 recapping the first two weeks of 2019 for the Checkers. Check back in on Wednesday for part 2 that includes the most recent games.   Welcome to 2019! The Checkers weren’t likely in a rush to close the book on 2018, a calendar year in which they went 49-22-6 – good for the most wins in the AHL. They would look to get ’19 started off right with a Canadian swing, starting in Toronto on New Year’s Eve (short recap can be found in the holiday edition). This weekend they headed to Belleville for two games before heading back to Toronto for the third leg of a back-to-back-to-back on Sunday afternoon.   Game 1 – Belleville Senators (Ottawa affiliate) To kick things off, the Checkers were a bit shorthanded and coming off a bit of a downswing, having lost four of their last six (though they did get points in 2 of those with OTL’s). This game was a bit of an oddity, as the Checkers only dressed 17 players. Janne Kuokkanen was out with an illness; Martin Necas sat out as he had just gotten back from the World Juniors; Josiah Didier and Spencer Smallman were out with injuries;  and recent additions Haydn Fleury and Bobby Sanguinetti were not yet deemed ready to play. Sanguinetti is entering his second stint with the organization, as the former first round pick of the New York Rangers played 127 games with Charlotte – in addition to 40 with Carolina – between 2010-2013. He last played...
Checking In by Brandon Stanley: Charlotte Checkers holiday catch up 12/17 – 12/31

Checking In by Brandon Stanley: Charlotte Checkers holiday catch up 12/17 – 12/31

Welcome back, fellow Caniacs! Hope everyone had a fantastic holiday and is entering 2019 with much joy. Apologies for the prolonged absence of this series, but between moving, visiting family, and everything else which comes with the season, the past couple of weeks have been extremely busy for me. So, to make up for the last couple of weeks, I will be doing a short recap of the two weeks I missed, then will put out a regular recap for the three games of the first week of 2019. Let’s get right to it.   Charlotte Checkers week of 12/17-12/23 The Checkers played in three games the week leading up to the Christmas break, going 1-1-1. The first game against Utica was an entertaining, back and forth affair. After spotting the Comets a 2-0 lead early in the second, Jake Bean and Morgan Geekie scored twice in the same period to tie it up. Aleksi Saarela put the home team up 3-2 midway through the third, but the Checkers lost the lead with less than a minute remaining in regulation.  Saarela would nearly score an overtime winner for the second consecutive game, but the shot rang off the post. Shortly after, Nedeljkovic badly misplayed the puck and it ended up behind him for the overtime winner. This is one area the young goalie needs to improve upon. He plays the puck very well, but as with many aspects of his game, he can be erratic and overzealous at times which leads to costly mistakes. Still, the Checkers at least got a point out of it. Bean had two assists...
Checking In by Brandon Stanley: Charlotte Checkers weekly recap 12/10 – 12/16

Checking In by Brandon Stanley: Charlotte Checkers weekly recap 12/10 – 12/16

Cruising through the heart of the regular season, the Checkers have clearly established themselves in the top tier of the AHL – if not at the very top of the league altogether. They returned to Bojangles Coliseum kick to off a six-game home stand leading into the Christmas break this week, riding a three-game winning streak and showing no signs of slowing down.   Game 1 – Hartford Wolfpack (NYR affiliate) The Checkers began their game-action for the week with a Thursday night tilt against the Hartford Wolfpack. This is probably going to be one of the shorter recaps of the year, largely due to it not being that eventful of a game. The story of this one would be the penalty kill and goaltending duo of Alex Nedeljkovic and Callum Booth. The Checkers dominated the opening minutes of the game, with Ned making a few steady saves when called upon. Late in the period, Julien Gauthier took the first of two late-period penalties, as he boarded a Hartford player (who turned at the last minute, so not an intentionally malicious hit).  The only two shots during the two minutes were taken by the Checkers. First, Patrick Brown had a big slap shot off a 1-on-1 rush that was padded away. Then Saku Maenalanen had a steal at the blue line that he chased down for a breakaway. Unfortunately, by the time he got to it and got it to lay flat off its edge, he didn’t have a ton of time to make a move. Alexandar Georgiev made a nice save on the attempted five-hole shot. Even though...
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...