Welcome back Checking In fans!
The Charlotte Checkers were back in action to start the season on Friday (Oct.6), against the Hartford Wolfpack. Starting off the season right the Checkers defeated the WolfPack 5-4, and would go onto win three of their first four games of the year. Saturday (Oct. 7) they traveled to Wilkes-Barre and defeated a scrappy Penguins squad 5-2. All hopes of an undefeated season were lost when the Bridgeport Sound Tigers handed the Checkers their first loss on Friday (Oct. 13) by a score of 5-3. But Charlotte would get the revenge the next night (Oct.14) and best the Sound Tigers 3-2.
Charlotte Checkers’ Three Stars
#3: Picking up right where he left off last season, Andrew Miller played terrific to start the year. The veteran started on the first line, giving the team valuable minutes in tight game situations. He showed great patience on offense, rarely forcing the issue and turning over the puck. He also provided solid minutes on the power play, finding open teammates on multiple occasions for scoring opportunities near the net. His effort tallied him a goal and four assists for a productive first two weeks of the season. But Miller’s contribution to this team cannot be just measured by just stats. He is a calming presence on the ice for all his younger teammates by not getting flustered and staying poised in late game scenarios. That is a tremendous example to set for all the new prospects that Checkers have on the roster and it will be dividends as the season goes on.
#2: Warren Foegele exploded onto the scene in his Checkers debut. The rookie out of Markham, Ontario made the most out of his fourth line minutes, scoring four goals in the first two games on the year. Now the most exciting thing about Foegele is not his stick-handling, speed, or anything that is flashy. It is his ability to be in the right position without puck. You could make the argument that every goal he scored was due to where he was positioned on the ice. His first two goals were one-timers, where he positioned himself right in front/next to the net. He is constantly moving without the puck on his stick, not staying stagnant in any one area of the ice. On top of that he provided fantastic minutes on the penalty kill, scoring two shorthanded goals in the process. An energy player with an offensive ability is an exciting prospect to think about.
#1: For Lucas Wallmark, where do we even begin to start? A whopping eight points in the Checkers first four games of the season. The best word to describe how Wallmark played is smooth. He looked silky smooth on the ice, dishing out an incredible six assists, while adding on two extra goals to his tally. He did a tremendous job of finding open teammates in the offensive zone and also on the breakout. He also did not shy away from shooting the puck when he had the opportunity which is encouraging because he was timid to shoot at the start of last season. It is still early in the season, but Wallmark was already making quicker decisions with the puck than compared to how long he took the previous year. And if he continues on that trend, expect his numbers to continue to rise at a consistent rate.
Aleksi Saarela had his talent on display in the Checkers first two weeks of the season. An acquisition from the Eric Staal trade, Saarela made waves at the end of the 2016-17 season when he came over from his professional team in Finland and played nine games with Charlotte and scored ten points. He looks as if he hasn’t lost a step, scoring two goals and adding an assist. His speed was noticeable, as he blew past a few defenders on his way to one man scoring opportunities around the net. He didn’t hesitate to shoot the puck, racking up ten shots and tying Trevor Carrick for the lead on the team. As long as he stays consistent with his persistence on offense, the numbers will come for him and the team. Philip Samuelsson was arguably the Checkers best defenseman these past two weeks. While he did have a bit of a rough game in the team’s loss, Samuelsson has been solid for the Checkers on the back end. He put up a goal and an assist, while doing a terrific job of moving the puck on the breakout. He didn’t try to force anything and it led to him finishing with the best +/- on the team after the first two weeks. With the possibility of Trevor Carrick being called up to the Hurricanes throughout the entire season, the consistency of Samuelsson on the back line is crucial for the Checkers.
Unfortunately, this was an easy decision to make. Andrew Poturalski had one of the rougher stretches of his Checkers career. The man who had the hottest start last season didn’t tally a single point and he played in all four of Charlotte’s games. He just looked a little out of sorts, not getting as many scoring chances on offense as you would expect him to and not finding enough open teammates on offense to create anything consistently. He also made some bad decisions on defense that led to turnovers and eventually goals for the opposition. I don’t expect this type of play out of Poturalski moving deeper into the season, but if he doesn’t pick up his production in the next few games, he could be demoted on the depth chart for some of the rookie prospects the Checkers have this year.
Charlotte Checkers’ injuries and roster notes
Brenden Kichton missed games due to injury. Mike Ferrantino, Zack Stortini, Nick Schilkey, Sergey Tolchinsky, Tyler Ganly, and Julien Gauthier were all healthy scratches. The Hurricanes called up Trevor Carrick on Saturday (Oct. 14).
Charlotte Checkers’ forward lines and defense pairings
- First line: Valentin Zykov-Lucas Wallmark–Andrew Miller
- Second line: Aleksi Saarela-Andrew Poturalski-Nick Schilkey
- Third line: Phil Di Giuseppe-Nicolas Roy-Patrick Brown
- Fourth line: Warren Foegele-Clark Bishop-Zack Stortini
- First pairing: Philip Samuelsson-Tyler Ganly
- Second pairing: Jake Chelios-Roland McKeown
- Third pairing: Dennis Robertson-Josh Wesley
- Starter: Jeremy Smith
- Back up: Alex Nedeljkovic