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Charlotte Checkers Corner: Full Speed Ahead

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The Checkers gain momentum by winning four of five, even while being without some key contributors.

Charlotte Checkers

The Charlotte Checkers are making their final playoff push despite a bit of roster shuffling over the past couple of weeks. The Queen City squad has seen leading goal scorer Valentin Zykov leave for the parent club. Recently recalled forward Warren Foegele and defenseman Roland McKeown were both productive in their own respects but have also punched their tickets to Raleigh.

Despite the depleting resources, the Checkers have won four of their last five games and sit comfortably in a playoff spot within their division. The Bridgeport Sound Tigers have more games in hand, but they would have to win a large amount of their games in regulation - and Charlotte would have to lose the majority of their remaining eight games - for the Checkers to lose their footing.

Charlotte was able to gain additional ground in the standings with back to back wins this against the Laval Rocket this weekend. On Friday, the Checkers topped the Rocket 3-2 in overtime thanks to Lucas Wallmark’s goal in the extra session. The Charlotte defense smothered Laval’s offense, allowing only 19 shots on net. An otherwise untested Alex Nedeljkovic earned his league-leading 31st win.

On Saturday, the Checkers offense ripped Laval for five goals in route to the win. Aleksi Saarela notched two goals and an assist and Andrew Poturalski added a pair of goals. The Charlotte offense peppered Laval goalie Zach Fucale with 37 shots and Wallmark also added two assists.

Thought(s) of the Week

It’s was about time, wasn’t it? Valentin Zykov was finally recalled after having a productive season in Charlotte. The AHL’s leading goal scorer made an immediate impact with the big club, potting a pair of goals in Carolina’s win over Arizona and adding a pair of assists in the win over the Ottawa Senators. He added another goal in the second game of the home-and-home with Ottawa. The question that will need to be answered is, why did it take so long? Why stick with an under-performing trio in Joakim Nordstrom, Phil Di Giuseppe and Derek Ryan and not test the kids out before its too late? Well, the team decided to stick with the former rather than the later and this may be a contributing factor as to why the franchise will be headed for early tee times for the ninth season in a row.

Sergey Tolchinsky will be headed to Russia to join CSKA Moscow after the conclusion of the Checkers season. The 23-year old winger has 22 points (6 goals, 16 assists) in 38 games this season.

Tolchinksy was a nice experiment for the Canes but one that didn’t work out. Don’t consider it a failure, as the undersized forward wasn’t expected to be a top prospect within the organization. Good luck to him in his next endeavor.

And who can forget this highlight reel goal?

Player of the Week

With Valentin Zykov gone, Lucas Wallmark stepped up and deserves player of the week honors. Three goals and three assists isn’t too shabby for the Swedish forward. He’s surpassed his point total from last season despite playing 25 fewer AHL games.

Looking Ahead

The Checkers remain on the road this weekend, making stops in Rochester and Syracuse for games on back-to-back days. The Checkers will then return to Charlotte for a four-game homestand beginning on April 3rd.

Update

And right on queue, after posting, the Carolina Hurricanes sent down Warren Foegele and Roland McKeown to the Charlotte Checkers.

Below is the Hurricanes press release:

The Carolina Hurricanes today announced that the team has re-assigned forward Warren Foegele and defenseman Roland McKeown to the Charlotte Checkers of the American Hockey League (AHL). Charlotte, which currently sits in fourth place in the Atlantic Division, plays road games in Rochester and Syracuse this weekend.

Foegele, 21, scored his first NHL goal and earned his first assist in his NHL debut against Ottawa on Monday, and totaled three points (2g, 1a) in two NHL games for Carolina. The Markham, Ont., native has registered 42 points (26g, 16a) in 65 AHL games with Charlotte, and currently ranks first among AHL rookies in goals. Foegele (6’2”, 190 lbs.) represented the Atlantic Division at the 2018 AHL All-Star Classic and was named the CCM/AHL Player of the Week on Oct. 10. He was drafted by the Hurricanes in the third round, 67th overall, in the 2014 NHL Draft.

McKeown, 22, has earned two assists in seven games with the Hurricanes this season. The Listowel, Ont., native made his NHL debut on Nov. 4 at Arizona and earned his first NHL points with two assists against Florida on Nov. 7. McKeown currently ranks third in the AHL in plus/minus (+35), and has totaled 23 points (7g, 16a) in 61 games for Charlotte this season. A second-round selection (50th overall) by the Los Angeles Kings in the 2014 NHL Draft, McKeown (6’1”, 195 lbs.) has totaled 35 points (8g, 27a) in 136 career AHL games for Charlotte. He was acquired by the Hurricanes from the Kings on Feb. 25, 2015, along with a first-round pick in the 2016 NHL Draft (Julien Gauthier) in exchange for Andrej Sekera.