With a win on Saturday, it’s now finally official: for the second straight season, the Charlotte Checkers are headed to the Calder Cup Playoffs, making their first back-to-back playoff appearances in the postseason since the team moved to Charlotte in 2010-11. Charlotte will finish with a better record than the one they posted last sesason under Ulf Samuelsson before he moved on to the Chicago Blackhawks.
With a number of call-ups over the course of the 2017-18 season, Charlotte overcame adversity and stayed the course. A key factor in this season’s success was the play of Alex Nedeljkovic who took strides in his development. Nedeljkovic is currently tied for the league lead in wins and has improved his goals against average and save percentage. However, it’s still too early to determine if Nedeljkovic will develop into an NHL-caliber starting goalie. Despite his progress, another two years, at least, could help solidify a foundation strong enough to catapult him to the big leagues.
Charlotte clinched a playoff spot in the midst of their current five-game win streak. The streak began with a road win against the Syracuse Crunch, then the Checkers returned home and swept series with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms and Hershey Bears. Charlotte has outscored opponents 23-7 over the course of their win streak. The team also welcomed reinforcements with the return of Valentin Zykov, Nicolas Roy and Roland McKeown. Haydn Fleury was also sent down to continue his season despite playing mostly at the NHL level this season.
Thoughts of the Week
With the prospect cupboard stacked and filled to the brim, I expect to see a much different team at both levels next season. The disappointment and frustration surrounding the franchise has turned into an infected boil. It’s bound to burst soon. You can only have so many prospects before they either turn the corner and turn into NHLers or are flipped for NHL players. Expect an accelerated mindset with new owner Tom Dundon.
Player of the Week
There is no player of the week for one reason: this accomplishment was a team effort. The culmination of everyone’s hard work this season reaped rewards. If only the team in Raleigh could say the same...
Charlotte has two regular season games remaining before the playoffs start. The Checkers will hit the road for a game against the Providence Bruins on Friday before heading up to Bridgeport to take on the Sound Tigers on Sunday. Charlotte’s playoff opponent and schedule has yet to be determined.