The Charlotte Checkers have fallen victim to an extreme roster turnover since they lifted the Calder Cup over their heads earlier this summer. The team has lost its head coach, valuable offensive players including the captain, and more than half of the starting defense.
There’s quite a bit of roster uncertainty and it seems like the lineup will fluctuate regularly, which is not unusual in the AHL. The question remains to be seen if top prospects Martin Necas and Jake Bean can make the Hurricanes’ opening night roster. Necas will get a fair opportunity, with room for him to assume the third-line center role or perhaps play in a higher role on the wing. Bean, however, will really have to impress. With an already strong defensive core, plus Haydn Fleury and newly-signed prospect Chase Priskie vying for one spot, Bean could easily end up in the AHL for another year.
With the new infusion of talent into the team’s lineup - and assuming Necas makes the Hurricanes - here’s a rough estimate of what the Checkers could look like when they take the ice this fall:
Checkers Lineup Projection - Forwards
Janne Kuokkanen - Morgan Geekie - Julien Gauthier
Brian Gibbons - Hunter Shinkaruk - Stelio Mattheos
Clark Bishop - Eetu Luostarinen - Spencer Smallman
Max McCormick - Steven Lorentz - Jacob Pritchard
Last year, the Checkers rolled what looked like four first lines. Each line had enough depth on it that they were a threat each time they stepped on the ice.
This coming season? Not so much. The Checkers still have top end talent at the top of the roster with players such as Geekie and Kuokkanen leading the way. However, the loss of Andrew Poturalski coupled with Necas’ projected graduation could give one pause when looking at the remainder of the roster.
Checkers Lineup Projection - Defensemen
Jake Bean - Kyle Wood
Gustav Forlsing - Chase Priskie
Jesper Sellgren - Alex Lintuniemi
The defense, albeit radically changed, looks solid heading into the season. If Fleury fails to make the Hurricanes roster, the Checkers could even have a better defense than the one that helped them win a championship. The losses of Josiah Didier, Dennis Robertson and Trevor Carrick have been nicely filled by Wood, Lintuniemi and Priskie. Wood and Priskie’s offensive touch will give the Checkers another few options for power-play quarterback outside of Bean.
Checkers Lineup Projection - Goalies:
The goaltending situation has worked itself into a strange rut now that Anton Forsberg has been acquired and subsequently signed following arbitration. The team will not have space to develop young goaltenders Callum Booth or Jeremy Helvig as long as Forsberg is on the roster, given his one-way contract. It’s unlikely Forsberg would be claimed on waivers if he was to move around, and the move remains one of Don Waddell’s few head-scratchers.
It seems unlikely Nedeljkovic will make the Hurricanes on opening night unless the newly-acquired James Reimer is moved again. Given Reimer’s contract, Nedeljkovic may not get as many reps as an NHL back-up as initially thought heading into this offseason. Another season of development may be in the cards for the young goalie.
These estimates could fluctuate if Necas fails to impress or if the Hurricanes sign Roland McKeown or Saku Maenalanen to a deal. The Checkers with McKeown and Maenalanen in the ranks would look a bit more impressive on paper.
As for who the Checkers’ next captain will be, it still remains a mystery. As discussed on the recent Canes Country Podcast, Trevor Carrick seemed like a strong possibility to replace Patrick Brown as the Checkers’ leader before he was shipped off to San Jose for Wood. Andrew Poturalski could have been a strong possibility had he not signed with the Anaheim Ducks. There’s not a clear candidate on the current roster and it will be interesting to see who head coach Ryan Warsofsky taps for the job - if anyone.
The roster went through major changes and may not look as pretty as the championship team assembled last year. However, with top prospects soon coming down the pipeline such as Ryan Suzuki, Jamieson Rees, Jack Drury, Patrik Puistola and Pyotr Kochetkov, there’s not much to worry about when it comes to the future of the Carolina Hurricanes.