A late move by Carolina just before Monday’s trade deadline has given the Checkers some solid offensive reinforcement as they head into the home stretch of the regular season.
The Hurricanes acquired forward Greg McKegg from Pittsburgh in exchange for Josh Jooris, and the newest member of the organization donned the Charlotte logo for the first time at Wednesday morning’s practice.
“It was nice to get my legs under me a bit,” said McKegg. “The guys welcomed me right from the start and I’m happy to be here.”
The 25-year-old Ontario native was picked in the third round of the 2010 draft and has since carved out six strong seasons in the AHL and NHL.
Though he has never had him on his team, Checkers head coach Mike Vellucci got some impressive scouting reports on the forward.
“I coached against him when he played for Erie in the OHL,” he said of McKegg. “Great speed, very good person. I got a lot of texts after from guys who have coached him who said he’s a great person and a really good guy in the locker room. We’re going to be very happy with him.”
An offensive standout in junior, McKegg starred for a very good Marlies team for his first several seasons before being dealt to Florida in 2015. Since then, the forward has split his time near evenly between the AHL and NHL.
With 147 points over 272 career AHL games under his belt, the thinking is that McKegg can help spark the Charlotte offense and add to a corps of forwards that has been a bit depleted as of late.
“He’s a great skater, very fast, and that is really going to help us,” said Vellucci. “He plays in the middle so we’re excited to have another center here with some experience. I think sometimes a change of scenery can help. We expect him to come in and play and get a lot of minutes.”
That wealth of experience should help stabilize a young roster up front for Charlotte, and McKegg is ready to step right in.
“I try to bring an all-around game,” he said. “I compete in all areas and I’ll help the team any way that I can. This team has a lot of good pieces. I want to help them compete and try to win hockey games.”
He won’t have much time to get familiar with his new club, as the Checkers are ramping up for another three-in-three this weekend, but McKegg is looking at that as a positive.
“It’s kind of nice,” he said. “You just get thrown into the fire and figure things out along the way. It’s pretty far into the season now so hopefully it’ll be a smooth transition.”
While McKegg was the lone move at the NHL trade deadline to directly affect the Checkers, the AHL’s version doesn’t happen until next Monday. Until then teams are free to trade players on AHL contracts, while NHL teams can reassign players on NHL contracts to other AHL clubs.
The Checkers have utilized that deadline in year’s past, most recently a year ago when they acquired netminder Tom McCollum from Stockton. Monday could bring some similar additions for the Checkers if all goes according to plan.
“We’re working on some things,” said Vellucci. “We need some depth, that’s going to be key. We’re pretty thin up front and now on D too. If we can add a couple guys that way, that’d be great. If not, we have some junior and college guys who could possibly come in.”
Charlotte’s depth took another blow over the weekend as blueliner Jake Chelios exited Friday’s contest with an injury and will now be relegated to the sideline.
“He’s going to have to have surgery,” said Vellucci of Chelios. “The timetable is unknown right now.”
In the meantime, the team has turned to Dennis Robertson to fill that slot on the blue line.
“I thought he played well over the weekend,” said Vellucci. “That’s what we needed back there, some physicality. Robo is a very mobile defenseman. He just keeps it simple and plays hard.”
Now missing key pieces both up front in Andrew Miller and on the back end in Chelios, the Checkers will be a team to keep an eye on come Monday.