During the season, Checkers broadcaster Jason Shaya checks in each week with his 10 Thoughts - a series of observations about the team and the hockey world in general.
1) Although the outcomes of last Friday and Saturday were the same – the Checkers won both contests – the officiating style was completely different. Saturday's game saw a continual parade to the penalty box for both teams. There were 18 power plays and a penalty shot in one game. That means of the 60 minutes of hockey, nearly half was spent on the power play. Continual stoppages absolutely destroyed the flow. On Friday night, we went about seven minutes with only one stoppage due to an icing. That's hockey the way it's meant to be played. Yet, the next night, the officials sought to stamp out any fun by calling many penalties that were totally unnecessary. They ruined what was going to be a good rematch. A disgrace!
2) Greg McKegg missed Saturday's game due to a lower-body injury but he projects to return on Friday against Binghamton if all goes well this week at practice. The Checkers won on Saturday without him but when McKegg isn't in the lineup, it's noticeable. The team is far better off when he's playing.
3) Martin Necas continues to find his game in Charlotte. Head coach Mike Vellucci talked about Necas needing to slow the game down, understand his defensive zone responsibilities and use his teammates more. We should remember that Necas is only 19 years old and this is his first season playing in North America. The Czech league, where he played last year, isn't highly regarded among other European leagues and the transition for Necas is going to take time. Vellucci has coached many NHL players in his years as a coach so Necas is in great hands. Vellucci: "He's improved every game that he's been here and he's getting a lot of ice time and it's very beneficial for him."
4) Roland McKeown is now 8th in the league in plus/minus and 5th among defensemen. Last year, he finished 3rd in the league at +34. This is enough of a sample size to derive the effectiveness of his play as a defenseman. He continues to trend in the right direction. In the last three games, he's registered four assists and is +4.
5) This week, Hurricanes President and General Manager Don Waddell had glowing praise
for Checkers goalie Alex Nedeljkovic. With every passing game, Nedeljkovic's dominance in the crease is becoming more clear. Should this keep up, I think it's fair to suggest he will carve a spot for himself in the NHL next season. I should note here that with Charlotte holding a one-goal lead with just a few minutes left on the clock, Alex made two incredible saves to preserve the lead and help the Checkers to a league-best 10-1 record.
6) After the Uber scandal in Ottawa, which was apparently because the driver felt he wasn't tipped enough so he released the video out of spite, the Senators waxed New Jersey last night 7-2. Good for the guys in Ottawa and shame on the idiot Uber driver.
7) Vellucci and I recorded an interview that aired last night on the Fox Sports Carolinas pregame show where we discussed the early success of Charlotte and specifically the young talent in the lineup. One player he made sure we covered was Julien Gauthier, calling him among the most improved prospects on the team. Vellucci: "He's come in and done nothing but get better every day. I am very proud of him. He is our most improved from last year without a doubt. His attitude, his work ethic is second to none and when you're that big and that fast and you work that hard, good things are going to happen and good things are happening."
8) The upcoming three games in three days will be the toughest of the season. After the Checkers play Binghamton on Friday and then Lehigh Valley on Saturday, they have to make an almost four-hour bus ride through the night to play at 3pm on Sunday against Bridgeport. After the game, they will go back to Lehigh Valley, the city they were in less than 24 hours earlier, and play them again on Wednesday before rounding out the trip with two games in Wilkes-Barre Scranton. I'll probably be too tired to complain...probably.
9) Former Carolina Hurricane and Charlotte Checkers forward Zac Dalpe is tearing it up for the AHL’s Cleveland Monsters with 12 goals and 19 points in 12 games, two totals good enough to lead the league. It’s hard to imagine you'd come across a better person than Zac, who is now married with a son. I am sure Columbus has taken notice. With that kind of output, it's going to be hard to keep Zac in the AHL. Paris, Ontario produced a fine kid and we always wish him nothing but the best.
10) Besides Charlotte, one of the best teams in the league is Springfield, led by former Checkers assistant coach Geordie Kinnear. In my many years in hockey, I’m not sure I've met a more dedicated hockey man than Kinnear. I believe he will be an NHL head coach one day and I don't think it's too far into the future. If and when it happens, he won't be outcoached by anyone.
Join us for the pre-game show coming up on Friday at 6:45pm in Binghamton for the 7:00pm puck drop on AHLTV, ESPN stream and the Checkers app for iPhone or Android.