Nick Niedzielski, Checkers Director of Marketing and Communications: An MVP case could be made for a few different players on this year’s team, but at the end of the day I think the impact that Riley Nash had pushes him to the top of the list. He paced the team offensively, leading the way in assists and points and tying for the goals lead, and was a picture of consistent production - in fact, there were only two stretches all season where he was held off the scoresheet for more than two consecutive games. He also provided a strong leadership core to a young Checkers team that went through waves of roster upheaval throughout the year. Between the one-ice production and the off-ice impact, Nash was the driving force in what this squad was able to do this season.
Voting ResultsNick - Riley Nash
Paul - Lucas Carlsson
TJ - Riley Nash
Forward of the Year
TJ Chillot, Checkers Broadcaster: Gerry Mayhew had the best season of his career since his AHL MVP campaign in 2019-20. With his 44 total points, Mayhew ranked third on the Checkers roster while also tying for the team lead in goals with 24.
The sixth-year pro logged 11 multi-point games, highlighted by his hat-trick performance against Lehigh Valley on February 15, 2023. Mayhew, who spent 2021-22 with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, really came into his own in Charlotte during the back-half of the season. Of his 44 total points, 30 of them came in the final 39 regular season games.
Voting ResultsNick - Gerry Mayhew
Paul - Riley Nash
TJ - Gerry Mayhew
Defenseman of the Year
Paul Branecky, Checkers VP of Marketing and Communications: I certainly understand how Nick and TJ chose Nash as their MVP. I don’t have any problem with that whatsoever. Great season from him and a true pleasure to have him back in Charlotte and to know that he’s coming back next season. I do have a problem with how they chose Nash as their MVP and Mayhew as their best forward, but let’s stay on task here.
For me, Carlsson was the engine that drove so much of what the team did this season. His second half was as dominant as we’ve ever seen from a Checkers defenseman, and he scored so many big goals even prior to his double overtime winner in the playoffs (more on that later). It’s tough to imagine how the team could have managed without him for any significant length of time. He’s not only my pick for Defenseman of the Year, but also for team MVP.
Voting ResultsNick - Lucas Carlsson
Paul - Lucas Carlsson
TJ - Lucas Carlsson
Rookie of the Year
Branecky: The only knock on Sourdif’s season was a series of injuries that prevented him from playing more and enjoying what should have been a breakout second half. Despite missing 24 regular-season games and the final game of the playoffs, he didn’t miss much of a beat whenever he re-entered the lineup and showed real flashes of dynamic offensive talent. Playing the center position as a 21-year-old rookie is a tough ask, but he filled the role admirably, especially after the team lost Chris Tierney to NHL waivers and Zac Dalpe to various recalls. I think he’s poised for a huge second season.
Voting ResultsNick - Justin Sourdif
Paul - Justin Sourdif
TJ - Mack Guzda
Unsung Hero of the Year
Niedzielski: The Unsung Hero award is meant to shine a light on someone who made an impact in ways that don’t typically garner headlines. Johnny Ludvig’s gutsy play on the defensive end certainly fits that definition. He made a habit of getting in front of pucks and blocking a ton of shots - even after getting sidelined in the process earlier in the year - and employed a no-frills approach to shutting down opponents. The Checkers stood as one of the league’s stingiest teams when it came to shots allowed, and Ludvig’s efforts were a big part of that.
Voting ResultsNick - Johnny Ludvig
Paul - Johnny Ludvig
TJ - Santtu Kinnunen
Moment of the Year
Chillot: There were so many great moments during the 2022-23 season, but I don’t think anything can top the excitement of the Checkers double overtime win against Lehigh Valley in the Calder Cup postseason.
With the Checkers already trailing 1-0 in the best of three series, it was do or die and the Checkers who were on the brink of elimination. Charlotte came out strong, opening the scoring with a pair of goals inside the first seven minutes of the game. The Checkers held a two-goal lead twice in the game but both times the Phantoms climbed back.
One overtime wasn’t enough time to find a winner, and it looked as though two OT periods wouldn’t be enough either, that’s where Lucas Carlsson sent the Bojangles crowd into a frenzy. With 1:12 remaining in the second OT, Carlsson’s shot from the high-slot found the back of the net and kept the Checkers season alive. The win not only pulled the teams even 1-1 in the series, but there was a little bit of revenge handed out considering the last postseason series between Charlotte and Lehigh Valley churned out the longest game in AHL history - a five OT contest at Bojangles which the Phantoms won.
Charlotte took the excitement and the momentum and rode the wave into a 6-0 shutout win the following night, earning them the series victory and catapulting them into the second round of the postseason.
Voting ResultsNick - Double-OT win over Lehigh
Paul - Double-OT win over Lehigh
TJ - Double-OT win over Lehigh