One piece of the Checkers’ blue line is locked up for next year, as the Carolina Hurricanes have inked Jake Chelios to a one-year, two-way contract.
The 25-year-old just wrapped up his second pro season and first with the Checkers. Chelios set career highs in games played, goals, assists and points and finished the year second in scoring among team defensemen, trailing only Trevor Carrick. His 31 points were also good enough to match Mark Flood as the fourth-highest single-season point total by a blue liner in franchise history.
Undrafted out of Michigan State University, Chelios spent his rookie season with the AHL’s Chicago Wolves and the ECHL’s Kalamazoo Wings before signing an AHL deal with the Checkers last offseason. He was originally penciled in as the seventh defenseman on a deep defensive corps to start the season, but injuries and call ups pushed him into the lineup and he ran with it, establishing himself as an everyday player.
“His steady play and his sure-handedness has catapulted him in the right direction,” said head coach Mark Morris earlier in the season. “He’s been a pleasant surprise. He’s a big body, he doesn’t get shoved around. He settles things down on the back end with his calm demeanor. He’s been a real asset to our team.”
This marks the first NHL contract for Chelios, whose father is Hall of Famer Chris Chelios. The nature of a two-way contract indicates that the blue liner could likely play in Charlotte again next season, although he is now open to a shot with the Hurricanes.