Each week during the offseason the Checkers PR staff will highlight news, notes and other various things to keep you in the loop.


Hurricanes Sign Saku Maenalanen To Two-Way Deal: We didn’t have to wait long for the first personnel move of the offseason, as the Hurricanes inked forward Saku Maenalanen. The Finn has been playing in his native country’s top league since he was a teenager but broke out offensively in his most recent campaign, riding that wave into a spot on Finland’s World Championship team alongside current Canes Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen.

Where Maenalanen starts next season will depend on how Carolina’s roster takes shape over the summer and how he impresses in camp, but the two-way nature of his contract gives the Canes the flexibility to let him get his footing in Charlotte if need be. Having played in one of Europe’s top leagues gives Maenalanen a boost coming over, and he could jump right into a scoring role for the Checkers similar to what we’ve seen over the past few seasons with Lucas Wallmark and Aleksi Saarela. The added edge that Maenalanen has jumping straight into the North American pro game is his age, as the six-foot-three forward turns 24 later this month.

Checkers 2017-18 Award Winners Announced: These awards, chosen based on votes from both the PR staff and fans, were some of the toughest calls we’ve had doing these. Wallmark, Valentin Zykov and Alex Nedeljkovic each took home awards in their own right (MVP, Best Forward and Most Improved, respectively), but all three players had extremely solid cases for Most Valuable Player.

Toronto Leads the Eastern Conference Finals 2-0: Lehigh Valley goalie Alex Lyon allowed four total goals in four games against Charlotte’s league-leading offense to carry his team out of round two. He’s given up seven in the first two games against Toronto. The Marlies are very very good.

Still, both games were decided by just one goal and the Phantoms get the next three on home ice, so this series is far from over as long as they can win Game 3.

Prospect Spotlight: Spencer Smallman

While the Checkers’ playoff run came to an end early, the Florida Everblades are still storming their way through the ECHL postseason. The regular seasons champs have already punched their ticket to the Kelly Cup Finals, waiting now to see who they will face.

A key part of that run has been the play of Spencer Smallman. A fifth-round pick by Carolina in 2015, Smallman had some tough luck in his rookie campaign, suffering an injury after being sent to Florida following Checkers camp that held him out for the majority of the season. The 21-year-old battled back from the ailment in time to make his pro debut, however, ripping off 13 points in 14 games for the Everblades to close the regular season. He’s kept that rolling into the playoffs, sitting in a tie for third among all ECHL skaters with 11 helpers thus far.

Had he stayed healthy, Smallman would have likely spent the season in Charlotte as a depth forward, but a strong finish in the ECHL should be a solid boost for him to ramp into training camp and fight for an everyday spot with the Checkers next season.

Whatever Happened To: Jacob Micflikier

After enjoying a breakout season in the River Rats’ final year in Albany, Jacob Micflikier took another step forward when the team moved to Charlotte. In his lone campaign wearing a Checkers sweater, the Manitoba native racked up what would be a career-high 61 points (29g, 32a), making him one of just six skaters in franchise history to hit the 60-point mark.

Micflikier would put up 56 points the next season in Hershey before making the jump overseas at the age of 28. Save for an 11-game KHL stint in 2013-14, Micflikier would carve out a strong presence in the top Swedish and Swiss leagues over the next six seasons. He would rank among his club’s top three scorers for four straight seasons with Switzerland’s Biel HC and Lugano and Sweden’s Linkopings and Lulea (where he played along a teenage Lucas Wallmark). Micflikier then returned to Biel for the last two seasons, helping lead the team to the league semi-finals before bowing out to Lugano last month.

Number of the Week: 229

Trevor Carrick led the Checkers this season with 85 penalty minutes. But that number is barely even a third of the way to the franchise record of 229, set by Zack Fitzgerald in 2010-11. In fact, only two players – Matt Corrente in 2013-14 and Mike Cornell in 2015-16 – have finished a season within 100 PIMs of Fitzgerald’s total.

Ask The PR Staff

“Are margaritas better frozen or on the rocks?” - @sammiemar

Joan Palumbo, Community Relations and Merchandise Coordinator This is a great question that has sparked many debates within the Checkers’ PR department and the entire front office staff. I personally prefer my margaritas on the rocks, which is the not so popular opinion around the office. BUT I do agree that a frozen margarita is best on a beach in the summertime.
(Note from Nick: Frozen is the 100% correct way to drink margs, this is a fact. If you're with me on the right side of this debate, please email Joan with the subject line "You're Wrong". Thank you for your time.)
Nicholas Niedzielski
Author: Nicholas NiedzielskiEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Director of Communications Nicholas Niedzielski joined the Checkers in the summer of 2014. A Texas native, he previously worked for the AHL's Texas Stars.