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. Both games this week were scouted heavily with as many as ten teams in the building for Wednesday night. More than one team had multiple personnel inside the Coliseum. One scout told me on Wednesday that Julien Gauthier is playing an NHL-type game tonight. Gauthier ended as the game’s first star.
2. By Wednesday, Hartford played eight games in 13 days. It was evident they had little gas in the tank to battle a Charlotte team that played with plenty of jump. The Checkers scored 13 goals in two games against the divisional leader with a goalie who leads the league in goals against average. It was the most impressive games Charlotte played all season and the scoring was dispersed up and down the lineup.
3. After the first episode of Laundry Talk, Clark Bishop – the show’s first guest – was recalled to Carolina. The second episode aired with Fredrick Claesson and that night he scored his first goal of the season, added two assists and was the game’s first star. None of that is a coincidence.
4. The way Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen are playing at this moment reminds me of how Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg toyed with teams about a decade ago for Detroit. Carolina is blessed with the most dynamic duo in the league right now.
5. Spencer Smallman has battled injuries throughout his pro career. In the last two seasons, he’s lost significant time while out with different issues that might have permanently grounded a lesser man. But Spencer’s perseverance and optimistic attitude pushed him to battle back. On Tuesday night, he scored his first AHL goal. I know his teammates were ecstatic and we were all happy to see him announced as the third star of the night. You can’t have enough kids like Spencer in the room.
6. Janne Kuokkanen continues to round into form with 11 pts in his last 7 games (4G, 7A). It’s taken time but he’s getting very close to playing at the level which made him an AHL All Star last year.
7. When you look at the Hurricanes’ top four scorers, they are all at a point per game pace. Meanwhile, their goaltending is as steady as you could ask for. It’s a long season and many things can happen but the way they rolled through Canada is an indication that right now they’re one of the deadliest teams in the league.
8. I can’t name many players that have made more progress than Steven Lorentz. One year ago he was in the ECHL and today he’s a key part of an AHL team. My guess is he will be in the mix for an NHL call-up this season. A scout said to me last night, “he keeps getting better.”
9. It is not inconceivable that by the end of this weekend the Checkers can find themselves in a playoff position in the Atlantic division. It’s an indication of how far this team has come from just a few weeks ago and how hard the coaching staff worked to prepare them to play every night.
10. Two years ago today I called my first NHL game. I’ll never forget that day and the people that helped me get there. Several years ago, one of my friends who calls NHL games said to me, “Every game in the NHL is a blessing.” I understood what he meant much better after experiencing it. Merry Christmas to all and enjoy the rest of 2019.