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) In Lehigh Valley last Saturday night there were NHL scouts from the Predators, Rangers, Islanders, Wings, Golden Knights and Ducks. Last night, there were more from five different teams. Players should remember they aren't just being evaluated by their own teams.
2) The injury caused to Checkers captain Patrick Brown was the result of a slew foot by Tyrell Goulbourne. The incident was extremely dangerous and the league suspended Goulbourne for two games as a result. While the suspension was certainly warranted, I have to wonder why it was only two games. This was the result of a non-hockey play and the severity of the injury to Brown is still undetermined. Goulbourne is a tough kid and he plays hard but the incident was inexcusable.
3) The Checkers don't have many losses this season but the one that set the tone for the last week was against Binghamton on Friday. They let a win slip by their fingers and it's thrown them off-kilter since. To salvage this road swing, they need to acquire points against the Penguins on Friday and Saturday. Teams in the Atlantic division are closing in on Charlotte quickly.
4) The team has spent so much time on the road to begin the year that once they complete their Canadian trip in early January they will only have 14 road games remaining this season.
5) Valentin Zykov came in earlier this week with a great attitude. There is no doubt he wanted to log a lot of ice time and get his scoring touch back. Last night head coach Mike Vellucci told me in a pregame interview that he was going to give Zykov all the minutes he could handle.
6) It would be hard to meet a better kid than Spencer Smallman. Stepping up to defend his team captain Patrick Brown on Saturday, he suffered an unfortunate lower body injury. He has had a few setbacks in the early part of his pro career, which is a shame because he is an important part of the team's depth this season. We wish him a very speedy recovery.
7) Jake Bean played his absolute best game as a professional last night. Every single time he had the puck he made something happen. Talking to a scout (not one mentioned earlier) after the second intermission, he believed Bean was the best player on the ice for either team and I agreed. If last night is an indication of the trajectory of his development then he is going to start making some serious waves in the next few months.
8) With the number of games squeezed into such a short amount of time on the road, Vellucci decided to keep his team off the ice Thursday. Once the team comes back home, they have a little rest before gearing up for two games against Belleville on Tuesday and Wednesday night.
9) Coming into the season, one of the issues with a young player like Janne Koukkanen was whether he could keep up his compete level every single night. It's clear now that that's no longer a concern, as he's tied for the team lead in goals scored (7) and points (16). He's consistently one of the best players for Charlotte every night. It's hard to imagine that, if he continues along this path, he won't be ready for full-time NHL action next year.
10) Marlies head coach Sheldon Keefe put out his top power-play unit against Belleville on Saturday night when they were already up by six goals in the third period. The two teams have a rematch tomorrow and if I'm a betting man, I think Belleville will have a strong response. You'd like to believe a head coach with a Calder Cup championship to his resume with a $10 million payroll wouldn't pull a stunt like that in this league. More often than not, you reap what you sow.
Some technical issues regarding our Checkers app/ESPN live stream of games were affecting the last few broadcasts. After some investigation the problem has been resolved. Pregame show on Friday night in Wilkes Barre starts at 6:50pm with a 7:05pm puck drop. As always you can tune in on AHLTV, or the Checkers app for iPhone or Android.