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) Alex Nedeljkovic didn't even get a star of the game honor at the conclusion of Charlotte's win over Syracuse on Saturday night. Not only did Nedeljkovic deserve a star, he was the game's best player. Charlotte doesn't win that game without his performance.
2) I spoke with a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning management team after the second period on Saturday. The player he thought stood out the most was Clark Bishop. He was very impressed with Bishop's workrate and said his ability to stand out in that game was special. It was Clark's best game of the season, finishing with a goal and an assist. I should also note that his work with Saku Maenalanen on the penalty-kill is a big part of Charlotte's league-leading three shorthanded goals in four games.
3) A former Checkers defenseman was in Plymouth this past weekend watching 2019’s potential first overall draft choice Jack Hughes play against a Minnesota team. His assessment of Hughes was glowing. His skill level wass off the charts, while his skating and acceleration at the drop of the hat were very high end. He could turn on a dime while keeping his speed but he also had the ability to slow the play down, keep possession and make a play when needed.
4) Mike Matheson was suspended two-games for injuring Vancouver forward Elias Petterson. There was no penalty on the play and unlike the hit by Tom Wilson during pre-season, this one has solicited mixed opinions. One of the major issues with very young and high-skilled players is that they are entering the NHL at a very slim height/weight ratio. This means when someone like Petterson gets hit by a 220-pound defenseman, the aftermath will be far worse than if the player getting hit had more size to his frame. Checkers Sr VP of hockey Derek Wilkinson made a great point about this saying that in the salary cap era, teams are benefited by young players on entry-level deals making NHL rosters despite the fact that some of them aren't physically ready to play. I can't tell you how many young players I see who can't stand the rigors of an AHL season because they don't eat what they should or often enough. Your job as a professional athlete doesn't cease just because you leave the rink for the day.
5) Checkers defenseman Dennis Robertson scored twice in Utica to help the team win. One of those goals was on his first breakaway as a pro. Not to be outdone, team captain Patrick Brown scored in similar fashion the next night in Syracuse. The team is is 4-0 and they're getting contributions from everyone in the lineup. Robertson was praised by coach Mike Vellucci for having his best stretch of games as a defenseman for Charlotte.
6) As of writing this column, the Hershey Bears are 0-5 on the season. While they play Wednesday night against Wilkes-Barre and have another chance at their first win, you have to wonder who Hershey will blame this season if they can't turn it around. Last year's head coach Troy Mann, who was heavily involved in the process of developing talent for Washington to help them win a Stanley Cup last season, bizarrely didn't have his contract renewed and became the easy fall guy. Now Mann has moved on to coach the Belleville Senators, who recently won their first game by crushing Manitoba 6-2 on the road.
7) Hershey will be in Charlotte on Friday for the Checkers’ home opener. The Checkers have spoiled two home openers this season and in year's past I don't believe home openers have been very friendly for Charlotte. But as long the Checkers continues to outwork the opposition, I think things will go well for them this weekend.
8) Mike Vellucci believes a crucial point to being successful is winning the special teams battle. So far, his power play operates at 40 percent, scoring six goals on 15 chances, while the penalty kill hovers around 90 percent.
9) Though it's done often, attributing characteristics that only individuals possess to a collective group makes no sense. But, I think if you asked players from both the Canes and the Checkers if they believed they were going to win a game before the puck drop, they wouldn't hesitate to say yes. Teams that are comprised of players who genuinely believe victory is attainable, and to some degree expected, are on the right path towards accomplishing what they believe.
10) We want the building jammed on both Friday and Saturday at the Coliseum. Please find your way to the arena and watch a team that is making waves early in the season. There is a lot to like so far and the games have been very competitive. If you can't make it, join us on the Checkers app for iPhone or Android and AHLTV.