Alex Nedeljkovic
Even though we’re not playing this season, we’ll still be keeping an eye on things that happen in the hockey world that Checkers fans should know about. Check in each week for the latest updates!

FLORIDA PANTHERS

The Panthers kept chugging along despite the losses of a handful of key players due to injury, taking care of two of their weaker Central Division rivals, Detroit and Columbus, twice each to run their winning streak to six games. They are now lead the NHL with 56 points ahead of upcoming games against Carolina on Tuesday and Thursday.

Former Checker Gustav Forsling, already a key member of the Panthers’ defense, has seen a significant increase in responsibilities following the season-ending injury to Aaron Ekblad. Forsling is now on the top pairing alongside Mackenzie Weegar and posted one goal, three assists and a cumulative plus-8 rating for the week.

On-ice success aside, the Panthers’ move that may affect the Checkers the most was the signing of goaltender Spencer Knight to his entry-level contract. The 2019 first-round pick, World Junior champion and Hobey Baker finalist is on the Panthers’ taxi squad and will begin his first full professional season in the fall.

While we won’t bet against him making the NHL roster next season if there’s room for him (he seems as equipped as any 20-year-old goaltender could be to do so), if he does go the more traditional route of getting his feet wet in the AHL, he would be one of the most highly-touted prospects to ever come through Charlotte.

SYRACUSE CRUNCH

Following another postponement of a scheduled game against Utica, the Crunch defeated Rochester on Friday to extend their win streak to five games but ended the week with a 5-3 setback in Saturday’s rematch.

Panthers first-round draft pick Grigori Denisenko posted three points (1g, 2a) in the week to give him seven (4g, 3a) in seven AHL contests this season. He has found the score sheet in every game except one – his second pro game back on Feb. 10.

Rookie defenseman John Ludvig was another standout performer with a goal and an assist on Saturday, giving him six points (2g, 4a) in his last seven games.

GREENVILLE SWAMP RABBITS

Our ECHL affiliate in Greenville took two of three games against the South Carolina Stingrays, successfully increasing the distance between the third and fourth placed teams in the Eastern Division.

Checkers signee Greg Meireles had a big game in Wednesday’s 5-3 win with two goals and an assist, giving him 22 points (9g, 13a) in 28 ECHL games this season. Panthers prospects Alec Rauhauser and Patrick Bajkov also found the back of the net for the Swamp Rabbits, who will play four consecutive games against Orlando, another team chasing them in the standings, this week.

As Meireles shows in this play, sometimes funny things can happen when you get the puck on net.

IN OTHER NEWS

  • No, we did not fire Chubby. But you can still get our April Fool’s logo shirts via pre-order now!


  • Alex Nedeljkovic earned NHL Rookie of the Month honors for March after going 6-1-1 with a 1.85 goals-against average, .934 save percentage and one shutout. He stayed in the lineup to back up Petr Mrazek's first game back on Sunday.


  • In addition to Knight, the Panthers also signed free agent defenseman Matt Kiersted to an entry-level contract last week. Florida beat a number of teams to sign the University of North Dakota product who drew significant interest as a senior after passing through three consecutive drafts. Kiersted played his first two NHL games over the weekend and will remain with the Panthers for the remainder of the season.


  • Other Panthers transactions last week included their recall of defenseman Brady Keeper from Syracuse to their taxi squad and the acquisition of forward prospect Brad Morrison from Chicago. The Panthers have assigned Morrison, a fourth-round pick in 2015 who is on the last year of his entry-level contract, to Greenville.


  • Dustin Tokarski continues to play well for the Buffalo Sabres, who have suddenly turned their 18-game winless streak into a three-game point streak.


  • Anton Forsberg has hit the ground running in Ottawa, following his 38-save debut with 35 more in a victory over Montreal on Saturday. Sneaky former Checker Evgenii Dadonov scored twice in that game.

  • Haydn Fleury scored his first goal of the season for Carolina on Saturday.


  • Nicolas Roy picked up an assist for Vegas even though he laid off this loose puck in the slot – a play that caused just enough confusion to work.


  • The AHL's top scoring forward and top scoring defenseman are both former Checkers. Andrew Poturalski used three consecutive two-point games to take the league's overall scoring lead with 27 points in 26 games, while Ryan Murphy's three points last week have him first among blueliners with 15 in 20 outings.