In anticipation of a handful of players leaving for NHL training camps, the Checkers restocked their own roster on Saturday, recalling three ECHL players and signing two more to professional tryout contracts.
Headlining the group of new players are goaltender John Muse and defenseman Beau Schmitz, who are both under NHL contracts with the Hurricanes. Matt Beca, on an AHL contract with Charlotte, also joins via recall, while forwards Matthew Pistilli, a former Checker, and Leigh Salters join on professional tryout contracts.
With the exception of Beca, who was traded to South Carolina in exchange for Pistilli two weeks ago, all of the Checkers’ new players come from their ECHL affiliate in Florida. All but Salters and Schmitz have played for the Checkers in the past, though both of those players attended this season’s training camp in Charlotte.
All of the new players should be available for Saturday’s game in Oklahoma City. A list of Checkers headed to Carolina, who will not be available for Saturday’s game, is expected to come out later in the day.
The recalled players join David Rutherford, Justin Shugg, Bobby Raymond and Tommi Kivisto as players on Charlotte’s current roster who started the season in the ECHL. Additionally, A.J. Jenks, who started the season with the Checkers but spent the last month in the ECHL, arrived from Florida on Thursday.
A quick introduction (or re-introduction) to the newest Checkers:
Muse returns to the Checkers for the first time since playing 15 games with the team last season. Pressed into starting duty after injuries and recalls to Justin Peters and Mike Murphy, the 24-year-old was 10-3-2 with a 1.81 goals-against average and .941 save percentage during that time. He went on to win MVP of the Kelly Cup Playoffs as Florida won the ECHL championship, his third in five years following a successful four-year career as the starter with Boston College.
The odds-on favorite to start the season with the Checkers until the NHL’s lockout pushed Peters and Dan Ellis back to the AHL, Muse is 9-8-4 with a 3.61 goals-against average and .886 save percentage with Florida this season.
An undrafted defenseman who signed an entry-level deal with Carolina last summer, Schmitz has two assists in his first 31 professional games with Florida this season. The five-foot-10, 193-pound Michigan native is familiar with the organization, having played in the Hurricanes’ entry at the Traverse City rookie tournament on two separate occasions. He also spent four years with the OHL’s Plymouth Whalers, where he was teammates with Jenks, Michal Jordan, Brett Bellemore and Chris Terry.
An offensive-minded player in junior, Schmitz had 152 points (35g, 117a) in 244 games with Plymouth. He served as the Whaler’s team captain from 2010-12.
Pistilli, 24, spent the last three seasons in the Carolina Hurricanes organization, including the last two with Charlotte, after signing with the team as an undrafted free agent in 2009. After that entry-level deal expired this past summer, he signed an ECHL contract with the South Carolina Stingrays and was only recently traded to the Everblades, where he has five points (3g, 2a) in five games.
In 164 career AHL games, Pistilli has 25 goals and 27 assists. He set career highs in goals (12), assists (13) and points (25) with the Checkers last season, not including additional contributions in the shootout (four goals). A depth winger with size (6-foot-2, 219 pounds), he proved capable of moving up in the lineup and playing on the power play when needed.
Rutherford, who signed an AHL contract with the Checkers this summer, arrived ahead of the rest of this group on Friday, making his AHL debut on Friday. A former ECHL Checker now in his fifth professional season, Rutherford, 25, has 32 points (14g, 18a) in 31 games for the Everblades this season. He has averaged at or near a point per game in his last four seasons, which were split between the CHL and ECHL.
A five-foot-eight, 180-pound center, Rutherford has won championships at the WHL, CHL and ECHL levels. An undrafted player, he was teammates with Drayson Bowman on the Memorial Cup champion Spokane Chiefs in 2008.
Salters, a 6-foot-4, 225-pound left wing who attended Checkers training camp prior to this season, has 20 points (9g, 11a) and 53 penalty minutes in 34 games with the Everblades this season. After a five year OHL career, the undrafted forward debuted with in the AHL with Worcester and Syracuse in the 2010-11 season, scoring three points and recording 113 penalty minutes in 53 games.
Salters has spent the last two seasons with the Everblades, recording a total of 43 points (22g, 21a) and 158 penalty minutes in 77 games.
Now in his third season on an AHL contract with Charlotte, Beca, 26, played seven games with the team last season, recording one assist. The 5-foot-10, 181-pound forward has been a prolific scorer at the ECHL level since beginning his professional career out of Clarkson University in 2010-11, recording 134 points (50g, 84a) in 158 games played.
Beca started this season with the Everblades, where he won a Kelly Cup championship with the team last season, scoring 23 points (7g, 16a) in 31 games. The team then traded him to South Carolina in exchange for one of his new teammates in Charlotte, Pistilli.