As the Checkers continue to stockpile young prospects here at the tail end of the season, their newest addition is arguably the most recognizable name.

2014 first-round pick Haydn Fleury joined the team at practice for the first time Thursday morning. His junior team, the Red Deer Rebels of the WHL, was recently eliminated from the playoffs. With his season over, Fleury got a call from the man that drafted him. “Ron [Francis, Carolina Hurricanes General Manager ] called me briefly and just asked if I wanted to play more hockey and I said I’d love to,” said Fleury.

With just one practice under his belt, the differences between the junior and pro levels were readily evident to the young blue liner.

“It was good,” said Fleury. “The pace was a bit higher than it was in junior and I haven’t been on the ice for very long, so it was just getting my legs under me at first, but I got better as practice went on.”

The 6-foot-3 defenseman has been a force on the Red Deer blue line for the last three seasons, totaling 93 points (18g, 75a) in 199 games during that span. Fleury led all Rebels defensemen in scoring during the 2013-14 campaign as a 17-year-old and ranked second this season. The promise he has shown was enticing enough for the Hurricanes to pick him seventh overall, and it also gives the coaches confidence in his ability to navigate the pitfalls of this transition and make the leap to the pro game.

“You’ve got to adapt to the speed and going up against bigger and stronger guys than you were in junior,” said Daniels. “He’s a talented guy who should be able to adjust fairly quickly.”

Here at the tail-end of the season, Fleury won’t have a ton of time to spend at the AHL level, but he seems determined to take in as much as he can to head into the offseason.

“I can watch how these guys prepare for games and how they do everyday things,” said Fleury. “You can always take something away from watching older guys like [Chad] LaRose or [Ben] Holmstrom . Just seeing how they prepare.”

He also is armed with feedback from rookie camp on what specific things the organization wants him to focus on with his ongoing development.

“Keep working on my defensive game and keep working on getting shots through from the blueline,” said Fleury, before adding what his biggest takeaway would be. “Just to see where I am compared to the guys at the next level. If I do get into a game it will be a big stepping stone to see where I’m at.”

Fleury is now the fourth defenseman to come aboard here late in the season, alongside Brett Pesce, Roland McKeown and Josh Wesley. While Fleury is the lone first-round pick of the group, that doesn’t come with any caveats as far as playing time.

“We’ll just take it each day,” said Daniels. “We’ll see if we can get him into the lineup. But it’s no different than Josh or Roland or Pesce. They’re down here to get the experience. No matter what round you’re drafted in, these are guys that Carolina thinks highly of and that’s why they’re here.”

If he were to make it into a game this weekend, Fleury would be the youngest player to ever don a Checkers sweater. At 18 years and 277 days, he just edges out Elias Lindholm, who appeared in six games for the Checkers last season at 18 years and 340 days. Should they play, Fleury and fellow newcomer McKeown would join a group of seven other prospects under the age of 20 to have suited up for Charlotte.