With the NHL season kicking off tonight, here’s the latest on who is starting where.
FLORIDA PANTHERSFour skaters on two-way contracts that could have been in Charlotte’s mix for a normal season ended up making the Panthers’ main 22-man roster: former Checkers Gustav Forsling and Eetu Luostarinen, forward Owen Tippett and defenseman Riley Stillman.
In addition to being a productive two-way player for the Checkers’ last season, Luostarinen also played his first eight NHL games with the Hurricanes before joining Florida at the trade deadline. He built some momentum in his native Finland prior to this opportunity, having posted an impressive 15 points (5g, 10a) in 17 games for KalPa to start the 2020-21 campaign.
Tippett and Stillman were always strong candidates to make the NHL team. Tippett, a former first-round draft choice and AHL All-Star with Springfield last season, would likely have already made his NHL debut if not for a midseason injury. Stillman spent roughly half of last season with the Panthers and played in their postseason play-in series.
Forsling, acquired earlier this week via waivers from Carolina, was one of seven defensemen to make the roster.
The Panthers’ taxi squad includes forwards Aleksi Heponiemi and Mason Marchment and defenseman Brady Keeper – all of whom spent the majority or all of last season in the AHL.
With starting goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky only practicing for the first time today, the Panthers kept all three goaltenders on two-way contracts. Chris Driedger and Samuel Montembeault are on the main roster, while Philippe Desrosiers is on the taxi squad.
Forward Juho Lammikko and defensemen Tommy Cross and Noah Juulsen are two-way contracts on Florida’s “non-roster” list.
SYRACUSE CRUNCHThe Panthers’ temporary home for AHL prospects, the joint Tampa/Florida affiliation in Syracuse will start with a handful of Panthers prospects. Forwards Gregori Denisenko and Scott Wilson and former Checker Chase Priskie today joined an earlier group of assignments that include forwards Henry Bowlby and Serron Noel as well as defensemen Jake Massie, John Ludvig and Max Gildon. Panthers prospect Cole Schwindt, a junior-age player that would be too young for the AHL in a normal season, will also report to Syracuse.
GREENVILLE SWAMP RABBITSOur ECHL affiliate down the road in South Carolina was the first to begin their season. After 10 games, forwards Greg Meireles and Matthew Wedman, who the Checkers signed to AHL contracts in October, rank second and sixth on the team in scoring with seven and five points, respectively. In goal, Panthers prospect Ryan Bednard has started five games and was named the league’s Goaltender of the Week on Jan. 5.
The Swamp Rabbits have a few other names of interest on their roster, including Charlotte native Bryan Moore, who leads the team with 43 penalty minutes. Former Hurricanes prospect Max Zimmer and forward Kamerin Nault, each of whom played one game for the Checkers during their final week of the 2019-20 season, are also on the roster.
EUROPEFinnish forwards Henrik Borgstrom and Aleksi Saarela, both restricted free agents with the Panthers, will continue playing in their home country for the time being. Saarela is tied for third in the league in goal scoring with 12 in 19 games for Lukko, while Borgstrom began late due to an injury suffered last season and has posted three points in seven contests with HIFK. Another restricted free agent, defenseman Emil Djuse, has 24 points in 34 games for Spartak Moscow of the KHL. Forward Rodrigo Abols, who spent all of last season in AHL Springfield, has been playing with Orebro of the Swedish Hockey League.
LAST SEASON’S CHECKERS
- After a group of now-established NHL'ers in Brock McGinn, Warren Foegele, Martin Necas and Haydn Fleury that are on the main roster, a handful of more recent Checkers have landed on the Carolina Hurricanes’ taxi squad. The additional group of six players is made up almost entirely of players from last season’s team, namely forwards Morgan Geekie, Steven Lorentz and Max McCormick, defenseman Jake Bean and goalie Alex Nedeljkovic.
The Hurricanes also picked up Anton Forsberg, Nedejlkovic’s partner from last season’s Checkers team, on waivers.
- Forwards Stelio Mattheos and Spencer Smallman and defenseman Joey Keane, all of whom finished last season with the Checkers, were among the 13 players that Carolina has assigned to its new AHL affiliate in Chicago. They’ll join former Checkers coaches Ryan Warsofsky and Patrick Dwyer with the Wolves. Also on Chicago's roster are AHL signees Colin Markison and Cavan Fitzgerald.
- Julien Gauthier and Janne Kuokkanen made 22-man rosters for the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils, respectively.
- The Ottawa Senators acquired longtime Checker Clark Bishop in a trade with Carolina on Tuesday. He will begin the season with AHL Belleville.
- Defenseman Fredrik Claesson, who left the Checkers at last season’s trade deadline, has signed with the San Jose Sharks.
- Former Checkers captain Roland McKeown recently re-signed with the Hurricanes and joined Skelleftea of the Swedish Hockey League.
- Defenseman Oliwer Kaski has 26 points (11g, 15a) in 42 games for Avangard Omsk of the KHL.
- Veteran forward Brian Gibbons is in Switzerland, where he has posted 18 points (6g, 12a) in 21 games for Lausanne.