The Calder Cup Playoffs came to an end last night with a fitting finish to a dominant season for the Charlotte Checkers. The Checkers are your AHL champs this season, as the Carolina Hurricanes’ affiliate took home the title for the first time since moving to Charlotte in 2010, and did so behind a historic effort. Charlotte finished the regular season with an impeccable 51-17-7-1 record, one of the best in league history, accumulating 110 points, eight more than the next-best team in the league. They then stormed through the postseason, losing just four games in four rounds, including a second-round sweep of the perennial powerhouse Hershey Bears and a quick five-game win in the Final over the Chicago Wolves. The Wolves kept it interesting at the end, but the Checkers escaped with a 4-3 win last night to seal the series. Leading the way for Mike Vellucci’s high-flying squad this season were forwards Andrew Poturalski, Morgan Geekie, and Tomas Jurco – the AHL’s top three scorers in the playoffs – as well as Martin Necas, Aleksi Saarela, and Nicolas Roy. On the blue line, Jake Bean and Trevor Carrick had dominant campaigns. In net, Alex Nedeljkovic had the lion’s share of starts, regular season and postseason, and may have proved himself ready for a shot at the NHL, while Dustin Tokarski was stellar in the backup role throughout.
- Poturalski, in particular, deserves specific accolades and the recognition has already come from the league. Poturalski was named the recipient of the Jack Butterfield Award as the AHL’s postseason MVP. The 25-year-old forward out of the University of New Hampshire recorded 23 points in 18 games, five more than the next in line, which included a dozen goals. It capped off an incredible season in which Poturalski led the Checkers with 70 points on the year, again way ahead of the pack with 16 more points than Saarela in second, and finished fifth in league scoring. Were it not for Daniel Carr, whose 71 points came in just 52 games with the Chicago Wolves, Charlotte’s success and the weight that Poturalski carried to get them there would have made him a likely candidate for regular season MVP as well. Yet, he may get rewarded this off-season nonetheless. Poturalski is a Group 6 unrestricted free agent and set to hit the open market. He saw only two games of NHL action over three seasons in the Hurricanes’ organization and is likely ready to pursue other opportunities elsewhere. There is no doubt that Poturalski, one of the youngest names on the market, will get considerable attention this summer after the season he had.
- Former Edmonton Oilers prospect Braden Christoffer is headed elsewhere next season as well. The 24-year-old forward once looked like a hidden gem after going undrafted but finishing his junior career off strong in the WHL in 2014-15. The Oilers signed him to a three-year entry-level contract in hopes of big things, but when that contract expired last summer, Christoffer had just 28 AHL points to show for three years of effort. He hung around the organization this season on an AHL contract with the Bakersfield Condors, but failed to improve. As a result, he’s looking to rejuvenate his pro career by moving overseas to a league without much star power. Stjernen of Norway’s Get Ligaen announced that they have inked the young forward to a contract and were excited about the addition. Stjernen’s lone North American player from last season, Peter Lindblad, was their leading scorer, so it makes sense that they would be happy about another import joining the team. A fresh start seems to be exactly what Christoffer needs as well.