The finale of the AHL season gets underway tonight, as the Charlotte Checkers, affiliate of the Carolina Hurricanes, are set to host the Chicago Wolves, affiliate of the Vegas Golden Knights, in Game One of the Calder Cup Final. Neither squad is very familiar with being in this title series; the Wolves are making their first appearance as Vegas’ affiliate, given their parent club just wrapped up it’s second season in existence, while the Checkers have appeared twice in the final, most recently in 1991. The match-up that everyone will be watching for in the series is Cody Glass, the No. 6 overall pick in 2017 and the first draft selection in Vegas’ history, versus Martin Necas, the No. 12 pick in 2017 and Carolina’s top prospect. However, Necas has taken a back seat to several other Checkers forwards this postseason. After scoring 70 points in 72 games to finish fifth in league scoring in the regular season, Andrew Poturalski’s 18 points thus far also lead the postseason. It’s worth noting that Poturalski will be a Group 6 unrestricted free agent this summer and could be on the move in search of more NHL opportunity. Necas’ fellow AHL rookie, Morgan Geekie, has been right up there with Poturalski in playoff scoring, registering 15 points so far. Tomas Jurco and Aleksi Saarela have also played well for the Checkers, as has experienced defenseman Trevor Carrick. As for the Wolves, it has been goaltender Oscar Dansk leading the way, posting a .921 save percentage and 2.16 GAA through 14 starts. Up front, it’s been the veterans getting the job done, with Tomas Hyka, Curtis McKenzie, and Tye McGinn all among the AHL’s top ten in scoring this postseason. Rookie defenseman Zach Whitecloud has also been a revelation and continues to make a strong case for playing in Vegas next season. Everything considered, this should be a balanced, hard-fought series between two talented teams who are excited to be in the final. The schedule for the Calder Cup Final can be found here.
- The Winnipeg Jets made a nice value addition this morning, signing Russian power forward Andrei Chibisov. As the team attacks their difficult salary cap situation this summer, affordable impact deals could be crucial and the team hopes Chibisov will pan out. Unfortunately, one of his fellow countrymen won’t be joining him in Winnipeg. Ivan Telegin, a draft pick of the Atlanta Thrashers all the way back in 2010, has opted to re-sign with his KHL club, CSKA Moscow. The team announced a new three-year deal with Telegin that likely rules out any potential future in the NHL. There was some thought that Telegin would consider returning to North America, where he previously played three seasons in the OHL and one season in the AHL, following a career-best KHL campagin. Telegin recorded 22 points in 49 games this season, production levels he hadn’t reached since his junior days. A player of similar size and ability to Chibisov, Telegin would have been another bottom-six option for Winnipeg, but with a long-term extension in Russia and his draft rights set to expire, it seems the pairing was never meant to be.
- According to Jess Myers of the Grand Forks Herald, Pittsburgh Penguins prospect Clayton Phillips is on the move. Phillips, a third-round pick in 2017, just wrapped up his sophomore season at the University of Minnesota, but it appears it will be his last. Myers reports that Phillips is expected to transfer out of Minnesota and to a different NCAA institution. This likely means that he will have to sit out of college hockey next season due to NCAA transfer rules. In the meantime, Phillips is expected to return to the USHL’s Muskegeon Lumberjacks. The 19-year-old defenseman initially joined the Gophers earlier than expected, jumping in midway through the 2017-18 season. Sources that Myers spoke with felt this was a mistake, as he was not yet mature enough for the college game. It showed, as he was held scoreless in eleven games and got into frequent penalty trouble. This past season, Phillips improved to the tune of ten points in 34 games, but struggled defensively and simply wasn’t playing to the level that he, the university, nor the Penguins likely expected. A year back in juniors could be good for Phillips development, as the mobile blue liner can regain confidence in his abilities. Myers then speculates that he could join Penn State University or Colorado College in 2020.