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In the System: Checkers Have Bright Spots in Slow Start

Wednesday, 10.20.2010 / 12:38 PM ET / Tracking the Storm
By Michael Smith
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In the System: Checkers Have Bright Spots in Slow Start

Note: This is the first of a regular segment that will highlight the week that was with the AHL Charlotte Checkers and profile other players in the system.

It’s no secret that the Charlotte Checkers have had a slow start to their season, as they find themselves with just one win in their first five games.

However, that’s not to say that there hasn’t been anything good to emerge from the team's 1-4-0 start to the American Hockey League campaign.

Michael Smith
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Jon Matsumoto and Zach Boychuk are two players that have seen strong starts. Jason Karmanos, vice president and assistant general manager of the Carolina Hurricanes, is impressed with their play early on in the season.

“Matsumoto has been their best and most consistent player,” he said. “He competes hard, he has played a pretty solid two-way game, and it certainly doesn’t hurt that he’s put up some points and been involved offensively.”

Matsumoto, who was acquired by the Canes from the Philadelphia Flyers this summer, leads Charlotte with 6 points (2 g, 4 a).

“It’s good to see a new guy coming in and having an impact,” Karmanos said. “He’s a guy that, if called upon, could play a role here [in Raleigh].”

Coming off a tough training camp, Boychuk has shown resolve and a high effort level, according to Karmanos. Boychuk currently has 4 points, including 2 goals in the Checkers’ loss on Sunday.

“It’s a good sign of his character and determination that he has started the season well,” Karmanos said.

As a whole, head coach Jeff Daniels has a young squad on his hands, but there is a core group that has some NHL experience. This group includes Boychuk, Brett Carson, Bryan Rodney and Jiri Tlusty, who is currently in the middle of a conditioning stint. Karmanos said that this experience can only help the team.

“The guys that have some experience at the highest level know what it takes,” he said. “That’s probably one of the biggest differences between an AHL player and an NHL player – their ability to play consistently from start to finish.”

Finishing strong was clearly a problem in the Checkers’ 4-3 loss on Sunday, in which they gave up a 3-2 lead halfway through the third period. Karmanos said that tough games like this are a part of the learning experience.

Moving forward, Daniels and assistant coach Geordie Kinnear will be looking for more consistent play from shift-to-shift.

“They will be focused on getting the guys to play a full 60 minutes and get the job done,” Karmanos said. “These players are learning, and this is all a part of that process.”

In addition to being excited about the young players in Charlotte, a group that Karmanos said they expect quite a bit out of, the organization is also excited about the fact that the Canes’ AHL affiliate is just a couple of hours down the road.

Compared to affiliate clubs in the past, the proximity of Charlotte makes player movement exponentially easier, according to Karmanos. As opposed to flying a player up north, players can pack their belongings in their car and drive to Charlotte.

“Even though it’s a disappointing ride for the guys, it’s easier mentally to be able to know that you’re only a two-and-a-half hour drive from the NHL,” he said. “I think there is a better connection to the parent club in the players’ minds. It keeps them focused on getting back down the road.”

Having the AHL affiliate in Charlotte also helps the Canes in growing interest and participation in hockey throughout the state, something that Karmanos said is great for both the organization and the sport of hockey. On opening night at Time Warner Cable Arena, the Checkers brought 12,512 through the gates, the largest crowd in Charlotte hockey history.

This crowd included both Charlotte hockey fans and Caniacs who made the trip from Raleigh to see the top prospects in action.

Player Spotlight: Brian Dumoulin

Defenseman Brian Dumoulin is currently in his sophomore year at Boston College. Last season, as a true freshman, the then-17-year-old Dumoulin led the nation in plus/minus (+40) and tallied 22 points (1 g, 21 a), as he played in all 42 games for the team.

He was named to the Hockey East All-Rookie Team and the NCAA All-Tournament Team at the Frozen Four last season in Detroit.

Dumoulin was drafted 51st overall (2nd round) by the Hurricanes in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. According to Karmanos, he is a player that the organization is very excited about.

“This is a guy we are keeping a very close eye on this year,” he said. “He accomplished a lot in just one year last year, and he should have another good year.”

As a 19-year-old sophomore, Dumoulin has two years of NCAA eligibility remaining. However, Karmanos said there is a chance he could join the team before his four years are complete.

“He is a very coachable, eager kid,” he said. “He’s a fast-developing prospect for us and a player we consider to be one of our top prospects.”




1 x - MTL 77 47 22 8 203 174 102
2 x - NYR 75 47 21 7 228 177 101
3 x - TBL 77 47 23 7 249 201 101
4 PIT 76 42 23 11 210 190 95
5 NYI 77 45 27 5 235 215 95
6 DET 75 40 23 12 220 206 92
7 WSH 76 41 25 10 223 188 92
8 BOS 76 38 25 13 201 196 89
9 OTT 75 37 26 12 218 203 86
10 FLA 76 35 26 15 190 207 85
11 PHI 76 30 29 17 198 219 77
12 CBJ 75 36 35 4 207 232 76
13 NJD 76 31 33 12 168 194 74
14 CAR 75 28 36 11 174 204 67
15 TOR 76 28 42 6 198 244 62
16 BUF 76 21 47 8 148 255 50


E. Staal 70 21 28 -12 49
J. Faulk 75 15 32 -17 47
E. Lindholm 74 16 21 -19 37
J. Skinner 70 18 13 -21 31
V. Rask 73 11 20 -12 31
R. Nash 68 8 17 -10 25
N. Gerbe 71 8 17 -13 25
J. McClement 75 7 13 -3 20
A. Nestrasil 47 7 13 4 20
J. Staal 39 4 16 -7 20
C. Ward 20 21 5 .911 2.40
A. Khudobin 8 15 6 .904 2.60