The Charlotte Checkers made it into the AHL playoffs this season and took the Oklahoma City Barons to Game Five in a best-of-five series. The team featured depth scoring from the offense and defense and some of those players have a chance of making the Carolina Hurricanes roster next season.
Brett Bellemore: Bellemore played in three games for the Hurricanes this season and looked strong against NHL forwards and recorded two assists. But scoring is not the 6-4 defenseman’s game. He is more relied on for his defensive play, which is an area the Hurricanes need to improve on.
Bellemore will compete with Ryan Murphy and any other offseason acquisitions for a spot on the roster next season. Depending on who GM Jim Rutherford brings in, Bellemore could have a good chance of making the team or an outside chance.
Nicolas Blanchard: Blanchard played in the last nine games of the season for the Hurricanes providing grit and toughness in the Canes bottom six. The 25-year-old did not score at all, but he did play with Jordan Staal from time-to-time and looked like he belonged in the NHL.
But a spot on the Hurricanes roster will not be easily achieved for Blanchard. He will need to compete with Kevin Westgarth for the enforcer role on the team, which Westgarth has been doing for a longer period of time. It’s possible that Blanchard could earn a spot on the fourth line with Westgarth still on the roster, but it will not be easily done.
Zac Dalpe: With 41 NHL games under his belt, it is time for Dalpe to take the next step in his career. The 23-year-old played in 10 games this season for the Hurricanes scoring one goal and adding two assists, but could not stick with the big club. However, Dalpe had a good season for the Checkers scoring 21 goals and 42 points.
With Tim Brent a UFA, Dalpe will have a shot at the center position on the third or fourth line. The Canes could also try Dalpe as a winger, possibly with Jordan Staal or again on the third line. Dalpe is the most likely of the Checkers to earn a spot on the Hurricanes next season.
Ryan Murphy: The Hurricanes first pick in the 2012 draft played in four games for the Canes this season, but was sent back to juniors to prevent a year of his entry-level contract being burnt off with a fifth game played. The Canadian did not record a point with the Hurricanes, but proved he could be a valuable offensive defenseman with seven shots. Murphy joined the Checkers for their playoff run recording two assists in three regular season games, but none in the post-season.
Murphy is primarily an offensive defenseman, something the Canes do not lack at all. Murphy will have to compete with Bellemore and any other defenseman that is brought in over the offseason. It’s also possible that Rutherford could trade Jaime McBain. There were rumors at the trade deadline that Rutherford was attempting to, which would open a spot for Murphy.