One Charlotte Checker that has flown under the radar in terms of skill is Jeremy Welsh. The undrafted forward did not put up huge numbers last year in the AHL with only 26 points in 69 games, but Welsh still has a good chance of making the Carolina Hurricanes’ roster next season because he brings something the Canes are lacking: tough players on the fourth line.
Welsh played for three years at Union College before signing an infamous $17 million contract for one year with the Hurricanes, so he could play in the last game of the 2011-12 season. The Canes needed the cap hit to reach the salary cap basement and only paid Welsh for the one game.
After the season, the Hurricanes signed Welsh to a more modest two-year deal, worth $1.7 million ($850,000 per year).
In his last season at Union, Welsh scored 27 goals and added 17 assists, garnering some interest from NHL teams, but ended up signing with the Hurricanes.
This season, Welsh played the majority of the year with the Checkers, but did appear in five games with the Hurricanes, recording an assist. But scoring will not be the 25-year-olds main job if he makes the Hurricanes roster.
He needs to be the gritty player that he can be. Right now he is older and physically more mature than most of the Hurricanes’ prospects. He needs to use this to his advantage because a spot on the fourth line could be up for grabs at training camp. Playing on the penalty kill will also help the Canadian forwards’ chances of making the team.
Gritty fourth-liners is something the Canes are lacking at the moment. They have Nicolas Blanchard, who played in the final eight games of the season and Kevin Westgarth, who is more of a fighter than anything. Welsh is more skilled than both of those players and can take a regular shift, while those two may be held to less than 10 minutes of ice-time a game.
Next season may be the last chance for Welsh to make an NHL roster. The Canes have a spot for him and he needs to take full advantage.