The Charlotte Checkers Start Their Playoff Journey Tonight Against Chicago

Apr 4, 2017; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Carolina Hurricanes forward Andrew Poturalski (57) skates after the puck in the first period against the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 4, 2017; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Carolina Hurricanes forward Andrew Poturalski (57) skates after the puck in the first period against the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Hurricanes AHL affiliate, the Charlotte Checkers, begin their 2017 Calder Cup Playoff run today. Yes, playoff hockey is back in North Carolina.

The future is bright for the Hurricanes organization, that is for sure. The Charlotte Checkers, much like their parent team, made a storming charge for the playoffs to close the regular season. They were able to clinch the final spot in the Western Conference and are riding tons of momentum.

The Checkers rolled off 13 wins from their final 19 games, losing in regulation only twice. They even managed to do so with big time contributors Brock McGinn, Lucas Wallmark, and briefly Andrew Poturalski called up to the NHL. They come into their 5 game series with the Chicago Wolves with plenty of confidence.

Head coach Ulf Samuelsson helped guide his young team to a stellar home record. Charlotte only lost 11 times at home in the regular season. He also was able to harness the talent of his roster to keep them afloat at times. Huge roster turnover was a big problem, but Samuelsson did a great job keeping it all together.

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The biggest contributors were the young players. Lucas Wallmark and Andrew Poturalski were both big time offensive players in the American League this year. Wallmark set the franchise record for goal by a rookie with 24. Valentin Zykov was productive as well. We have already cataloged Aleski Saarela‘s impact.

On the back end, 2014 1st round pick Haydn Fleury was ok offensively, but was a force on the blue line. With suspect goaltending at times and roster turnover, the AHL rookie was a remarkable plus 16 on the year. That was the best on the team and one of the best ratings in team history.

Canes fans have to be happy about Charlotte bursting onto the AHL playoff scene. Especially since the teams had mirrored seasons. Both teams made late charges lead by their young players. Stylistically, the Checkers are playing the same way as the Hurricanes are. Players were able to bounce back and forth pretty easily. It is reminiscent of the Red Wings organization of old.

Tonight, the Checkers play a offensive juggernaut in Chicago (associated with St. Louis). Kenny Agostino had an absurd 83 points this season and he is catalyst of their team. Chicago also boasts some familiar faces. Former Hurricanes Brad Malone, Ty Rattie, and James Wisneiwski play for the Wolves.

Next: Canes Still Need to Find Skill From the NHL Draft

Chicago are the favorites to win this series for sure. However, as we’ve seen with the NHL playoffs, top seeds from Chicago aren’t guarantees *laughs at the Blackhawks*. Plus, Charlotte is in the zone right now. Anything can happen, that’s the beauty of the playoffs. So, if you’re in and around Charlotte tonight or Friday, head out to Bojangles Coliseum and support the boys. Playoff hockey is back in North Carolina, so go Checkers!