Hello and welcome to a weekly feature on CarolinaHurricanes.com in which I take your Twitter questions about the Carolina Hurricanes or other assorted topics and answer them in mailbag form. Hopefully the final product is insightful to some degree, and maybe we have some fun along the way.
Let's get to it.
CarolinaHurricanes.com took a road trip to Charlotte for the first two games of the Checkers' first round Calder Cup Playoff series against the Chicago Wolves. It was my first time experiencing a game at Bojangles' Coliseum, and I had a lot of fun. If you haven't been, go! The Checkers did a nice job renovating a barn built in the mid-50s. The atmosphere is entertaining, the sightlines are great and the quality of play is high. Plus, you get a glimpse of the Canes of tomorrow, so let's talk about that.
Rookie forward Lucas Wallmark was a stand-out for much of the regular season, and he was rewarded for that with a handful of games up with the big club this year. He continued his strong play in the two games I saw and now leads all AHL skaters in playoff scoring with six points (3g, 3a) in four games. He will be one to watch heading into training camp later this year. Forward Aleksi Saarela, who joined the Checkers have his season concluded in Europe, is an exciting, young talent. He has yet to find the scoresheet in the playoffs, but he's a very capable scorer. On the back end, the defensive pairing of Trevor Carrick and Jake Chelios was steady and reliable. The two were each plus-4 in the Checkers' Game 1 victory and remain plus players through four games now. Finally, the play of goaltender Tom McCollum was also something to note. He's not property of the Hurricanes, so I won't dwell on him too much, but he was a big reason for the Checkers' sustained success down the stretch of the season.
A winner-take-all Game 5 between the Checkers and Wolves is set for tonight.
As is the case every year, you're going to see prospects look to take the next step in their hockey careers and push for a spot with the big club. Taking a quick glance at the Checkers' roster as it stands now, I wouldn't be surprised if a handful of players are square in the mix for a slot on the Hurricanes' 2017-18 opening night roster.
As mentioned above, Wallmark took a big step in his first season in North America. He's a smart player who proved he also has a scorer's touch. I'll be curious to see what kind of impression he makes come training camp in the fall. Can a guy like Phil Di Giuseppe, who has played 77 games in the NHL, stick as a full-time player? Does Saarela fit into the Canes' forward mix next season? On defense, could Haydn Fleury or Roland McKeown or Carrick compete for a spot on the Hurricanes' blue line? All valid questions that will be answered come October.
In the expansion draft, the Vegas Golden Knights will select one player from each of the NHL's other 30 clubs with at least the following positional breakdown: 14 forwards, nine defensemen and three goaltenders. Teams will submit their protection lists by 5 p.m. on June 17, Vegas will submit their selections by 5 p.m. on June 20 and the roster of the 31st NHL club will be unveiled during the NHL Awards on June 21.
As noted, their 30 selections will exceed the maximum roster limit, not to mention the moves they can make via trade or free agency. There's a reason for this, though: depth.
Vegas is starting from scratch, so not only do they have to build out their NHL roster, but they also have to fill their prospect pipeline. They will do so with some overflow from the expansion draft - take, for instance, the three goaltender requirement, as their NHL roster will only feature two - plus acquisitions made during the offseason and draft picks.
I'm going to keep this answer as spoiler-free as possible, even though this event occurred on television nearly six years ago.
So, simply: yes. It's spectacular and fitting and, for lack of a better term, cool.
Somewhat related: who's watching "Better Call Saul"? If not, do it. It's beautifully shot, acted and written and worthy of 40-some minutes of your time each week.
Join me next week for more questions and more answers!
If you have a question you'd like answered or you have a favorite television moment you'd like to share, you can find me on Twitter at @MSmithCanes or drop an email here.