The Triple-A level of professional sports is always a mix of young talented players on the rise and veterans who are trying to play their way back to the majors.
The Charlotte Checkers have stayed in American Hockey League playoff contention all season with a lineup composed heavily of younger players. While some coaches prefer experience, Checkers’ coach Mike Vellucci says he enjoys working with the younger talent.
“A lot of people want to say that because they’re in their first year, there’s a learning curve,” Vellucci told the Checkers’ website last week. “But I’m a little different. I said in juniors, if you’re good, you’re good – no matter if you’re 16 or 19.
“And up here, whether you’re 20 or you’re 24, if you’re good, you’re good.”
The Checkers’ list of rookies includes Warren Foegele, who has 17 goals and is tied for second on the team in scoring; Aleksi Saarela, fifth in scoring; and Nicolas Roy, who has 13 goals and is sixth in scoring.
Vellucci says the youth sometimes is a problem when the Checkers play a more experienced team like Lehigh Valley. But he said the young players frequently have done well.
“On every given night, those first-year guys have stepped up and been contributors,” he said.
Here’s the Checkers’ weekly wrap-up:
Saturday: Charlotte took a 1-0 lead against the Hershey Bears on a Jake Chelios goal but lost 5-1. The Checkers actually outshot Hershey 20-9 over the first two periods.
Sunday: Charlotte and Hershey played an evening contest, but results were not available a press time.
The week ahead: After a five-game road trip, the Checkers come home for six games. They host the Toronto Marlies (farm team of the Toronto Maple Leafs) at 7:15 p.m. Friday and 6 p.m. Saturday. The Saturday contest will be NASCAR Night, with several NASCAR drivers available to meet with fans.