Charlotte Checkers

New Checkers head coach: I’m not planning overhauls

There are a couple things Ryan Warsofsky wants you to know about the Charlotte Checkers team he will coach this season.

Ryan Warsofsky
The Charlotte Checkers introduced new head coach Ryan Warsofsky on Tuesday. Steve Lyttle

It won’t be the same team that fans saw win the American Hockey League’s Calder Cup with a franchise-record 110 points during the regular season.

“Look, it’ll be a different team,” he said, referring to the players who have left the organization via trade or free agency since the season ended a month ago.

But fans will see a number of familiar faces, playing a familiar style, he said.

“I’m not planning any major overhauls,” Warsofsky, 31, said Tuesday during his initial news conference as Checkers head coach. “And we’ve got a number of top players back. Plus, we’ve added some quality people.”

Most importantly, said the youngest head coach in Checkers’ history and currently serving in the AHL, there’s no reason to expect anything less than a successful 2019-20 season.

“We can’t win a Calder Cup on July 16,” said Warsofsky, top assistant to Mike Vellucci on last season’s team. “But we can prepare every day, so we’re ready when the season starts. And we can work hard every day to get a little better.”

Warsofsky is a former college hockey player who went into coaching after a season in the minor leagues. He was head coach of the ECHL’s South Carolina Stingrays in 2016-18 and guided the Charleston-based team to the playoff finals in 2017.

He joined the Checkers last season and handled special teams and defense. Charlotte’s penalty-kill team climbed from 24th in 2017-18 to No. 1 last season. The defense ranked second in the league.

He’s about to become a father, with wife Caroline expecting the couple’s first baby around Aug. 27 — a few weeks before training camp begins.

And he hates to lose.

Checkers radio announcer Jason Shaya recalled a time last season when veteran defenseman Zack Stortini told him, “Some guys love to win. Some guys hate to lose. But that guy (pointing to Warsofsky) … he really hates to lose!”

Checkers owner Michael Kahn alluded to that Tuesday, saying, “More than anything, I love his intensity. Because I, too, don’t like to lose.”

Comings and goings

The Checkers roster will look different when the team takes the ice in early October. In fact, the team’s top two scorers from last season will be playing elsewhere. Here are some signings announced by Charlotte’s NHL parent team, the Carolina Hurricanes:

The most obvious is Vellucci leaving the organization and becoming head coach of the AHL’s Wilkes-Barres/Scranton Penguins. Warsofsky said Tuesday that “rarely a day goes by” when the two of them don’t communicate.

Aleksi Saarela, the team’s leading goal-scorer in 2018-19, was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks. As part of the trade, goalkeeper Anton Forsberg was sent to Carolina. Forsberg is likely to spend some time in Charlotte.

Forward Andrew Poturalski, the team’s leading scorer, signed with the Anaheim Ducks and is likely to spend some time with the AHL’s San Diego Gulls.

Defenseman Alex Lintuniemi, 23, a second-round pick by Los Angeles in 2014, was signed by Carolina to a two-way (both the NHL and AHL) contract. He has 60 points in 176 AHL games.

Josiah Didier, one of the Checkers’ most reliable defensemen, signed with the Boston Bruins organization.

Center Clark Bishop, who split time between Charlotte and Carolina last season, was re-signed by the Hurricanes.

Forward Brian Gibbons, 31, who has played in 189 NHL and 329 AHL games, was signed by Carolina and is likely to spend at least part of the season in Charlotte.

Steve Lyttle on Twitter: @slyttle

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