AHL affiliate Charlotte leads the South Division and ranks second in the Western Conference with a 14-9-2 record, on pace for a 98-point season. The Checkers' 82 goals falls behind only Syracuse for best in the minor leagues.
Although it's far from a guarantee of NHL stardom, a number of future Hurricanes youngsters could earn, based on their performance in Charlotte, increased playing time once the work stoppage ends.
Which prospects have boosted their Raleigh-ready resumes while the 'Canes sit idle? We take a look at some of the top Checkers stars this fall.
The 2007 third-round pick has been, for years, an unheralded grinder in the Hurricanes' cornucopia of promising youngsters. Now, however, Bowman is grabbing the spotlight—his 13 goals are tied for the team lead, and his whopping six powerplay goals in 25 games ranks among the best in the league.
Following his career-high 37 games and 13 points in the NHL last season, Bowman could build off of this impressive autumn and earn a full-time job with the Hurricanes when play resumes. He's certainly won over both AHL coach Jeff Daniels and NHL boss Kirk Muller with his recent consistency.
The 2011-12 Calder Trophy finalist has kept up his furious scoring pace this autumn in the AHL, leading the Checkers in assists (16) and points per game (0.91).
The 20-year-old, whose 22 points and 22:50 in average ice time opened eyes around the NHL last year, has 20 points and a plus-two rating in 22 appearances this season.
The Checkers' lone representative in the AHL's top 20 forwards is Zach Boychuk, whose 13 goals, 20 points and plus-two rating put him on pace for the best season of his professional career.
Boychuk, the 'Canes first-round pick in 2008, has failed to produce a breakout campaign in four partial seasons with the Hurricanes. However, the now-23-year-old received a surprising contract extension this summer and is finally proving his worth this fall—at least at the minor-league level.
He'll get another chance to be an NHL regular upon the conclusion of the lockout, but we're still not convinced he's steady enough to earn it.
Since arriving in the 'Canes system via the 2010 Ian White-to-Calgary trade, Brett Sutter, cousin of former Hurricane Brandon Sutter, has been given strangely little attention by the 'Canes brass.
He'll be hoping that his play with Charlotte this season will change that, though. The tough center has nine goals, 16 points and a plus-four rating in 25 games, ranking fourth on the Checkers in scoring.
Justin Peters' 2010-11 stint as NHL backup was a cringe-laden disaster, but he may be slated to return to the role if Brian Boucher's surgery recovery proves career-ending.
Fortunately, Peters has been sharper over the past 18 months. The 26-year-old Ontario native had a .931 save percentage in seven games with Carolina last year. Now, he's 8-4 with a 2.89 GAA in 14 games with Charlotte this year.
The 'Canes second-round choice in 2004 may have simply been a late bloomer.
Mark Jones has been a Bleacher Report featured columnist since 2009. He has written more than 440 articles and received over 775,000 reads.
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