On Tuesday, the Lightning announced that they had re-signed Carter Verhaeghe to a one-year, two-way contract. For Verhaeghe the two-way deal is a reward for a season that saw him establish career highs in goals, assists and points. And for the the Lightning/Crunch it provides some stability and veteran (despite the fact he’s only 22 years old) experience on the team.
The Ontario native’s arrival in Syracuse was a little bittersweet as he was brought to the organization in a trade involving fan-favorite Kristers Gudlevskis. It appeared that the Latvian goaltender was going to be losing playing time due to the arrival of Connor Ingram and was eyeing a move to the KHL. Rather than lose him for nothing, the Crunch were able to move him to Bridgeport for Verhaeghe, a talented but inconsistent forward.
After a bit of a delay (Verhaeghe missed the first 11 games due to an injury he suffered in the pre-season) the center jumped into the line up and produced immediately. In his first game, a 5-2 loss to Laval, Verhaeghe notched a goal and an assist. From there on he would be the model of consistency, only going more than two games without a point twice all season long. He finished the season with 17 goals (3rd on the team), 31 assists (3rd on the team) and 48 points (2nd on the team).
Which is a bit of a turnaround for Verhaeghe as early in his career one of the knocks against him was inconsistency. He had a prolific scoring career in juniors, but had trouble matching that output in the AHL. A 12-game point streak in the regular season and another 8 points in 7 games during the post-season seems to have put that criticism to bed.
While set lines are a bit of a novelty in coach Ben Groulx’s world, Verhaeghe did find himself on one of the top offensive lines throughout most of the season and produced. His versatility in dealing with multiple linemates was one of his biggest assets and reasons he scored so consistently.
He isn’t particularly flashy on the ice, he isn’t going to overwhelm a defender with speed or stickhandling, but he does have excellent offensive instincts and a pretty sneaky wrist shot.
So what does Verhaeghe bring to the Crunch next season? Experience, for the most part. Even though he is still young, he does have 135 AHL games under his belt which will be a key factor because Syracuse will undoubtedly be importing some more rookies into the organization in the upcoming season. He will be looked at as one of the leaders in the locker room especially if Erik Condra doesn’t return. He has leadership experience, having captained the Niagara IceDogs during his fourth season with the OHL team.
He could also factor in as a depth player for the Lightning as well should they need some mid-season call-ups. While his name gets lost a little in the shuffle for potential bottom-six replacements, he could fill that role for the big club. Verhaeghe is capable at face-offs, has a knack for being in the right spot at the right time offensively and has a little bit of size (6’2”, 185lbs). He also is defensively responsible enough that he isn’t a liability on his side of the ice.
It speaks to the depth of the Lightning’s prospect pool that Verhaeghe often gets pushed down in the rankings (he didn’t even make our Top 25 under 25 last summer) but the former third-round pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs does have NHL potential. There is a chance he gets called up this season, but in all likelihood he spends 2018-19 in Syracuse with a letter on his jersey.
Random Verhaeghe fact courtesy of Lukas Favale - the voice of the Syracuse Crunch.