The All-Star break is over and the Syracuse Crunch’s march to the playoffs is back on with a full slate of games the rest of the way. In order for them to once again reach the playoffs, they’re going to need their rookies to keep contributing and their veterans leading the way.
One of the veterans they are going to be relying on is Carter Verhaeghe. In his second season with the Crunch, the winger/center is having a career year. He has 20 goals, the first time he’s broached that mark in his career, and 28 assists, second on the team only to Cory Conacher.
Verhaeghe was originally drafted in the third round of the 2013 draft by the Toronto Maple Leafs. He spent two seasons in the OHL with the Niagara Ice Dogs following the draft. In his final season, as captain of the team, he put up 82 points (33 goals, 49 assists). That production earned him a….trade. The Ontario-native only played a grand total of two games for the organization he grew up idolizing as a child. Both of those games were with the Toronto Marlies.
In September of 2015, Verhaeghe was part of a six-player deal that sent Michael Grabner to Toronto and a host of prospects back to the Islanders. As a side note, among the five players the Islanders received in return for Grabner, only goaltender Chris Gibson is still in the organization.
During the next two years, Verhaeghe had to fight to stay in the line-up with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, the Islander’s AHL affiliate. He played in 30 games in Bridgeport, putting up a respectable 15 points, but also found himself in the ECHL with the Missouri Mavericks. The same thing happened the next season. He found a little more time with the Sound Tigers, playing in 45 games and putting up 29 points, but he also had another stint in Missouri.
2017 trade deadline beginning of the summer of 2017, Bridgeport needed a goalie and the Syracuse Crunch were looking for a little offense. So, fan favorite Kristers Gudlevskis was sent to the Sound Tigers in exchange for Verhaeghe. His Syracuse career didn’t get off to a great start at the beginning of the 2017-18 season, as he was injured in the Lightning’s preseason camp and missed the first month of the season. Once he finally made it on to the ice, he started racking up the points and hasn’t stopped since.
He made his debut against Laval on November 4th and recorded a goal and an assist. He caught fire in December, recording a point in 12 straight games. He finished the month with 15 points (4 goals, 11 assists), driving his season total to 48 points (17 goals, 31 assists). As the season progressed he earned more and more of Coach Ben Groulx’s trust and found himself on the ice in all situations.
He was rewarded with a one-year, two-way contract in the summer of 2018 and a role as one of the top forwards on the Crunch’s roster. He made his debut on Raw Charge’s Top 25 under 25 at the 20th spot and, based on his production over the past two seasons, will most likely move up a couple of notches this summer.
Verhaeghe’s scoring hasn’t slowed down despite the fact that he’s kind of bounced around the line-up a bit. So far this season he’s spent some time on Andy Andreoff’s line as well as with Gabriel Dumont. But he’s also lined up next to Brady Brassart and has recently taken a few shifts at center. After starting-and playing most of the season-on the top power play unit, he’s been shuffled to the second unit in recent games in order to balance out the scoring a bit.
No matter where he plays, he still puts up points.
The longest stretch he’s gone without recording a point in his Crunch career is five games. Only twice has he gone without a point in three or more games. That’s pretty darn consistent. He’s also been pretty productive at even strength. Only 13 of his 37 career goals with the Crunch have been on the man advantage.
So how has he been doing this over the last couple of seasons? If you watch him play on a game-in-and-game out basis what stands out are his shot and his hockey awareness. He doesn’t blow anyone away with his skating, and he’s not barreling guys over.
His first goal (of three) against Rochester shows off the accuracy of his wrist shot.
This is a move that he makes pretty regularly. Verhaeghe skated across the blue line and almost casually drifted into the center of the ice. He waited for the screen to be set by the defenseman and then ripped the puck into the net. The initial shot certainly didn’t look like it should be a prime scoring chance, but it worked. He’s been doing this since his days in junior hockey.
This overtime goal (starts at 1:15 of the clip) showcases his awareness and quickness in the offensive zone.
He may not be the fastest player on the ice, but he was quick to pounce on the loose puck and then was able to accelerate quickly to open up a little space. His accuracy on the shot did the rest.
Given a spot on the roster, he’s earned his role as one of the top forwards on the Crunch. He’s worked hard to become a three-zone player and has fit in well with the pressure system that Coach Groulx espouses. The stability he’s been provided by the organization has been rewarded by his production. At just 23-years-old he has a chance to be a factor for the Lightning moving forward.
The Syracuse Crunch (25-13-2-1) return to action as they host the Utica Comets (23-18-3-2) yet again. This is the seventh meeting between the two teams this season. Utica has won four of the previous six outings.
The Crunch will be without captain Gabriel Dumont. It was announced yesterday that he was suspended one game for his illegal check to the head in Syracuse’s last game against Rochester. Dumont hit defenseman Andrew MacWilliam in the jaw midway through the first period of the game and was assessed an elbowing penalty.
Syracuse also made another roster change, swapping Matthew Spencer and Oleg Sosunov. Spencer returns to Orlando for some playing time and Sosunov returns to be the eighth defenseman on the roster once Dominik Masin is ready to play again.
Alex Volkov - Andy Andreoff - Cory Conacher
Boris Katchouk - Ross Colton - Taylor Raddysh
Dennis Yan - Carter Verhaeghe - Alex Barre-Boulet
Troy Bourke - Brady Brassart - Otto Somppi
Cameron Gaunce - Cal Foote
Nolan Valleau - Jan Rutta
Hubert Labrie - Ben Thomas
Eddie Pasquale or Connor Ingram