Hurricanes assistant GM Vellucci named next head coach of AHL’s Charlotte Checkers

Former OHL coach and executive of the year will retain front office duties with Carolina

Mike Vellucci (Carolina Hurricanes)

RALEIGH —— Mike Vellucci has bounced between coaching and front office duties most of his career, so Thursday’s announcement that he would move behind the Charlotte Checkers’ bench next season while retaining his post as Carolina Hurricanes assistant general manager fits right in.

“Mike has more than 20 years of coaching experience, including more than 800 games as a head coach in the Ontario League,” said Hurricanes GM Ron Francis in a press release. “He is excited to get back behind the bench and we appreciate his willingness to take on this additional responsibility.”

Vellucci, who joined the Hurricanes as assistant GM when Francis was promoted to the general manager’s job three years ago, has long been under Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos’ umbrella of teams. After retiring as a player —— he was a seventh-round pick of the Hartford Whalers in 1984 and played two NHL games with the team —— he became head coach of the Karmanos-owned Junior-A team, the Compuware Ambassadors of the NAHL. He then spent 13 years as the coach and GM —— sometimes filling one role, often both —— of the OHL’s Plymouth Whalers, also owned by Karmanos, before joining the Hurricanes as Francis’ right-hand man in 2014. Vellucci was the OHL Coach of the Year in 2007, then won the award again along with being named Executive of the Year in 2012-13. Karmanos sold the Plymouth franchise in 2015 and it was relocated to Flint, Mich., and rebranded as the Firebirds.

Vellucci, 50, will be the fourth head coach in four years for the Checkers and he replaces Ulf Samuelsson, whose long-rumored hiring as an assistant for Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville was made official Thursday. Samuelsson led the Checkers to the postseason in his only year as Charlotte’s head coach.

“This is a great opportunity to join a franchise that not only is historically popular, but has also had a lot of great success recently,” said Samuelsson in a story on the Blackhawks site announcing the hiring. “I’m thankful to Rocky Wirtz, John McDonough, Stan Bowman and the entire leadership group with the Blackhawks for this opportunity,” he added. “I would also like to express my appreciation to the Carolina Hurricanes, Ron Francis and the Charlotte Checkers for my time with the organization.”