As if the Carolina Hurricanes haven’t had enough goaltending problems this season, the team has seemingly lost Curtis McElhinney for tonight’s matchup against the Anaheim Ducks. The team today recalled Alex Nedeljkovic from the minor leagues, while placing Micheal Ferland on injured reserve. McElhinney left yesterday’s practice early, though there was no update yet from head coach Rod Brind’Amour. With Scott Darling down in the minors already, tonight’s start will likely go to Petr Mrazek.
Nedeljkovic, 22, was a high draft pick for the Hurricanes, selected 37th overall in 2014 out of the OHL. At the time he was coming off an outstanding season with the Plymouth Whalers, but has since struggled a bit to find much consistency. He never did repeat his 2013-14 numbers as he found himself in two other OHL organizations to finish his junior career, and then had minimal success in his first year as a professional. Despite making his NHL debut during the 2016-17 season, he spent time in the ECHL trying to develop his game.
When watching Nedeljkovic, it’s easy to see why scouts still believe he can be an NHL goaltender. His agility in the crease allows him to make some highlight reel saves, and there is an innate ability to battle through traffic and find the puck. Unfortunately, his quick movements can also sometimes get the better of him and over the last season and a half he’s struggled to put up exceptional statistics in the minor leagues. Those stats may be a bit misleading though, as Nedeljkovic always seems to find a way to win for the Charlotte Checkers and may actually be better suited to the NHL in the long run. It seems unlikely that he’ll get another chance right away, but if McElhinney’s injury is anything more than a few days we could see the Hurricanes turn to their young netminder.