The past few days have seen a massive 25 percent of the Hurricanes roster changeover. Out are regular goalies James Reimer and Petr Mrazek to injury and in are AHL call ups Alex Nedeljkovic and Anton Forsberg. Gone to trade are forwards Lucas Wallmark and Erik Haula with Vincent Trocheck in return. And finally on defense, out is Brett Pesce to injury and in are Brady Skjei and Sami Vatanen (after he returns from injury).
Needless to say, that is a lot of change in a short period of time during the season.
I detailed each of Monday’s three trades separately:
The roster changeover makes for many watch points for Tuesday’s game and the ones that follow. The ability to quickly assimilate and make gains from the new players will likely play a significant role in whether the Hurricanes make the playoffs or not.
Front and center this time of year is goaltending which can make or break a team on any given night. The timing is such that even a short NHL adjustment period and a short run of 4-5 losses could doom the Canes playoff chances. The team needs one or both of Alex Nedeljkovic and Anton Forsberg to hit the ground running and provide at least competent goaltending.
Today’s Daily Cup of Joe has watch points for each of the two goalie options.
For me, Alex Nedeljkovic has always been a prospect that has a wide range of possible outcomes. On the one hand, he seems to have that ‘it’ factor that is common in great players especially goalies. Throughout his development, he has always played his best hockey in big games putting up huge performances for out-manned teams in both Canadian juniors and international play. As such, he was successful not just as a prospect but as a winner at lower levels. His transition to the AHL level was a rocky one, but he figured it out and again proved to be a winner when the Charlotte Checkers won the AHL championship last summer. He maybe started a bit slow in 2019-20 but found the higher gear again at the midway point of the season. So his elevation to the NHL level finds him having mostly mastered the AHL and with momentum for a deserved shot at the NHL.
But the other side of the coin if Nedeljkovic’s play stylistically. He is a bit undersized by today’s standards, and plays an aggressive, challenging style. The result can be an incredibly noisy style of play in terms of movement. That in general is problematic at the NHL level. Challenging shots is a good thing, but guessing wrong or overchallenging sometimes leads to goals where the goalie looks silly and out of position. Further, noisy goalies with a ton of movement tend to have small holes here and there. At the AHL level, maybe you get away with it, but at the NHL level, elite scorers prey on even the smallest of openings and/or weaknesses.
I do not see much of Nedeljkovic in an AHL uniform, but my parting impression of him from training camp and preseason was still how noisy he is in terms of movement and the issues it creates sometimes in terms of being off angle, out of position or just too aggressive when the shot angle changes quickly. I think the good version of Nedeljkovic looks a bit like Petr Mrazek who plays pucks aggressively. The bad version of Nedeljkovic could potentially be porous from too many small cracks when moving.
So I will be watching Nedeljkovic closely to see if he can find the right balance between being aggressive to challenge shots and take away angles but also not overplaying the net and/or situations. That could prove especially challenging in the first game or two as he tries to calm any nerves and settle into games.
Anton Forsberg was a ho-hum inclusion in the Calvin de Haan trade. With the Hurricanes already having two NHL goals and a prospect waiting in the wings, Forsberg figured to fourth on the depth chart with minimal chance of seeing NHL action. But with injuries and the fickleness of goalies, having deep depth with NHL experience can be a valuable thing. And that is exactly where the Hurricanes are at now.
Forsberg was once a promising prospect like Nedeljkovic but never quite made it in stints with the Columbus Blue Jackets and Chicago Blackhawks. But along the way, he collected 45 games of NHL experience that should be helpful in keeping his nerves in check if he sees the ice for the Hurricanes in the coming days.
Despite not really having a chance in a real tryout, Forsberg made as strong of a case as he could for NHL ice time in preseason posting a couple strong starts. He definitely has the potential to be solid at the NHL level if he can find a comfort level and rhythm.
What say you Canes fans?
1) Is this finally Alex Nedeljkovic’s time such that he will take this opportunity and run? Or is he due to suffer some growing pains in his first extended NHL audition?
2) Which of the two goalies do you think will emerge in the coming days to take the lead role?
3) Is this duo good enough to give the Canes competent netminding to help them stay in the playoff race until Mrazek or Reimer returns?