Carolina Hurricanes’ Goalie Prospects: The Puck Stops Here (Maybe)
Carolina Hurricanes have a good amount of goaltenders in the system. Which ones will fit into the team’s future plans?
I know, I know you’re probably saying, “What is this guy’s deal with goalies, just let Cam Ward live in peace!” Well, I wrote something else recently, and let’s just say the jury’s still out so I’m going back to my bread and butter [Editor’s Note: No it isn’t. They hated it]. So we’ve decided to take a look at the up and coming goaltenders in the Carolina Hurricane’s prospect pool.
Let’s start with the Grand Poobah of the Canes goalie menagerie. Nedeljkovic currently plays for Carolina’s AHL affiliate the Charlotte Checkers. After a great World Junior Championships where Nedeljkovic posted a .943 SV% in 6 games, people expected the kid to hit the ground running. Unfortunately, that has not been the case so far this year. Nedeljkovic played only four games this season in the AHL with a .862 SV%. Yeah, not exactly stellar.
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In fact, the Checkers gave Michael Leighton the majority of starts this season. Leighton’s tremendous play, a 6-1-1 record with .938 SV%, has kept Nedeljkovic on the bench. If Nedeljkovic can’t take the job from a career backup goaltender what does it say about his NHL potential? Yes, he’s young, but for someone expected to take over for Cam Ward in two years, he still has a long way to go. Hopefully, Curtis Joseph, the new Checker’s goaltending coach, can get him ready in time.
Daniel Altshuller is the only goalie on this list to actually dress for an NHL game. He filled in as the backup last January after the Hurricanes placed Cam Ward on the IR for a concussion. Altshuller played well for the ECHL Everblades last year and posted a .934 SV%. This led to a call-up to the Checkers where he started out excellently with a 9-1-1 record, .941 SV%, and three shutouts. The rest of the season didn’t go as well after Altshuller returned from the Carolina Hurricanes. Altshuller ended the season with a .905 SV% in twenty-eight games played. This season Altshuller returned to the Everblades to make room for Nedeljkovic on the Checkers. He is playing well with a .929 SV%, but his future with the Hurricanes remains murky at best.
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Unlike the two above, Callum Booth remains in junior hockey. The Carolina Hurricanes drafted Booth in the fourth round of the 2015 draft. Invited to training camp this season the Carolina Hurricanes returned him to his QMJHL the Quebec Remparts. In the twelve games played this season, Booth has thrived. He’s posted a .920 SV% and in the Russia vs. QMJHL series game Booth shutout the Russians in game five. Booth’s shutout was the first by any QMJHL goalie in the fourteen-year history of the series.
It is undeniable Booth has talent, but the real question is can he translate to the pro game. He’s definitely improved every year in the QMJHL, and if he can keep doing that as he moves up his chances are good. With four years completed this season in the QMJHL, Booth’s next stop most likely will be the Everblades. The Checkers’ Nedeljkovic should get the majority of the starts next year if things go as planned. In order to give Callum playing time, the Everblades will be the best place for him.
The Canes drafted Jack LaFontaine in the 2016 draft with their #75 overall third round pick. LaFontaine currently plays for the University of Michigan a NCAA Division 1 college program. Third on the depth chart at Michigan, Jack started in only four games this year with a .923 SV%. This sounds good until you look and see Michigan’s main goalie has a .956 SV%. LaFontaine recorded 1-2-1 record in his four games. This is LaFontaine’s first season at Michigan so his ice time will be limited unless he starts wowing the coaching staff. Still really early to draw any firm conclusions on how good or bad this guy could be. They Hockey News wrote a scouting report on him and considered him a gem of the last draft. Will be interesting to see how he matures at Michigan in the next couple years.
The Carolina Hurricanes also took Helvig in the last draft as they drafted him in the fifth round. Helvig plays for the Kingston Frontenacs in the OHL. Last year was a good year for Helvig as he put up a .929 SV% and helped lead his team to the playoffs. This year, though, hasn’t been as nice to him with his SV% down to .907. Helvig is a big goalie and measures 6′ 4″. It helps him that in the modern NHL, size seems to be the way to go. Like LaFontaine, it’s still too early to tell what the Hurricanes have in Helvig, but don’t let his draft position lead one to write him off. The NHL finds it almost impossible to accurately scout NHL talent in the junior leagues, and several top goalies went completely undrafted.