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February Canes Prospect Profile: Alex Nedeljkovic

Goaltender leads AHL in wins, GAA

by Nikki Stoudt @NikkiStoudt / CarolinaHurricanes.com

Welcome to the Canes Prospect Profile presented by Uber, a monthly feature here on CarolinaHurricanes.com. Each month we'll take a look at the top-performing Canes prospects across the minor leagues.

This month, it's Charlotte Checkers netminder Alex Nedeljkovic, who earned a 5-1-2 record with a 1.61 goals-against average for the team through February.

Nedeljkovic held opponents to two or fewer goals per game in February, and he currently leads American Hockey League goalies in - ahem - wins, goals-against average (min. 30 games played) and games played. As of March 6, Nedeljkovic has a 27-6-4 record, two shutouts, 2.42 GAA and a 0.911 save percentage. 

Backtracking a bit, Ned earned his first career NHL/Hurricanes start and win on Jan. 23 in Vancouver, stopping 24 of 26 shots and sealing Carolina's first win in Vancouver since Oct. 15, 1999.

Video: CAR@VAN: Nedeljkovic denies Baertschi at the doorstep

He was also named the CCM/AHL Goaltender of the Month for January.

Tweet from @CheckersHockey: This should make a nice addition to @alexned_���s trophy case 🏆 pic.twitter.com/6tEYRRCJLU

"He's obviously been good all year," Canes Head of Goaltender Development Paul Schonfelder said. "But these last 10 starts, he's kicked it up another level."

Two overtime losses (the first with Ned in net) at home against the Providence Bruins kicked off a rocky February for the AHL-leading Checkers, and a second dip the next week could have taken a toll on the 23-year-old.

Tweet from @CheckersHockey: "Nah"-Alex Nedeljkovic, 2019 pic.twitter.com/t0ybWw8IZz

"He's competitive," Schonfelder said. "He knows the season is a grind. He prepares for each game like it's the biggest one, but he knows he's got to move forward."

Tweet from @CheckersHockey: Unfazed pic.twitter.com/q96UDBAyEn

"When something goes wrong for him, he's able to evaluate and make adjustments," Schonfelder said. "Goalies have to be self-efficient and be able to analyze their own games or practice. Ned is very responsible and very honest with himself."

Feb. 15 brought Ned's second win of the month, with the Parma, OH, native making saves like this:

Tweet from @CheckersHockey: NedSaysNo pic.twitter.com/IzBDOSK8sV

Feb. 16 at Providence marked his third win of the month, and then a home win over Lehigh Valley made Ned the winningest goalie in Checkers franchise history (64).

Tweet from @CheckersHockey: Congrats to @alexned_, the winningest goalie in franchise history! pic.twitter.com/Jz1GI2MadR

At 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds, Ned's not what you might consider a "big goalie."

"He's probably got a bit of a chip on his shoulder from that but, boy, does he make it work for his game," Schonfelder said. "Full credit to him. Ned plays a big man's game. He makes adjustments to play big, but he's a naturally gifted skater, and he's not afraid to move the puck."

Though Schonfelder isn't with the Checkers all the time, he keeps in daily contact via text or phone calls.

"As a coach, you worry about them and the grind of the season," Schonfelder said. "Ned's got it, though. He plays his game, goes home, prepares for the next one. He's a complete professional on and off the ice.

"Ned is always ready."

In case you missed it, Nedeljkovic also scores goals.

His first pro goal:

Tweet from @ECHL: A goaltender scoring a goal.... now that's something you don't see every day, cc @FL_Everblades pic.twitter.com/PPvMA9AUld

Yes, his first. That means there's a second.

Tweet from @CheckersHockey: GOALIE GOAL! Full video of @alexned_ lighting the lamp in tonight���s win! pic.twitter.com/AI5SqiIgmm

Like Fortnite? Ned's on Twitch. And unlike some coaches and organizations, Schonfelder isn't worried about the video games. 

"They're adults. Guys used to go out all the time, but this generation doesn't as much and that's all right. Video games are how they get away from the game for a while," he said. "As long as he's eating right, preparing himself and succeeding on the ice, good for him."

Please also enjoy this wonderful video of Calder, the Checkers' team pup, and Ned.

Tweet from @CheckersHockey: Pre-practice pets with @alexned_ #Calder pic.twitter.com/v8XcEQ3Kp6

ONE TO WATCH

Goalie prospect Jack LaFontaine just completed his first regular season with the Penticton Vees of the British Columbia Hockey League with a 30-10-2-1 record and an impressive set of stats. The Mississauga, ON, native ranked second among BCHL goalies in wins (30), GAA (2.19) and save percentage (0.923), and was named the BCHL's Top Goaltender for the 2018-19 season.

Tweet from @PentictonVees: NEWS: Jack LaFontaine (@jack_lafontaine) has been named the BCHL's Top Goaltender for the 2018-19 season.Details: https://t.co/ncwVtog2XT📸: Jack Murray pic.twitter.com/8KgJVtBDPA

He and his goalie partner Derek Krall won the Wally Forslund Trophy for lowest combined GAA for the season.

Tweet from @PentictonVees: NEWS: Jack LaFontaine (@jack_lafontaine) and Derek Krall (@DerekKrall) have won the Wally Forslund Trophy for lowest combined BCHL goals-against average at 2.33.Details: https://t.co/XqvpatigaX📸: Jack Murray pic.twitter.com/NOanOSFm57

And finally, he was voted a First-Team BCHL All Star.

Tweet from @PentictonVees: NEWS: James Miller and Jack LaFontaine (@jack_lafontaine) have been voted First-Team BCHL All Stars by the league's broadcasters.Details: https://t.co/AiEO1MxyYC📸: Jack Murray pic.twitter.com/5XdxHvHdN1

For good reason, too.

Tweet from @PentictonVees: From last night, the best of @jack_lafontaine's 15 first-period saves to keep the game scoreless through 20 minutes pic.twitter.com/OoU2jdtPfx

LaFontaine and the Vees won the Interior Division pennant for the eighth straight year and now hit the postseason hunt for the Fred Page Cup.

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