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Fleury and Nedeljkovic earning praise for Carolina

by Mike G. Morreale

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Haydn Fleury and goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic certainly have a lot working in their favor based on their performance at the Traverse City Prospect Tournament at Centre Ice Arena this week.

Both players, selected over the first two rounds of the 2014 NHL Draft, haven't appeared out of place, are getting a lot of exposure and are coming up big in pressure situations. Fleury, who was the second defenseman chosen in the first round (No. 7) last June, has three assists, all on the power play, and has taken six shots.

"My [realistic] goal is to make the big club when I'm 19," Fleury said. "I've got one more year of junior [with the Red Deer Rebels], but at the same time I'm going to main camp with the thought I'm going to make it tough for them to send me back. Realistically I think I need that one more year of junior to get stronger and more mature, and next year maybe I can step in and start making contributions."

Carolina prospect coach Jeff Daniels, also coach and general manager of the team's American Hockey League affiliate in Charlotte, feels Fleury is very poised and efficient.

"He skates and sees the ice well and for a young guy shows a lot of patience with the puck," Daniels said. "I think one reason for that is the fact he's played in a lot of big international tournaments. He's also a player who will do whatever is asked, whether it's power play, penalty kill or playing against top lines. He can skate the puck out of the zone and make that great first pass; he shows all those things you look for in a defenseman."

Nedeljkovic, chosen in the second round (No. 37), is unbeaten in two games at the tournament. He has a 1.50 goals-against average and a .943 save percentage, including a 34-save performance in a 6-1 win against the Buffalo Sabres and a 16-save effort in a 3-2 overtime victory against the New York Rangers. Nedeljkovic was forced to skip Carolina's development camp in July and USA Hockey's national team development camp in August after sustaining a broken thumb on his right hand. He is making up for lost time in Traverse City.

"Just getting the chance to put on the sweater for first time is amazing and felt incredible," Nedeljkovic said of the Hurricanes jersey. "I'm starting to take the next step in my career and hopefully it keeps getting better and going well for me."

Daniels, who will lead his team against the Detroit Red Wings prospects in the third-place game on Tuesday, has been impressed with Nedeljkovic's demeanor in net. Not only is he making the saves, but he's playing the puck and making proper reads behind his own net to provide added support for his defensemen.

"[Nedeljkovic] has looked calm, there's not a lot of extra movement in his game and that's good," Daniels said. "As a coach you want to see him stop the ones he supposed to and that's what he's doing."


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