Analyzing the Carolina Hurricanes' Performance at 2014 Prospects Tournament

Mark Jones@@CanesReportSenior Analyst ISeptember 18, 2014

Alex Nedeljkovic starred in goal as the Hurricanes won two of four games at the tournament.
Alex Nedeljkovic starred in goal as the Hurricanes won two of four games at the tournament.Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images

Brock McGinn continued his dizzying career rise, Daniel Altshuller crumbled yet again under the spotlight, Victor Rask jumped into NHL roster spot contention and the Carolina Hurricanes finished fourth out of eight teams in the 2014 NHL Prospects Tournament.

The annual Traverse City, Michigan-hosted tournament concluded Tuesday night as the Columbus Blue Jackets' team defeated the Dallas Stars' squad to take the title. The 'Canes lost control of a late two-goal lead and fell to the Detroit Red Wings in overtime of the third-place game.

Twenty-three players—including 17 official prospects and six tournament invitees—participated under the watchful eyes of general manager Ron Francis and head coach Bill Peters. Carolina finished 1-3 last year and improved to 2-2 this autumn.

Hurricanes Results at 2014 Prospects Tournament
Friday, Sept. 12Hurricanes 6, Sabres 1Di Giuseppe (2), McGinn, Aleardi, Rask, Pedersen
Saturday, Sept. 13Stars 4, Hurricanes 2Tolchinsky, Rask
Monday, Sept. 15Hurricanes 3, Rangers 2 (OT)Rask (2), McGinn
Tuesday, Sept. 16Red Wings 5, Hurricanes 4 (OT)Robertson, Di Giuseppe, Tolchinsky, Brown
hurricanes.nhl.com, pointstreak.com

Rask's four goals tied him with two others for the highest total of the tournament. 2014 second-round draft pick Alex Nedeljkovic recorded both wins, while Altshuller (a 2012 third-round selection) suffered both losses.

What takeaways can be drawn from the results? Analyses of several noteworthy developments lie below.

Nedeljkovic Out-Shines Altshuller

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Nedeljkovic with the Plymouth Whalers in 2013-14.
Nedeljkovic with the Plymouth Whalers in 2013-14.Dennis Pajot/Getty Images

The Hurricanes' two primary goaltending prospects both dominated the OHL in 2013-14. Altshuller posted a 31-13-3 record, 2.56 GAA (fourth in the OHL) and .917 save percentage (fifth); Nedeljkovic recorded a mediocre 26-27-7 record but ranked second in the league with a .925 save percentage.

The latter missed his first opportunity to compete directly opposite the former when he missed July's prospect development camp with a broken thumb, but he certainly took advantage of this past weekend's chance.

The 6'0" Ohio native stopped 50 of 53 shots (a .943 save percentage) in the Hurricanes' two victories, while Altshuller stopped only 50 of 58 (.862) in the two defeats.

The poor pair of outings continues an alarming trend for Altshuller, who hasn't yet lived up to his junior-league pedigree against top-caliber competition: The 6'4" netminder was also underwhelming in last year's tournament (recording an .877 save percentage), as well as at prospect development camp.

Both goalies will join the 'Canes at NHL training camp beginning Friday, per the 51-man roster released on Tuesday, and should see some action in the seven-game preseason schedule. A more conclusive comparison of the two should emerge in the weeks ahead.

Defensive Depth Improving

Seventh overall pick Haydn Fleury headlines a new generation of Hurricanes defensive prospects.
Seventh overall pick Haydn Fleury headlines a new generation of Hurricanes defensive prospects.Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Last year's tournament sent warning alarms echoing throughout the organization about the state of the club's defensemen of the future—they were awful. The 'Canes allowed a whopping 25 goals against in four games (6.25 per game).

The organization thoroughly responded to the warning. Dennis Robertson was added to the system in January's Gleason-Liles trade, and Trevor Carrick exploded into relevance with a 51-point OHL campaign. Francis then spent the team's first-round pick in June on Haydn Fleury, the fourth-round pick on Josh Wesley and the seventh-round pick on Kyle Jenkins, all of whom played in Traverse City. 

As a result, the aforementioned GAA was cut by more than half this year. Fleury tallied three assists and played first-pairing minutes throughout the tiring four-games-in-five-days stretch; Robertson stood out as "quite the find" to team website reporter Michael Smith.

Carolina's newfound focus on restrengthening its cast of young defensemen seems to be working effectively.

NHL Roster Spot Contenders Bolster Resumes

Rask skating for Sweden in the 2012 World Junior Championships.
Rask skating for Sweden in the 2012 World Junior Championships.Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images

Rask, the No. 42 overall selection in the 2011 draft, was desperately in need of a career jumpstarter after a disappointing 16-goal, 39-point AHL rookie season.

He may have found it this weekend. The 6'2" center racked up nine points (according to the Hurricanes' website), including the overtime game-winner against the Rangers. He'll be hard-pressed to surpass either Riley Nash or Jay McClement for a third- or fourth-line center role at the NHL level this coming season, but Rask's career may be back on track at last.

McGinn doesn't capable of making any missteps lately, and his five-point performance in a mere three appearances certainly didn't represent a change in that pattern.

The Hurricanes' best forward prospect at the moment, despite entering training camp as merely a dark horse for a roster spot, could easily be playing 18-plus minutes per game in the NHL in only another month or two.

Sergey Tolchinsky, Phil Di Giuseppe and Patrick Brown are all likely bound for the AHL in 2014-15, yet all three made their presences felt this weekend nonetheless. Tolchinsky scored twice and added three assists, Di Giuseppe trailed only Rask with three goals and Brown built upon a breakout development camp with two points of his own.

All unsourced statistics courtesy of Pointstreak.com.

Mark Jones has been a Carolina Hurricanes Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report since 2009. Visit his profile to read more, or follow him on Twitter.

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