Carolina Hurricanes: Mrazek, and Reimer, and Ned; Oh, My!

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 20: Goalie Petr Mrazek #34 of the Carolina Hurricanes looks on after allowing a goal against the Washington Capitals in the second period in Game Five of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2019 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Capital One Arena on April 20, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 20: Goalie Petr Mrazek #34 of the Carolina Hurricanes looks on after allowing a goal against the Washington Capitals in the second period in Game Five of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2019 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Capital One Arena on April 20, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) /
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The Carolina Hurricanes, for the first time in a very long time, have quite a few options to rely on in the crease.

Petr Mrazek, James Reimer, Alex Nedeljkovic, Anton Forsberg, Jeremy Helvig, Callum Booth, and Pyotr Kochetkov. These seven goaltenders, as of right now, comprise the depth in the crease within the Carolina Hurricanes organization for the 2019-20 season.

Comparing this to past rosters, such as the Cam Ward era that saw backups like Anton Khudobin, Dan Ellis, and Eddie Lack come and go, the Hurricanes finally have various potentially solid options in case the ‘man in front’ begins to falter. While this is a very good problem to have, it raises many questions, not all of which have immediate answers.

The first, and most important question is, ‘Who goes where?’. At first, this question seems like an easy one. Mrazek gets the starting job, right? Maybe. Reimer or Ned will get the backup spot, right? Also a huge maybe. I believe this question will be answered after training camp, but I am of the opinion that Mrazek will start the season, and Reimer will back him up.

I know, I know. Nedeljkovic is ready for the NHL, right? Yes, he absolutely is. While I’d hate for Ned to wait another year in Charlotte to snag his chance at a full-time NHL spot, his recently-signed contract (2-way in 19-20, 1-way in 20-21) is primed for exactly this scenario. Nedeljkovic is about as NHL-ready as a goaltender can get, but I have a feeling he’ll start one last season with the Checkers, unless Reimer or Mrazek drop the ball. Or puck. Whichever you prefer.

As far as Reimer is concerned, last year was a dud for him (13-12-5, .900 SV%, 3.09 GAA in 36 games played). This can be explained, for the most part, by looking at the dismal defense that the Florida Panthers stacked in front of him. Prior to the 2018-19 season, Reimer has been incredibly solid as a backup. His worst years were long behind him, and he was playing in his prime. If he can rebound, he’ll easily snag the backup spot. If not, Ned will rise up and take his spot.

Anton Forsberg is the newest addition to the Carolina Hurricanes. He was acquired along with defenseman Gustav Forsling in a trade on June 24th that saw fan-favorite defenseman Calvin de Haan and forward prospect Aleksi Saarela sent to the Chicago Blackhawks. Forsberg had a slightly better stats season last year than Reimer; 10-16-4, .908 SV%, 2.97 GAA in 35 games played. I fully expect Forsberg to back Nedeljkovic up in Charlotte to start the 2019-20 season.

Jeremy Helvig and Callum Booth are both phenomenal prospects to have. Both goaltenders played in the ECHL last season, and both of them made at least one appearance on the Charlotte Checkers’ roster during the same timeframe. I fully expect both to finish up one final year in the ECHL before moving up to the AHL in the 2020-21 season. Hopefully they’ll draw into the Swamp Rabbits’ lineup, but I imagine they’ll remain with the Florida Everblades for one more season.

Last, but not least, Pyotr Kochetkov. Kochetkov was selected 35th overall in the 2nd Round of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft by the Carolina Hurricanes. Kochetkov is an absolute monster in net; his save percentage has yet to fall below .911 in the various Russian leagues he’s played in. Kochetkov will remain in Russia for another year or so with SKA St. Petersburg, but could easily crack the Hurricanes’ roster his first year in the NHL in either 2020-21 or 2021-22.

Long story short, here’s the breakdown: Mrazek as the Hurricanes’ Starter. Reimer as the Hurricanes’ Backup. Nedeljkovic as the Checkers’ Starter. Anton Forsberg as the Checkers’ Backup. Jeremy Helvig as the Everblades’ Starter. Callum Booth as the Everblades’ Backup. Pyotr Kochetkov as the SKA St. Petersburg Starter in the KHL. Reimer and Ned are interchangeable per the results of training camp, but otherwise, this is it Caniacs.

If you’d have told me, even a year ago, that the Carolina Hurricanes would have an ‘almost’ logjam in the goaltender position, I’d have laughed in your face. For the first time in what feels like decades, the Hurricanes have several solid options in goal. It would take three very solid goaltenders faltering in order to get the Hurricanes back to the instability in front of the net that we experienced even two very short years ago.

Looks like Waddell and Dundon are getting the last laugh this time.

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Question for CC Readers: In your opinion, which goaltender ends up where?