Even Alex Nedeljkovic wasn’t surprised the Carolina Hurricanes drafted him. Why should have been? The goalie became the 17th player the Carolina Hurricanes have drafted from the Plymouth Whalers in the past 21 years when the Hurricanes took him with the 37th overall pick Saturday.
“A couple guys were teasing me that if I was there, there was no way they were going to pass on me,” Nedeljkovic said.
In the fourth round, the Hurricanes added defenseman Josh Wesley, son of Carolina legend Glen, to run the total to 18. Of the previous 16, only Brett Bellemore has played a full season in the NHL. (Chad LaRose was signed as an undrafted free agent out of Plymouth.)
For years, the connection between the teams -- both owned by Peter Karmanos -- seemed to hamper the Hurricanes in the draft. The first 11 picks played a combined total of 45 NHL games. Those were mostly late-round picks, but there was a second-rounder (Tomas Kurka) and third (Kevin Holdridge) and a few fourths in there too.
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Bellemore broke the skid last season, and there’s still hope for Chris Terry and Michal Jordan. That may bode well for Nedeljkovic, as should the arrival of ex-Plymouth coach/general manager Mike Vellucci in the Carolina front office. Presumably, the Hurricanes should know whether Nedeljkovic is worth a second-round pick with Vellucci sitting at the draft table.
As for Wesley, it was all but given the Hurricanes would take him with one of their back-to-back picks in the fourth round. It ended up being the first of the two, 96th overall. Wesley became the first North Carolina-trained hockey player to be drafted by an NHL team.