Alex Nedeljkovic finding his groove late in the season for the Red Wings

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports /

Detroit Red Wings backup goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic is finally finding his groove late in the 2022-23 season after what’s been mostly a year to forget.

Nedeljkovic, 27, has regressed significantly this season, just a year removed from being the organizations’ top goaltending option. Two summer’s ago, general manager Steve Yzerman and the Detroit Red Wings sent a third-round pick to the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for Nedeljkovic. The acrobatic netminder had been coming off a stellar season with the Hurricanes in a rotational role posting an eye-popping 0.932 save percentage and 1.90 goals against average while making 23 starts.

Yzerman saw an opportunity to land a young, talented netminder that would be considered an upgrade to Jonathan Bernier and struck. Last season as the primary starter, Nedeljkovic posted a 20-25-9 record splitting time with Thomas Greiss. Although his save percentage dipped to 0.901 and his goals against average increased to 3.31, there wasn’t much concern surrounding Nedeljkovic’s play. The Detroit Red Wings were a lousy team, and Nedeljkovic was often the best player wearing a winged wheel jersey despite his very average numbers.

Alex Nedeljkovic has rebounded nicely of late for the Red Wings.

Things went south for the limber netminder in 2022-23. The Detroit Red Wings had to of thought they were sitting pretty with the addition of Ville Husso, who Yzerman secured this past summer for a third-round selection from the St. Louis Blues mirroring the deal for Nedeljkovic the year prior. Husso separated himself from the competition and quickly became the clear number-one goaltender, but Nedeljkovic’s stock promptly plummeted.

Nedeljkovic posted a sub-par 0.880 save percentage going 2-4-2 record in eight starts and nine total appearances to begin the season. This lack of stability in goal prompted Yzerman to claim Magnus Hellberg off waivers from the Seattle Kraken to fill the backup role. After adding Hellberg, the Detroit Red Wings unprecedentedly carried three netminders on their active roster before eventually placing Nedeljkovic on waivers.

The 27-year-old cleared waivers and was sent to Grand Rapids, where he could start the majority of the games for the Griffins and work on regaining his confidence. With the Griffins, he made 26 appearances, posting a 13-9-3 record while maintaining a 0.912 save percentage and a 2.71 goals-against average.

Since returning to the Red Wings, Nedeljkovic is performing much better. He’s made four appearances in the month of March for the Red Wings, his first NHL action since early December, and has looked like the goaltender Detroit saw last season. Over those four appearances (three starts), he’s posted a rock solid 0.912 save percentage guiding the Red Wings to a 2-2 record.

Most recently, Nedeljkovic made 31 stops in a victory over his former team, the Hurricanes. The Red Wings won the game in the dying seconds’ thanks to a game-winner from Jake Walman, who ripped home a point shot through traffic that beat Frederik Andersen to the glove side. A superb pass from Andrew Copp set up the goal.

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The Detroit Red Wings must address their backup goaltending situation this offseason, with Hellberg and Nedeljkovic set to become unrestricted free agents. If Yzerman elects to stay within rather than the open market, as of now, Nedeljkovic has a leg up on Hellberg but will face a big test on Sunday night in Toronto.