Ed. Note: From August 21st through September 16th, we will be providing previews for each player for the 2013-14 season. In no specific order, today we continue with Magnus Hellberg…
|Magnus Hellberg’s last 3 seasons|
2012-13 in review:
Last season was Magnus Hellberg’s first in North America – and it could not have gone any better.
Hellberg appeared in 39 games for Milwaukee and drew rave reviews, posting a 22-13-0 record, 2.14 GAA and .924 save percentage. After experiencing some ups and downs over the first few months (which included a temporary demotion to ECHL Cincinnati), the 2011 second-round draft pick quickly became one the AHL’s best goalies and eventually stole Jeremy Smith’s starting job in Milwaukee.
From Jan. 12 through the end of the regular season, Hellberg went 18-9-0 with a 1.74 GAA and .936 save percentage. All six of his shutouts came in the second half. He was dynamite in the month of February – 6-1-0, 1.36 GAA, .950 SV% – earning AHL Goaltender of the Month honors. He was also stellar in the playoffs, posting a 1.69 GAA and .934 save percentage despite Milwaukee losing in the first round.
Burning question for 2013-14: Will Hellberg play his way into backup role?
Mike Morreale of NHL.com tweeted earlier this week that Predators head coach Barry Trotz said Carter Hutton will “no doubt” be Pekka Rinne’s backup to open the season, and that Hellberg is “getting there.” But even if Hellberg isn’t the backup come opening night, there remains the possibility that he could force his way to Nashville sometime this season.
What will Hellberg have to do to wrestle that spot from Hutton? Well, if Hutton shines as Rinne’s backup then it may not matter how Hellberg performs in Milwaukee. Hutton appears to be the Predators’ guy, so he controls his own destiny at this point. And at 22 years old, it is probably best if Hellberg gains another full season of AHL experience. On the other side of the token, though, Hellberg will be ready to pounce on any opportunity if Hutton falters.
Hellberg is considered Rinne’s future backup. If Hellberg continues to play like he did in the second half last season, the future may come sooner rather than later.
“You have to play games to develop and I don’t mind going back to Milwaukee,” Hellberg said recently. “I’m going to try to keep building on (last year’s second half) and try to be the leading goaltender wherever I play.”