Today our continuing series on Nashville Predators prospects focuses on G Magnus Hellberg. Magnus Hellberg was picked by the Nashville Predators in the 2nd round (38th overall) of the 2011 draft. The 6’5” goalie from Uppsala, Sweden, seemed custom-made for the Predators, whose strategy in recent years has been to draft tall netminders from Scandinavia. Unlike most of the others, he was the first goalie picked in that year’s draft. (Pekka Rinne was picked in the 8th round back in 2004.)
The young Swede played 44 games of youth hockey with Arlanda IS before signing with Almtuna. After playing for Almtuna’s under-20 team in 2009-10 and posting stellar numbers (1.97 GAA, .929 SV% in 22 games) he stepped up to play for the big club in the Allsvenskan, Sweden’s second-tier pro league. Hellberg’s only season in the Allsvenskan was a success. He played 31 games for Almtuna in 2010-11, registering a 2.04 GAA and .936 SV% with 5 shutouts in 31 games.
After being drafted by Nashville, he stepped up another level for his final season in Europe. During the 2011-12 campaign he played 17 games as the backup goalie for Frölunda in the Elitserien, Sweden’s top league, posting a 2.48 GAA and .908 SV% with 2 shutouts.
Magnus Hellberg signed a three-year entry level contract with Nashville this summer. His North American pro hockey career began this season playing for the Milwaukee Admirals. He’s nominally the backup to Ads starter Jeremy Smith, but the two have been in competition with each other for starts. Nashville assistant GM Paul Fenton recently declared himself pleased with how that competition has spurred both players to raise their game.
Hellberg struggled in the early going this season in Milwaukee. Despite posting a 4-0-0 record in his first two months with the Ads, his 3.82 GAA and .862 SV% left a lot to be desired. A weekend assignment to the ECHL’s Cincinnati Cyclones at the end of November gave him two games against lower competition to work out some kinks in his game. Since coming back and having Preds goalie coach Mitch Korn on hand to work with him, the lanky Swede has brought his GAA down to 2.38 and SV% up to .928 for the month of December. He’s still learning to play on the NHL-sized rink, though, which might account for mistakes like this:
There’s a long road ahead for Hellberg to make it to the NHL, but he’s certainly in good hands in Milwaukee. Admirals head coach Dean Evason recently told the Tennessean’s Josh Cooper that he’s pleased with the progress Hellberg is making under the tutelage of Korn and Ads goalie coach Ben Vanderklok. “(They) have done terrific work with him, not only physically with skills and stuff, but as you know, more importantly especially in goaltending, mentally they’ve done a real good job,” said Evason. “He’s a real calm kid to start with and he plays like that. Both of those guys have done a good job and having both of them around has been terrific.”