(Photo credit to Scott Paulus)
Remember that day where Fox 6 decided to take a look into the Admirals camp – specifically one Magnus Hellberg? That went well as far as timing goes. They were there to take a look at a “day in the life of a goalie” centering in on Hellberg. Next thing you know – breaking news.
Magnus’ take on the day he was called up? A laugh.
“It was pretty funny,” smiled Admiral goaltender Magnus Hellberg. “Fox 6 news was following me through practice and I was mic’d through the morning. After the practice Stan [Drulia] and Dean [Evason] told me to come to the office. I thought I was going to get some [“crap”] from last game or something. I didn’t know and I asked them, should I remove the microphone? They said, no keep it on, and they just told me that I am getting the call up.”
The evolution of Hellberg’s game since joining the Admirals has been rather impressive. While winning four games from his first six games in net last season, it was apparent the adjustment to the North American game (smaller rinks and increased speeds) was difficult out of the gate for him. On the 2012 side of the calender he had allowed 3.43 goals per game with a 0.892 SV%. During that time he was sent to Cincinnati Cyclones as a means to get him more time between the times. He was called back up to Milwaukee after a short stay in Cinci, but then went through a string of six-straight losses between the pipes for the Ads.
Then it all started to click.
In the month of February Hellberg was absolutely dominant. He won six games with a 1.36 GAA, a stellar 0.950 SV%, and two shutouts. For his efforts in he was awarded the CCM/AHL Goaltender of the Month for February. His effort in net continued on culminating with crucial back-to-back shutouts to end the season and see the Ads make the playoffs for an eleventh consecutive season.
While last season’s playoff run ended in the opening round, it was clear that yet another incredible goalie was being crafted in Milwaukee. Hellberg went to the Nashville Predators pre-season camp only to pick up an injury on day one. In what might have been a disappointment, he continued his efforts to earn his first career NHL call up. An injury to Pekka Rinne and a decent enough start through three games meant Hellberg would get that chance.
“It’s a dream you have since you’re a kid,” said Hellberg of his call up. “That’s why you play here to eventually go and play in Nashville.”
Hellberg spent nearly a week and a half in the NHL. The majority of his stay consisted of practicing with the Predators and sitting on the bench as Carter Hutton started ahead of him. He did make his NHL debut in a relief appearance for Hutton as the St. Louis Blues thumped the Preds, 6-1. Hellberg’s twelve minute NHL cameo saw him stop 3-4 shots on net as he saw off the game to the final horn. While the experience on ice was limited his experience off the ice was very rewarding.
“It was nice to meet all the guys up there. They welcomed me pretty good,” said Hellberg of his stint with Nashville. “Just to see how it is up there, the NHL lifestyle. Now I know what I can come back to. What I am chasing.”
Since returning from Nashville, he has had to weather the storm of 122 shots in four games while shaking loose the cobwebs of not starting on a regular basis. In particular, the past two games have seen a return of form for Hellberg. In the shootout loss in San Antonio, he stopped 43-45 shots. Last night in the victory over Grand Rapids, he stopped 28-29 shots. As far as I could tell, he didn’t look flustered by the Griffins last night either. He allowed a few rebounds but appeared to have his vision and reflexes honed in all night. The lone goal scored by the Griffins featured lots of net front traffic in on Hellberg with a shot just squeaking past his arm on the near post. With some uncertainty taking place in Rinne’s absence from the Predators net, the competition between goalies in the organization to earn that cage is fierce. Hellberg’s take on the situation is as poised as he so often is.
“Hutton is a great goalie, [Mazanec] is a great goalie as well,” said Hellberg. “It’s competition all the time, but it’s a process. My focus is 100% here [in Milwaukee] and to try to help this team win games. We’ll see what happens in the future. I can’t go think about what happens up [in Nashville]. If I get a call up, I want to try an contribute to the team up there.”
Thoughts on Magnus Hellberg? How has he progressed as a goalie since joining the Admirals? Do you expect him back in Nashville again at some point this season? Long term, where do you see him playing a few years down the road?