Evaluating goaltenders in general is very difficult. Without having played a few seasons, you really don't get a sense of what they can consistently bring to the table. A single hot or cold season can do a lot to change perceptions, adjust salaries, and have an serious effect on the success of the team. On top of that, the position is subject to an understandable success bias. Goalies who perform stick around, while those who don't usually ride the bench or are sent to the minors. Throw in the fact that the position has less availability than skaters on most teams, and so there's a lot of goaltenders
If you think that's difficult, then how about a prospect goaltender? How does one project what a netminder will become when they even haven't turned 21 yet, much less face NHL/AHL/professional competition? How can we say it's a reasonable assessment? What does one even look for? I can't answer all of these questions, but the fact that I'm asking them at all makes me hesitant to even draft a goaltender. Hopefully, the various scouting services and team scouts do have their own methods (which may explain why Scott Wedgewood, a CSS-ranked 19th among North American goaltenders, was picked in the third round by New Jersey last season).
It is with this hesitation that you're not going to see too many prospect profiles of goaltenders. However, today's subject is quite interesting. Goaltender Magnus Hellberg has come out of nowhere to be one of the better prospects in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. Let's learn as to why after the jump.
Who is Magnus Hellberg?
As far as I know from the name itself, he's not a villian's right hand man, a pro wrestler, or some kind of third-rate Swedish death metal artist. He is a goaltender and his profile at Eliteprospects almost sums up the basics on what you need to know about him.
First, he's big. He stands officially at 6'5" and 185 pounds. He may have to fill out that frame, but what a frame it is. I'm not sure how crucial it is to be so large, but I can't imagine it would be that much of a hindrance provided he's quick.
Second, his stats from the last two seasons are fantastic. In 2009-10, he put up a fantastic save percenage of 92.9% with the Almtuna junior team in the J20 SuperElit. As the profile notes, he had the best save percentage and goals against average in the junior league. In 2010-11, he was brought up to the next level with Almtuna's senior team in the Allsvenskan (Sweden's second best league) and took it a step further: 31 games and a 93.6% save percentage. Only Johan Fransson had a higher save percentage (94.1%!) in the league last season. His performances with Almtuna IS got the attention of several Elitserien (SEL) clubs. On April 4, 2011, he signed a two-year deal with the Frölunda Indians. (Here's the Google translated article of the announcement).
Third, he was born on April 4, 1991. That's right, he recently turned 20. So he didn't get drafted after his sparkling season with the Almtuna juniors or the season prior. This isn't a terrible fact; it could be seen as a positive. He has had some more experience and time to develop than other prospects, which is always the big question mark surrounding a goaltending prospect. Also, this makes him eligible to play in the AHL right away, on top of his professional status. Though, his recent signing with Frölunda may throw a wrench into any NHL team's plans to bring him in right away. That depends on the structure of his contract.
Fourth, there's this short blurb in the Eliteprospects profile, which Google-translates to:
A very tall goalkeeper who work to cut down the angle of the shooter and place well in goal. No sweeping movements. Reads the game well.
Not bad for a big man. Not bad at all.
The only other tidbit outside of Eliteprospects' profile is that Central Scouting Services didn't have him ranked at the midterm of this season. He has since been rated at #2 among European goaltenders in the final CSS rankings. Clearly, a guy who has caught everyone's attention.
What Others Have Said About Magnus Hellberg
Let's start with what the Frölunda coaches have said about Hellberg when his signing was announced. Here's what head coach Kent Johansson and goaltending coach Michael Andreasson have said about Hellberg. At least, here's the Google-translation of what they have said.
Kent Johansson, coach Frölunda HC:
-Hellberg will be one of our goalies. He is young and still have a huge talent, well schooled in the right physical attributes.
Michael "MICC" Andrew, a goalkeeper coach Frölunda HC:
-Magnus is adept at reading the game, is safe location has a good range and works very economically.
Not much in the way of details; but there's plenty to learn from this. They obviously like his size and their goalie coach likes his awareness, positioning, and work ethic. Curiously, they still regard him as a young goaltender. Namely because he is. While he may be older than most of the prospects drafted in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, 20 is still a very young age at his position.
How does he stack up against his fellow goaltending prospects? That's a bit murky. The Goalie Guild has a top 100 of all prospect goalies, which appears to be all non-NHL goalies. The 2011 draft eligible goalies are near the bottom, which makes sense since most of the list are AHL netminders. Per their latest list (warning: it takes some time to load) Hellberg is ranked ahead of John Gibson (#1 NA goalie, #92), Christopher Gibson (#2 NA goalie, #90), and even Samu Perhonen (#1 European goalie, #97) at 88th. I'm not sure what goes into their rankings; nor do I know how valid they are. But it's someone's opinion that they think Hellberg is superior to other draft-eligible netminders.
Over at The Future of Puck, Eldon MacDonald hasn't gotten to Hellberg on his list of Top 120 profiles yet. However, he's mentioned his ranking of Hellberg relative to other goalies in other profiles. In his 62nd ranked prospect Christopher Gibson, he notes the following:
This will not likely affect Christopher that much as his competition is not that stiff but it probably means he will be competing with Samu Perhonen (who also had a lack luster end of the season at the U18’s) for third goalie chosen overall after Magnus Hellberg and John Gibson rather than with the other two for number one.
Since MacDonald hasn't done a profile yet on John Gibson or Hellberg yet and he's up to his 51st prospect, we can logically conclude that he thinks both are in his top 50 - which is indicative of the rise of Hellberg's stock.
Lastly, let's go to the Man Who Knows Many Prospects, Kirk Luedeke of Bruins 2011 Draft Watch. He mentioned Hellberg a few times earlier this year, noting him as a rising prospect in the draft. In this overview of the European goaltenders for this draft, he had this to say about the second-ranked Hellberg:
2. Magnus Hellberg, G Almtuna (SWE-2)- Huge late-bloomer will likely be the top-three or four goalies off the board in June because he's older and more advanced in his development. Teams may be hoping to grab the Swede and put him immediately into the AHL with potential for him to see NHL action sooner rather than later. Takes up so much of the net, but is also extremely agile and recovers well. Plays with some laudable focus and concentration and that is borne out in his numbers, which are terrific. The April 1991 birthdate is 6-5, 200 pounds and posted an insane .935 save percentage and 2.04 GAA in 31 games for the Allsvenskan club Almtuna. Don't be surprised to see him go off the board first or even second after Gibson. This is the kind of player that could easily be rated the top goaltender on multiple teams' boards. Central didn't even have him on their mid-term rankings. That's how quickly Hellberg's star has risen this season.
Given this report, it's not just about size with Hellberg; but he's quite quick and able to react quickly to get his positioning back in net. That's important for his game, and is likely a another reason why scouts have opened up their eyes to what he's done with Almtuna IS last season.
An Opinion of Sorts
Yep, finding video of Almtuna that clearly showed Hellberg doing what he does best has proven fruitless so far (if you've found something, then let me know in the comments!), so I'm jumping to this section. When Tom did his Rounds 3-7 Mock Draft for the Devils, he picked Hellberg in the fourth round. Based on the above section, I doubt he'll even be available in the third round. He's large, agile, and followed up great numbers in the Swedish junior league with greater numbers in the Allsvenskan against men. Throw in the fact that he can go right to the AHL (Frölunda contract aside), and this makes him very desirable for a team that could use a goaltending prospect. Hellberg's not an unknown anymore and wherever John Gibson goes, he could be not far behind. Since the Devils don't even have a second round pick, whether the Devils want him may be moot.
I will say that even if the Devils did have a second round pick or Hellberg is available at 75th overall, then I wouldn't want the New Jersey Devils to draft him. It doesn't have so much to do with Hellberg as much as it does with the concept of drafting a goaltender in the first place - what I discussed prior to the jump. While Hellberg has the edge of being further along in his development than other prospects; he's still a wild card as to what he'll be someday.
Plus, there's the reality that the Devils have already signed a goalie who will likely enter the AHL next season in Keith Kinkaid along with Scott Wedgewood and Maxime Clermont - both of whom will be exiting juniors not long from now. Should the Devils draft Hellberg, where does he go? Back to Frölunda until a spot opens up? Throw him into the AHL and have Albany deal with two young goalies (and then what is done with Jeff Frazee?)? It's not an easy decision and it has to be considered before picking the guy.
Of course, it could be completely moot if he is selected before New Jersey even has the opportunity. Which is entirely possible in this draft.
Now that you've read all of this information on Hellberg, I want to know what you think of him as a prospect. Are you excited about the combination of size and quickness he possesses; or does it make you think that he'll be picked well before New Jersey gets a chance to do it? In fact, would you want the Devils to draft him? Or any goaltender at all later this month? Please leave your answers and other thoughts on Hellberg in the comments. Of course, if you have found more information or seen him perform, then please also share it in the comments so we can all learn even more. Thanks for reading.