As the Ottawa Senators began training camp last month, there truly weren’t many NHL jobs up for grabs, and certainly not in goal. The Senators were definitely set with Anton Forsberg and Cam Talbot providing a solid one-two punch.
So who is Magnus Hellberg and how did he enter this picture?
It was definitely a pretty picture Monday night, as the Sens defeated the piping hot Dallas Stars 4-2. Hellberg was the conquering hero and the game’s first star. As his name was announced, the 6-foot-6 Swede skated out to the sounds of roaring applause and the old Trooper song “Raise a Little Hell” (also the Senators’ goal song for many years).
— Ottawa Senators (@Senators) October 25, 2022
Hellberg’s arrival in Ottawa last month wasn’t nearly as loud.
When Talbot was hurt in the first game of preseason, the Sens claimed Hellberg off waivers from Seattle. The story was Talbot’s injury, not this new guy they got off waivers. Hellberg would just act as a backup to Forsberg, who was expected to start almost every game until Talbot returns sometime in the next 2 or 3 weeks.
But then on Monday, Forsberg suffered an undisclosed injury, forcing Hellberg into action. Yes, the Senators were just 5 games into their new season and both their goalies were already hurt. They had to go with this Hellberg guy, who had played just 5 career NHL games.
But Hellberg isn’t some inexperienced kid. He was a second round NHL draft pick in 2011 and spent five years bouncing around in the minor leagues. First, he was with the Predators’ organization and then the Rangers, blocked behind stalwarts like Pekka Rinne in Nashville and then Henrik Lundqvist in New York.
So Hellberg finally left for the KHL and spent the past five years absolutely crushing it in that league. Three of those years were spent with St. Petersburg, where he was a teammate of Artem Zub.
Apparently, another of Pierre Dorion’s strengths is casually plucking big, talented, veteran Swedish goaltenders off the waiver wire whenever he happens to needs one.
In March of last year, Ottawa’s goal belonged to Matt Murray and Marcus Hogberg. They both got hurt so GM Pierre Dorion claimed Forsberg from the Jets. With minor leaguer Joey Daccord holding down the fort, the claim was seen as a band-aid move at the time. Since then, Forsberg signed a three-year deal with the Sens, while Murray, Hogberg and Daccord are no longer with the organization.
With the victory, Hellberg now holds the distinction of being the first NHL goalie ever to get his first three career wins with 3 different teams.
What a remarkable ride it's been for Magnus Hellberg. 👏
He becomes the first goaltender in NHL history to earn his first three career wins with three different clubs (Oct. 24 w/ OTT, April 29 w/ DET & April 9, 2017 w/ NYR). pic.twitter.com/PP6g45P3du
— NHL (@NHL) October 25, 2022
Like Forsberg before him, Hellberg is hoping he may have finally found an NHL home here.
“Obviously, every road is different,” Hellberg told TSN after the game. “But I’m feeling I’m playing the best hockey of my career right now. Obviously, this is the spot I want to play.”
While Hellberg is suddenly a very intriguing goaltending option, opportunity isn’t knocking quite as loudly here as he’d like.
Unlike Murray and Hogberg in the past, Ottawa’s current goaltending incumbents have done nothing to lose the net and both are expected back soon. Forsberg could be ready for Thursday night and Talbot should be good to go within a couple of weeks.
Before long, Hellberg will quite likely find himself back on waivers (with plenty of NHL interest). But hey, who knows?
It’s rather fitting that Talbot’s new mask this season is a tribute to the TV show “Stranger Things.” Because when it comes to Ottawa’s goaltending situation the past couple years, stranger things have definitely happened.
By Steve Warne