A rough start in his first season with the Milwaukee Admirals turned great during playoff time. Magnus Hellberg was a completely different goaltender from the start of the season to the ending. The transition from playing on an international ice surface the year before in the Elitserien to the North American sized rink really took a tole on him mentally and physically.
"In the beginning [of the season] it was tough. There was a lot of stickhandling, rebound control, different angles, so it took more time than I thought it would be," said Hellberg, "but once I got into it, it felt really good and my confidence grew throughout the year."
In 39 starts with the Admirals, Hellberg went 22-13-0 with a .930 save percentage and totaling six shutouts, tying former Predators first round draft pick Brian Finley's AHL record.
Said Hellberg, "This season is coming with a good confidence."
Head goalie coach Mitch Korn worked with Hellberg in Milwaukee during the NHL's work stoppage, teaching him the same way he did with Dominik Hasek, Anders Lindback and Pekka Rinne.
"He has been in the game for so long and he has seen the development going on," said Hellberg. "I try to listen to him as much as I can and do the stuff he tells me. I try to talk to him a lot and make myself better."
It is no secret Mitch Korn was unhappy with his athleticism in last year's development camp. With Hellberg's size, it would be great for him to have the quick reflexes without being fatigued easily.
"Magnus has been working on conditioning," Korn told me in January. "I'm not thrilled with [his conditioning]. He needs to improve his fatigue-ness. But, it has improved since training camp with Milwaukeee Admirals."
At the end of the Predators' season in April, it became somewhat clear that back-up netminder Chris Mason would not return with the team for the 2013-14 season. So the decision had to be made whether GM David Poile would call up 22 year old Swedish native or look for a Mason-replacement in the free agent market.
Poile chose the latter.
Signing rival-AHL goalie Carter Hutton had to have sent Hellberg a reality-check. In his mind, he knows he isn't there yet, but of course like any other athlete wants, they want the chance at playing in the big leagues.
"It is a process. I don't stress," Hellberg said. "I know I have a lot of stuff to work on, but I learn new stuff everyday, I will continue to work until I prove to them that I will be a good goalie [in the NHL]. Whenever they think I'm ready, they'll [call] me up, so I'm just going to focus on the things I can do.
"I just need to go down the road I did last year."
(Photo by: Scott Paulus Photography)