What goalie Magnus Hellberg’s Worlds performance means for Detroit Red Wings

Detroit Free Press

Magnus Hellberg is doing what he can to impress the Detroit Red Wings.

He didn’t get much of an opportunity in their uniform, but he has continued his bid for employment at the World Championship, backstopping Sweden into a Thursday quarterfinal against Canada with a 1.47 goals-against average and .932 save percentage over four games. It’s the second major international tournament of the year for Hellberg, who had a 2.46 GAA and .927 save percentage in two games at the 2022 Olympics in Beijing in February.

Hellberg joined the Wings in mid-April, a couple weeks after his 31st birthday. The Wings pursued Hellberg in March when backup Thomas Greiss and third-stringer Calvin Pickard were dealing with injuries, leaving Alex Nedeljkovic overworked.

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Red tape kept Hellberg out of red and white until he joined the Wings on April 15 in New York. At that point, there were two weeks left in the season, but it was still an opportunity for Hellberg to get his foot in the door in North America.

Hellberg (6-6, 209) has spent the past five seasons in the KHL, most recently posting a 2.42 GAA and .917 save percentage in 37 games with HK Sochi. His NHL resume isn’t much — prior to making 20 saves in the Wings’ 5-3 victory at New Jersey on April 29, Hellberg had previously played in the NHL on April 9, 2017 (one of two games he played with the New York Rangers that season). Hellberg played one game with the Rangers in 2015-16 and one in 2013-14 with the Nashville Predators, who drafted him at No. 38 overall in 2011.

“We just talked about me coming here the last few weeks, and we’ll see what happens in the future,” Hellberg said after appearing in the season finale. “I’ve just tried to make the best impression I could when I got over here now. This is the league I want to be in, for sure.

“I think Detroit has a really bright future and it is a place I would like to be a part of in the future. We’ll see what happens.”

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The Wings need someone to share duties with Nedeljkovic, as Greiss has finished up his contract. It’s a job Hellberg covets — but the free agent market potentially will offer more experienced options. Jack Campbell (6-3, 207) took the Toronto Maple Leafs to Game 7 of the first round of the playoffs after playing 49 regular-season games; he’s 30, from Port Huron, has logged 135 NHL games and is coming off a contract making $1.65 million annually. Casey DeSmith (6-0, 181) is 30, has played 96 games for the Pittsburgh Penguins over the past four seasons and coming off a contract with a $1.25 million salary cap hit. Darcy Kuemper (6-5, 215) is 32 and has 299 career games to his credit; he has enjoyed success this season with the Colorado Avalanche. He’s finishing up a two-year, $9 million contract.

Hellberg has said he’s not interested in playing in the AHL, but if he wants to be in North America next season, he may have to reconsider that stance. Playing well in an international tournament is impressive — but Harri Sateri, who tried to make it to the NHL in 2018-19 with the Wings, is a cautionary tale. After spending the past three seasons in the KHL, he backstopped Finland to the gold medal at Beijing, was signed by the Leafs in March only to be claimed off of re-entry waivers by the Arizona Coyotes and posted a 4.22 GAA and .866 save percentage in six games.

One thing is certain: His brief stint with the Wings left Hellberg wanting more.

“We were only in Detroit two or three days,” he said. “We had a lot of games on the road, so I didn’t see it that much. But in talking to the guys, I heard they really like living there. I’m a big fan of being in the outdoors and go fishing and stuff like that, and I know there’s some great fishing in Michigan for sure. I’ve heard great things about it.”

Contact Helene St. James at hstjames@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her book, The Big 50: The Detroit Red Wings is available from AmazonBarnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail. 

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