With the departure of backup goalie Anton Khudobin to the Carolina Hurricanes by way of free agency, it has become clear that the responsibility of backing up Tuukka Rask has fallen on 23 year-old Niklas Svedberg. Khudobin had developed into a solid backup behind Rask, and in the abbreviated 2013 season, posted a strong 9-4-1 record with a 2.03 goals against and a .933 save percentage. With a full season in 2014, the Bruins are going to need Svedberg to replicate Khudobin’s production so that the team can afford to rest Rask for the playoffs.
Svedberg went undrafted after spending his amateur years playing in the Swedish elite league, and at 6’1 and 171 lbs, many thought he was too light to have a successful NHL career between the pipes.
With the AHL still playing a full season despite the NHL lockout, the Swedish native was allowed to develop against higher than normal competition. Thanks to Svedberg’s outstanding play in the regular season, Providence finished with the second best record in the conference.
By the end of the season, Svedberg had complied a league best 38-9-2 record amongst goalies. At the conclusion of the playoffs the young goalie’s efforts were awarded the Aldege Basiten Memorial trophy, which is given to the AHL’s best overall goalie.
In the middle of the Bruins playoff run, the front office made it clear that they were paying attention by handing Svedberg an NHL entry-level contract that guaranteed that the blossoming rookie would be on the roster for the 2013-2014 season.
If Svedberg can continue his excellent play at the NHL level, he will give the Bruins tremendous flexibility at the goaltending position moving forward. Ideally the Bruins backup spot should be able to provide anywhere between 20 and 25 starts while giving the team a good chance to win on any given night.
The lanky Swede may one day become a full-time starter, but with Tuukka Rask locked up for 8 more seasons, and the athletic Malcom Subban waiting in the wings, Svedberg’s long-term future may not be in black and gold.
Still, the hope is that Svedberg continues to develop at a rapid rate, thus allowing Suban time to develop in the minors. It is also possible that the once unheralded prospect could become future trade bait for teams in need of a number one netminder.
Developing quality goalies in the NHL takes time, but in the case of Svedberg, the Bruins front office may have found a young diamond in the rough that could make the team even better in the coming season.
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