The Nashville Predators continued the process of shuffling their goaltending depth when they announced Monday that Magnus Hellberg, their top choice in the 2011 draft, had signed a three-year entry-level contract.
The transaction clears the way for the 6-foot-5 Swede to make his North American professional debut this fall.
Hellberg has spent parts of the last four seasons in Sweden’s professional ranks, including the majority of 2011-12 with Frolunda in the Elite League. In 17 appearances for Frolunda he had a 2.60 goals-against average and a .904 save percentage.
Hellberg will attend the team’s prospects conditioning camp next month (he also took part in 2011) and in training camp will compete with Jeremy Smith and Chet Pickard for spots in line behind Pekka Rinne and possibly a veteran free agent to be added later. Hellberg, Smith and Pickard all were taken within the first two rounds of the NHL draft.
Hellberg’s move to North America comes in the wake of last week’s trade that sent NHL backup Anders Lindback to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Also, Finnish goalie prospect Atte Engren recently decided to return to Europe after one full season in the American Hockey League.
Lindback came over as a 22-year-old in 2010-11 and immediately earned a spot on the NHL roster. In two seasons with the Predators he went 16-13-2 with a 2.53 goals-against average and a .914 save percentage. He had wins in three of his final four appearances last season.
Before that, he spent two full seasons in the Swedish Elite League.
Hellberg is 21 and will not turn 22 until next April.
The second-round pick (38th overall) is the second member of Nashville’s 2011 draft class to sign. Forward Josh Shalla, a fourth-round pick, signed in April following the completion of his Ontario Hockey League season and joined Milwaukee in time for the AHL playoffs.