No. 8: Marcus Hogberg (Reader rank: 11, Last year: 13)
Hogberg has been Silver Seven’s top goaltending prospect for a while, so it’s no surprise that with the struggles of the next-in-line ‘tenders like Driedger and O’Connor that Hogberg has risen up this list.
It’s often hard for goaltending prospects to get hype. For every star that turned out, like Carey Price, there are many who have struggled to live up to their potential. And although that’s true for every prospect, regardless of position, goaltenders seem to be affected by this perception the most. It’s even rarer for most fans to get excited about a European prospect if they haven’t starred at a World Juniors, or a similar tournament. Although Hogberg has represented Sweden and won silver medals at both the U-18s and U-20s, he was the backup goalie (always for Isles prospect and top Swedish ‘tender, 21yo Linus Soderstrom).
However, let me be clear: Marcus Hogberg has been a top-three U24 goaltender in the Swedish men’s league for the last three seasons.
Marcus Hogberg in the SHL
|Save Percentage (%)
Getting top minutes as a young goaltender in the Swedish Hockey League is a rare feat. In 2016-17, Hogberg’s latest season as a 22yo, there were only three goalies who got regular minutes that were younger than Hogberg (Soderstrom, Sandstrom, Gustavsson). Funnily enough, last year, after Hogberg was finishing his second year in the men’s league, Matt O’Connor was starting his freshman year at Boston University — Hogberg is still very young!
February 2017 – Högberg has put together an absolutely spectacular third SHL season with Linkoping HC. After sharing the crease last season, he's grabbed the reins of the No. 1 job and run with it. Protecting the net for 28 games, Högberg is sporting a minuscule 1.88 GAA and an equally eye-popping .932 SVS, marks that place him third and fourth respectively among all SHL 'tenders. The more the season has progressed, the better Hogberg has played. Over the past two months, a span of 20 games, Hogberg has given up more than two goals only once. All these numbers add up to a 16-12 record with four shutouts, a mark that puts him in a tie for third highest in the league. Big and agile, Högberg is everything you want in a modern goaltender. The Senators appear to have a gem. Brad Phillips
Now, Hogberg taking three seasons to develop in Sweden might turn some people off: “if he was so good, why didn’t he come over sooner?” The Sens seem to subscribe to a development model where they don’t really care where a prospect plays, once they’re getting top minutes. Tobias Lindberg and Filip Ahl, two players who were stuck down a depth chart, were highly encouraged to cross the pond early and did through the CHL Import Draft. Meanwhile, Christian Jaros was getting T4 minutes in the SHL, so the Sens were fine letting him sit for a bit. Although we can make the case that Binghamton could’ve used Hogberg earlier, the Sens let Driedger (and then O’Connor) run with the crease a bit to see what they had, all while Hogberg was getting top minutes in Sweden. This longer development path was expected, according to (now former) Sens scout Vaclav Burda, who made these comments after Hogberg was drafted in 2013:
He's a kid who is competitive in the net. He needs to learn to keep his patience, but under good goalie coaching he's got the tools to improve. With Wammer (Rick Wamsley) in our organization we believe that he can bring assets in the future. He's a long way away, he's going to play in the Allsvenskan next year against men as a starting goalie, which could help him to improve and make progress and after next season we'll see if he's ready to come over and play in Binghamton or if he's going to stay and play another season in Sweden. He has the tools to become a goalie (in the NHL).
By all accounts, Hogberg is ready:
"I had a great season last year in Sweden, I improved on many things," Hogberg said. "I grew as a person. I feel I'm ready to play here."
Hogberg — who is known for having "great feet" — has to focus on improving other extremities. "I talked a little bit to the goalie coach and he wants me to use my hands a little bit more, show my glove, try to catch more pucks with my hands and not be a blocker goalie," said the 6-foot-3, 196-pounder. "We have a little stuff to do different. It's going to be good."
The scouting report and advice from Sens goalie coach, Pierre Groulx, makes sense: deflecting more pucks in the SHL could work, as the ice is bigger and it’s less likely to have that puck bounce out into a dangerous spot. That’s reversed on smaller ice. New to the Belleville staff in a full-time capacity is their own goaltending development coach, Kory Cooper, who will likely be working with Hogberg (and Driedger) a ton this year. With Craig Anderson only signed for this year, and Mike Condon as an ideal backup but not #1 goalie signed for the next three seasons, there’s a spot waiting for Hogberg. It’ll be up to him to seize it.