-- In the eyes of Nashville Predators European scout Lucas Bergman, goalie Magnus Hellberg
had established himself the best at his position.
In fact, the lanky 6-foot-5, 185-pound Swede impressed so much that the Predators couldn't resist making him the first goalie selected at the 2011 Entry Draft at Xcel Energy Center. It was a bit of a surprise considering the top two North American prospects were still on the board -- John Gibson of the National Team Development Program and Christopher Gibson of the Chicoutimi Sagueneens.
According to Central Scouting, Hellberg wasn't even considered the top European goalie -- that distinction went to Finland's Samu Perhonen (3rd Round, No. 62, Edmonton Oilers).
The Predators selected Hellberg in the second round (No. 38) on Saturday.
"It's a dream come true," Hellberg said. "I didn't think I was going to be the first goalie, but when I got picked it was great moment for me to join a great organization. When I got (to the draft), I said to myself I don't have any expectations or hope because I don't want to be disappointed. I heard people say I'd be picked in the second-to-fifth round so I didn't think I was going second, really. But when I did it's an awesome feeling."
Hellberg, who finished with a 2.04 goals-against average and .935 save percentage in 31 games for Almtuna in Sweden's Second Division in 2010-11, is excited to be joining an organization so keen on grooming top-caliber goalies.
"We've had success Pekka (Rinne) and (Anders) Lindback here and I see a lot of similarities with those two goalies and Hellberg's game as far as size, athleticism and ability to read the game and mental state ... definitely," Bergman said. "In my book, I saw a separation between Hellberg and those two (North American goalies). Magnus, in our eyes, is the top goalie in this draft with a separation."
Hellberg just recently signed a two-year deal with Frolunda in the Swedish Elite League and will likely join the team, which also happens to be in his hometown, next season.
"I just moved there so my focus is to play with Frolunda, but if (Nashville) wants me to come over we'll talk about what is best for my development," Hellberg said.
Bergman likes the fact Hellberg is an older goalie (he was born in 1991).
"He's an older kid in the draft and played senior hockey last year," he said. "His maturity ... I don't think he's that far away. I don't see any reason to rush him but maturity wise, he's not far off."
Hellberg describes himself as a "big butterfly goalie who tries to take advantage of size."
"I do not do the big saves all the time and try to stay in position in net, be calm," he said.
As far as those two North American keepers, John Gibson would be selected one slot after Hellberg, going No. 38 overall to the Anaheim Ducks. Christopher Gibson was also taken in the second round by the Los Angeles Kings (No. 49).
After going unbeaten in his only two games with the Under-18 Team last season, the University of Michigan-bound John Gibson fashioned an impressive 24-11-3 mark with a 2.55 goals-against average and .921 save percentage in 40 contests in 2010-11.
His most notable achievement was leading the U.S. Under-18 National Team to its third consecutive gold medal at the U18 World Championship Germany. He made 28 saves in a 4-3 overtime victory against Sweden in the final and received the directorate award as the tournament's best goalie after going a perfect 6-0-0 with a 2.34 goals-against average and .926 save percentage.
"It was definitely a nerve-racking experience and I'm happy it's over now," John Gibson said. "I'm happy to be in a good organization. I'm not too worried about not being the first goalie taken. I just wanted to just get drafted and go to a good club. I've never been to Anaheim, so I'm definitely looking forward to that."
Christopher Gibson fashioned a 14-15-8 record with a 2.42 GAA and .920 save percentage in 37 regular-season games, including four shutouts, for the Sagueneens.
Despite the fact no goalie was selected in the first round for the third time in the past five Entry Drafts -- similar to what happened in 2007 and '09 -- six total keepers were taken over Round 2 and 3. Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter: @mike_morreale
Author: Mike G. Morreale | NHL.com Staff Writer