Niklas Svedberg had a phenomenal rookie season in the American Hockey League with the Providence Bruins. It was his first year playing in North America after four years in the Swedish Elite League (he lead his team to the championship in 2011-12). His ability to steal games was a big reason that the P-Bruins were able to not only make the playoffs for the first time in a few years, but that they finished first place overall in the entire league.
He was the starting goaltender for the Eastern Conference team at the AHL All-Star Classic in January. He was named the CCM/AHL Rookie of the Month for the month of March. He finished the season on a winning streak that brought his win total to 37 wins, which tied him with John Grahame for the Providence club record for most wins in a season. He was also awarded the AHL award for Outstanding Goaltender in the league - the Baz Bastien Award.
Unfortunately, his performance in the playoffs did not hold up. He was pulled in the first game of the playoffs and ultimately the last game of the playoffs in which they lost in game seven to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. Although the losses were not his fault, it was slightly disappointing that he was unable to steal games and raise his game to the same level as he did in the regular season the way he had previously. He stole a lot of games for the defensively weak team over the course of the regular season.
Once the P-Bruins were knocked out of the playoffs, Svedberg was immediately brought up to be a Black Ace with the Boston Bruins for the duration of their playoff run.
Providence Coach Butch Cassidy has described Svedberg a lot like Boston Coach Claude Julien has descried Tuukka Rask - "normal" for a goalie. This April feature on Svedberg from NHL.com talks about his goaltending style.
Expectations for 2013-14
Svedberg will be entering the second year of his two-year entry level contract. I fully expect Svedberg to back up Tuukka Rask next season in the NHL, although he has yet to play an NHL game in his career. It will depend upon his performance in training camp. If for whatever reason, Svedberg isn't ready or isn't capable of backing up Tuukka Rask quite yet, I suspect that is why the Bruins signed goaltender Chad Johnson. Johnson has limited but proven NHL experience, although he has spent the majority of his time in the AHL.
Providence Goaltender Situation
If Svedberg is able to maintain the level of awesome that he showed for the majority of the season in the AHL last year, he likes to play a lot and will push to play as much as possible. Meanwhile, Johnson can be expected to be part of the goalie tandem in Providence. Since last year's back-up goalie Michael Hutchinson was not qualified, he has become an unrestricted free agent and will not be re-signed by the Bruins. It is fully expected that Malcolm Subban will spend the season in Providence next year. He qualifies for the AHL because he has played four full seasons in the OHL and he will be 20 years old before December 31 of this AHL season. Additionally, ECHL goaltender Adam Morrison is also under contract.
2012-13 Grade: A
I would give him an A+ but in twelve playoff games, he wasn't particularly great, so that really puts a damper on his outstanding season. We should all be excited to see what he can do in the NHL next year.