by Grace Kut | AHL On The Beat

With the clock ticking down only minutes before the NHL trade deadline last month, Magnus Hellberg was notified that he had been traded.

Florida exchanged Ludovic Waeber to Pittsburgh to receive Hellberg and a conditional 2025 seventh-round pick.

“I didn’t really see it coming to be honest with you, but I got the call 30 minutes before the trade deadline and I was getting ready to play a game that same night,” said Hellberg. “I was really excited when I got here, I think that it is a great opportunity for me to showcase who I am as a goalie and who I am as a person.”

Though thrown into a whirlwind at first, Hellberg has found his groove with the Charlotte Checkers. He has found a home wearing the Checkers sweater, and become a part of the brotherhood dynamic the team has.

“The guys here are great,” Hellberg said. “I knew a couple guys from before. They have been taking me in with open arms. I felt welcome right from the start.”

This was not the first time Hellberg experienced a midseason move. The previous season, Hellberg was picked off waivers three times, playing in three different cities.

Though not new to a life of constantly moving, having a young family adds to the challenge.

“You want to have a spot where you can call home,” he said. “But at the same time it is part of the business, you have to be a professional, and go with the flow.”

Playing at this level means you have to be ready for everything. Hellberg has extensive pro experience, playing internationally, in the Olympics, in the NHL, and in the AHL. The 33-year-old veteran knows the ropes when it comes to moving around.

“Everybody has been helping out a lot,” he said. “You can’t get too many things. You have to be able to pack everything in your bags and be ready to go.”

As a well-experienced player, Hellberg serves as a mentor for younger guys on the ice. His relationship with Spencer Knight has flourished since the trade, as they work well together while serving tandem in the Checkers net.

“I think we have a really good relationship both on and off the ice, pushing each other to be better,” Hellberg said. “Hopefully he can learn stuff from me, and I can learn from stuff from him as well. He is really technical.”

Hellberg’s first few games with the team have been nothing but successful, claiming his first shutout with the team on Apr. 6 against the Hartford Wolf Pack. He credits this success to the team effort on the ice.

“I think the guys in front of us have been playing really well,” Hellberg said. “They let us see the shots, they help with rebounds, and have good communication out there. I just try to focus on my part and they do their part.”

Coming to the Checkers meant there were a few familiar faces on the team. Years back, Hellberg and Checkers goalie coach Leo Luongo worked together in Switzerland, as well as during training camps in Sweden.

“I knew Leo Luongo as a goalie coach before,” he said. “We kind of speak the same goalie language with the angles and how we kind of want to work.”

Luongo has trusted Hellberg each time he’s between the pipes. With their history going back, the coach has been confident in the player they received.

“He’s come in and done a great job not only on the ice but also in the locker room,” Luongo said. “[He’s been] bringing a veteran voice and stability and promise to the group and to our other goaltenders.”

Luongo is impressed with how Hellberg has performed since coming to the Checkers. The duo has worked hard to make the goaltender confident in the Queen City.

“We’ve worked on the things that I know he likes to work on to make himself the best version of himself,” Luongo said. “Since we’ve done that he’s really hit his stride and he has done great.”

The Checkers clinched their spot in the Calder Cup Playoffs last week. As the regular season comes to an end, Hellberg enjoys the pressure postseason play brings.

“I think everybody who plays hockey wants to play meaningful games and have a chance to win something,” Hellberg said. “I think that’s why everybody plays. I like it a lot when there is a lot of pressure where every game and every shot is really important.”

The Checkers squad has fired up in the latter half of the season. With the brotherhood of team chemistry, the goaltender looks forward to seeing them perform in the playoffs.

“I know in Florida and here in Charlotte too, we are planning to go far in the playoffs,” he said. “So I think that it is gonna be a fun ride to be on. I’m really excited because I feel like we have a great group of guys who can do a lot of damage in the playoffs. It’s gonna be a tough run but I really believe in us as a group.”


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