Photo credit:Steven Ellis/Daily Faceoff)
New Year, new goalie: Maple Leafs recall Dennis Hildeby
By Jon Steitzer1 month ago
Happy New Year! It’s the time for self-improvement and the Maple Leafs are hoping their path to improvement comes in the form of a rookie goaltender.
The decision doesn’t come as too much of a surprise after the decision to waive Ilya Samsonov yesterday. And while Darren Dreger is reporting that the plan is likely for Samsonov to get some time with goaltending coaches not report to the Marlies for duty, that doesn’t change the need for the Leafs to fill a goaltending vacancy on the roster. The options are seemingly Hildeby, the struggling Keith Petruzzelli, or claiming Eric Comrie from the Sabres, who is also on waivers. (Given that Comrie has struggled as much as Samsonov this year and comes with a $1.8M cap hit, Hildeby seems like the best or only option.
The decision to recall Hildeby likely means that he makes his first NHL start this week as Toronto has back-to-backs with Los Angeles and Anaheim on Tuesday and Wednesday. The Ducks are seemingly the ideal entry point for Hildeby and following that appearance the Leafs could potentially lean into Martin Jones until the next set of back-to-backs on January 20th and 21st. I’ve previously suggested the Leafs may even chose to go with Petruzzelli as the backup for Jones the rest of the way and that gives Toronto the option to return Hildeby to the Marlies and let him keep on working. The Leafs may prefer the idea of having him practice against NHL players and see that as what is best for Hildeby’s development as well as the best option for the Leafs net in the short term.
Hildeby has turned a lot of heads right from the moment he was drafted. Selected as a 20 year old overager, the 6’7 Hildebeast had a .931 save percentage in 7 SHL games. The next season he continued his success with a .918 save percentage in 21 games in the SHL before coming over to North America. He now has a .919 save percentage in his 15 AHL games for the Marlies and has looked like a potential future Leaf.
The expectations for Hildeby likely need to be tempered. Although he has had success at each new stage of pro hockey he’s entered, the jump in offensive skill and speed that come with the NHL are something that takes time to adjust to and Hildeby will likely be limited to a practice and a morning skate before experiencing it up close and personal. This stint isn’t about finding out if Hildeby is ready for the Leafs at this stage, this is simply about sparing Martin Jones on having back-to-back starts and keeping Ilya Samsonov away from the Leafs.
It is likely that later today we’ll have confirmation from Sheldon Keefe on what his plans are for Hildeby.
Last month, Steven Ellis took a look at whether Dennis Hildeby was the Leafs goaltender of the future. It seems as if that future starts today.
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