Goaltender Marcus Hogberg aims to prove future is now with Ottawa Senators

Sporting News

Ottawa Senators fans recently caught a glimpse of their team’s future, with defensemen Jacob Bernard-Docker (Canada), Lassi Thomson (Finland) and forward Shane Pinto (USA) all taking part in the World Junior Championship.

However, all three young men are unlikely to crack the Senators’ lineup next season.

Thomson is slated to play for the club’s American Hockey League affiliate in Belleville. Bernard-Docker will likely join Thomson after a sophomore campaign at the University of North Dakota, while his Fighting Hawks freshman teammate Pinto may not be too far behind.

Scroll to continue with content
Ad

NHL MOCK DRAFT: Senators select phenoms Lafreniere, Rossi; LA Kings get goalie of future

While the recent world juniors stars may still be a ways off from contributing in Ottawa, the future appears to be now for Senators’ goalie Marcus Hogberg. After a cup of coffee (four starts) in 2018-19, the 25-year-old is turning heads in a slew of starts since his first recall Nov. 27.

After a stellar performance in a 3-2 shootout loss Friday in Detroit — one that included a fantastic sequence of saves in overtime — Hogberg was rewarded with another start the next night versus the Senators’ arch rival Montreal Canadiens.

Head coach D.J. Smith didn’t think the young netminder was overly-worked the previous evening, and wanted to see how Hogberg would fare in a difficult situation.

“With the process of a rebuild, and these young kids, we want to get as many looks as well,” said Smith prior to Saturday’s game.

Playing in his second game that went into overtime within 24 hours, the Senators’ 2013 third-round selection held his own. Hogberg stopped seven shots in the three-on-three before being beaten by an Ilya Kovalchuk wrister that gave the visiting Canadiens a 2-1 win.

Hogberg has only one win — a 5-4 OT victory over the Predators Dec. 19 — in his short NHL career to date. However, his 1-2-4 record this season, earning points in five of seven starts for his team, is a positive in that the lanky 6-5, 217-pound goalie displays the ability to keep his club close in tight games.

One Senator who is impressed with what he’s seen of Hogberg over the past month is Brady Tkachuk.

“I knew a little bit about him. It’s only my second season, too. He played a couple of games last year. This year compared to last year, he’s gotten so much better,” commented Tkachuk after Saturday’s game. “I’m excited to see how great of a goalie he’s going to become. I believe that everyone thinks he’s going to do just that.”

Drake Batherson, who spent the majority of his rookie campaign in Belleville last season, isn’t surprised with how well Hogberg’s been playing for the parent Senators.

“Last year we went on a win streak (winning nine of 10 games), he was unbelievable. He played every game. Ever since he’s been up here, he’s played great. He’s my neighbor in Belleville, so we spent a lot of time together. He’s a great guy and a great goalie,” Batherson said. “He’s a really good pro. He comes to the rink every day. He’s one of the hardest workers. He’s in here getting treatment two hours before practice. He’s the first one out there working with the goalie coach down there (Belleville) and up here (Ottawa). I think he’s going to be a big part of the future.”

For his part, Hogberg is a man of few words, choosing to let his play do the talking.

“I felt good. Yesterday helped me to be confident out there, " Hogberg said after Friday's game in Detroit. "I like to play a lot of games, and back-to-back is fun way to play. I like them.”

In fact the heavier the workload, the better the Orebro, Sweden, native performs. Hogberg was a prime reason Belleville flirted with a playoff berth last season as the Baby Sens were 19-23-2 on Jan. 19, 2019, prior to finishing 18-8-6 down the stretch — with Hogberg starting 24 of 25 games at one juncture.

Unfortunately for Belleville, the Baby Sens' rough start was too big to overcome and they fell just two points short of the postseason. Regardless, Hogberg showed he could play big minutes when called upon.

MORE: Senators have decisions to make ahead of trade deadline

Now in the NHL, one would expect Hogberg to draw more starts while compatriot Anders Nilsson recovers from a concussion suffered Dec. 16. Senators management definitely wants to see how he handles NHL competition long-term, and may now get that chance. Even if it goes swimmingly for Hogberg, who has a one-way contract in 2020-21, the netminder will still likely play second fiddle behind Nilsson next season.

Either way, Senators’ general manager Pierre Dorion will have a decision to make when Nilsson is healthy enough to return to the fold. Does he re-assign Hogberg to Belleville where the B-Sens sit fifth the Eastern Conference, or keep him with the big club?

The goalie tandem of Joey Daccord (6-2-2, 2.52 goals against average, .914 save percentage) and Filip Gustavsson (9-5-1, 3.54 GAA, .884 SV. PCT) are capably holding down the fort in Belleville in Hogberg's absence, which may influence the decision..

Ultimately, it’ll likely come down to what Dorion chooses to do with veteran backstop Craig Anderson. At age 38 and in the final year of his deal, the prospect of Anderson — the Senators’ franchise leader games (422), wins (197) and shutouts (28) — being traded prior to the Feb. 24 deadline is growing significantly by the day.

What to read next