Dennis Hildeby is our newest goalie prospect, after Toronto drafted him in the fourth round this past July. He’s a bit of a mystery guy. I don’t think anyone among Toronto’s fanbase really knew who Hildeby was when he got picked, being a 2x overage goalie who barely played above Sweden’s U20 junior league in his career.
And yet, here Hildeby is making his debut in the T25U25 rankings in his first year of eligibility. That’s not common for goalie picks here, from my experience. He’s an interesting case, as Toronto’s new goalie team had someone strongly advocate that Toronto take him — so much so that Dubas traded to get a pick in the fourth round to take him. And Toronto almost immediately signed him to an ELC.
So, what’s his deal?
Hildeby is a 20 year old, 6’6” behemoth in goal. His stats as a junior were unspectacular. In his draft year, he had a .911 sv%. The next season, he moved to a new team and had a .911 again on a worse team, but got into two games on loan for a third pro-tier league team. This past season, he had a .931 sv% in 12 junior games, then a .931 in 7 games in the SHL.
The story of what was going on in those years is more interesting, and help add valuable context.
It starts when Hildeby was on his first junior team. The SHL team (Timrå) of his club was playing Färjestad, and Färjestad’s starter was sick and needed another goalie for their morning practice — and maybe as a backup for their game. Since the game was in Timrå’s home rink, they were asked to loan one of their junior goalies, and it turned out to be Hildeby.
Standing close to the size he is now, he towered above many of his teammates. And if that morning skate was any indication, Hildeby still had the potential to eventually move as accurately as the pro player he was replacing.
Farjestad’s backup goalie ended up arriving just in time for the game, but Hildeby still left a “huge impression” on Szwoch.
Szwoch saw a goalie whose mechanics, size and upside, he was happy to admit, superseded the awful numbers he was putting up in Sweden’s under-20 league. There was more than meets the eye. Szwoch promised himself he’d keep an eye on the young goalie.
The worrying part of Hildeby is that he has already had two surgeries. But his latest one, during COVID-19, was an elective one to fix a long term hip issue that he was playing through. You could argue that this is what helped him have his breakout season last year, but he also seems to have made some very important improvements to his mechanics and approach.
You can read a very detailed description of his style and mechanics in the MLHS draft profile here, which quotes a paywalled scouting report. Draft In Europe has a shorter blurb on him as well in their draft guide, which is free to download.
Not only does he have decent athleticism for such a big goalie, but he plays composed too. He made incredible improvements from his past seasons, becoming more technical and dynamic than we can remember him being in the past. He moves sharply across his crease and absorbs pucks nicely into his body. He tracks pucks well and has a good eye to stop shots from the blueline through traffic. His glove is reliable and he’s capable of making blocker saves from high danger areas through screens. His pad movement is quick and he centers himself well in the net.
His down and up movements are fluent and he recovers well. When moving from his left to right, Hildeby tends to lose his angles a bit. He seems to overplay to the right. He would benefit from coming out of the net to challenge the shooter more, decreasing the shooter’s angle. Hildeby sometimes he lets rebound sit in front of him. He’s too deep in his net to pounce. He needs to become more aggressive in his crease and use his stick more effectively. On breakaways, he backs in too deep and makes himself appear smaller than he is. He’s sometimes inexplicably beaten from low percentage shots from the distance and struggles with pucks wrapped around or coming from behind the goal-line. He also needs to improve his rebound control on pad saves.
He leaves too big a gap between himself and net front forwards, which allow deflections to become even more threatening. We feel that Hildeby doesn’t get out enough to take advantage of his size. His weaknesses are hopefully correctable through coaching and video analysis. He does not appear to lack fitness or competitiveness and he is most definitely trending upwards.
Hildeby will be returning to the SHL to play for Färjestad and it sounds like they intend to use him as part of a 1A/1B tandem, as opposed to a backup. That will definitely help him get more experience and hopefully improve even further. After that, the question will be when he comes to North America. We should probably expect him to probably play another season in the SHL after this one, and then join the Marlies late in the year.
That will also give the Leafs some more time to see what they have in the likes of Joseph Woll, Erik Källgren, Dryden McKay, Keith Petruzelli, and Luke Cavallin who are all on the Marlies or Growlers.
Five of the nine voters ranked Hildeby in their top 25, between 19th and 24th. I was not one of them, but I admit I was tempted. Goalies are not something I’m the most comfortable projecting, and he was a D+3 goalie with only 9 professional games under his belt. I’m willing to be patient with him and see if he can repeat a higher level of success in the SHL before I rank him at all. And if I’m wrong, you can expect to see him ranked a good deal higher this time next year.
|Josh - Smaht Scouting||-|
|The Decline and Fall of the Roman Polak||20|
|Spread in Votes||5|
Here’s what the other voters had to say:
dhammm: Despite being picked in the most recent draft, Hildeby is older than Peksa and Akhtiamov, the two goalies the Leafs selected in 2021 and 2020. Does that matter, considering goalies often don’t make NHL starts until long after their draft years? Who knows, but what’s most encouraging about the towering Hildeby relative to Peksa and Akhtiamov is that he seems to have stuck in the SHL as a back-up and should be getting reps against top competition overseas. In the long, foggy trail of goaltender prospect development, that matters.
Hardev: It will be Hildeby’s 21st birthday exactly one week from now, so happy birthday! This big guy is coming off three seasons with good results, with great numbers in very small samples this season. I’m not sure what to make of that. A lucky streak, or actually being very good and not being able to show it in more games for other reasons. I can see why he caught the Leafs eye. Hildeby started in Färjestad BK’s junior team, and was called up midway through the season. He out-played the backup goalie and took his spot, sending him to Germany. The starter ended up being good enough to win all four rounds, but Hildeby was on the bench during the run and it looks like he’s going to be the starter this season. If this year goes well, getting him into the AHL as soon as his SHL season expires will be super important.
TomK421: I like my goalies the opposite way I like my wingers. Big Boi SZN. I have him higher than the Russian goalies mostly based on his size but being further along his development and probably closer to coming over and joining the Marlies helps too. Next year? That’d be fun.
Katya: I have to admit height played in to my choice here as well. I think I really would tie Hildeby with Akhtyamov, if I was being honest, but I’m troubled that with the significant decline in goalie talent in the KHL, Akhtyamov is still heading for the VHL while Hildeby is heading for a starter’s chair in the SHL.
Do you by the Hypedelby?
|Hell yes, you can’t teach 6’6”||326|
|Ehhh ask me again in a year||276|
|Not at all||35|