Pekka Rinne is the most important player on the Nashville Predators. Without his ability to break games open with incredible saves or steady the ship with solid performances, the Preds suddenly look very ordinary. In fact, they look disjointed and confused without their backbone of a goaltender.
Carter Hutton gave it a shot. His NHL career isn’t done after all of one bad start against the St. Louis Blues, but he wasn’t drafted to be the goalie waiting in the wings for the Predators.
That distinction goes to Magnus Hellberg. Nashville made him the 38th overall selection in 2011, and the 22 year-old Swede has been spectacular in the AHL for the Milwaukee Admirals. Hutton, on the other hand, is an un-drafted 27 year-old who couldn’t quite hack it within the organizations of the Philadelphia Flyers, San Jose Sharks and Chicago Blackhawks.
The NHL has a few players with similar storylines, but the Predators can’t hinge their season on Hutton suddenly becoming a No. 1 goalie in this league. That’s just not in the cards for him at this point. Hellberg is younger and more talented and just gives the Predators a better chance to win on a nightly basis.
Right now the system seems to be Hutton-then-Hellberg, but it should be the other way around. With Hutton getting dominated by the Blues, the choice moving forward should be pretty simple for Nashville. Go with the kid. Go with the high draft pick. You might as well see what you have in Hellberg while Rinne is on the shelf.
Two years from now, Hutton won’t be with this organization. Hellberg will be. At worst, this is an NHL tryout for a promising youngster. At best, this is a coming-out party for Hellberg, and the Predators could find themselves in an interesting position once Rinne eventually returns from his injury.