Much more ink will be spent this upcoming season on Chicago Blackhawks starting goaltender Corey Crawford than likely backup Anton Forsberg, but let’s take a closer look at the younger of the two netminders
I could write for days upon days about how important goaltender Corey Crawford will be to the 2017-18 Chicago Blackhawks. But I don’t think it’s fair to completely leave Crow’s likely backup out in the cold, either.
The Blackhawks acquired Anton Forsberg in the deal that saw Brandon Saad return to Chicago, with Artemi Panarin and Tyler Motte heading to Columbus. With Scott Darling departing in free agency earlier this offseason, the addition of Forsberg in the deal was seen as general manager Stan Bowman tabbing his next backup.
Add in the later free agent signing of J.F. Berube, and it’s clear Bowman has little trust in the Blackhawks’ current crop of prospect goaltenders (pretty fair at this point). The general belief is Forsberg and Berube will compete for the backup job at training camp, with Forsberg the favorite.
So what do we know about this former Blue Jacket? Let’s start with the basics. He was selected 188th overall in the 2011 Entry Draft by Columbus and had been with the organization ever since. He’s a left-handed glove man who checks in at 24 years of age, 6-foot-3 in height and 191 pounds in weight. He’s also a native of Sweden.
Let’s dig a little deeper into Forsberg’s time playing hockey.
Numbers up until today
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There’s not a lot to look at for Forsberg from an NHL standpoint, and what there is to look at isn’t impressive. Forsberg has seen action in 10 NHL games (nine starts), including just one start last season. His record is 1-8-0 with a .879 save percentage and 4.02 goals-against average.
But you know Bowman didn’t decide on a guy based on a whopping nine spot starts behind Sergei Bobrovsky in Columbus. There are many more positives in Forsberg’s numbers than negatives right now.
Let’s start with this: Forsberg has a U20 World Junior Championships gold medal and a Calder Cup, the latter given to the AHL champion each year. It seems he really started to find his stride in the 2011-12 season, shortly after being drafted by Columbus.
Playing with MODO Hockey J20 in SuperElit, a Swedish junior league, Forsberg carried a .923/2.13 slashline in 14 games during the 2011-12 campaign. He compounded that with a .900/3.05 slashline in 14 games with MODO Hockey of the Swedish Hockey League that same season.
On top of that in 2011-12, he posted a stellar .949/0.98 slashline in five games for Team Sweden at the aforementioned U20 Championships. So that season was really his coming-out party.
Since then, Forsberg has been really strong at both the AHL level and on loan in the SHL and HockeyAllsvenskan, the latter the second-best Swedish league.
In 33 games for Allsvenskan’s Sodertalje SK during the 2012-13 season, Forsberg carried a .933/2.04 slashline. He followed that up the next season with a .920/2.44 slashline in 22 games for the SHL’s MODO Hockey club.
In the AHL is where Forsberg has really made the bacon though. Here are his season slashlines with the Springfield Falcons, Lake Erie Monsters and Cleveland Monsters, each Columbus’ AHL affiliate at one time or another:
Da Windy City
2013-14 (Springfield): .957/1.13 in four regular-season games; .917/3.05 in two playoff games
2014-15 (Springfield): .927/2.01 in 30 regular-season games
2015-16 (Lake Erie): .914/2.40 in 41 regular-season games; .949/1.34 in 10 playoff games (Calder Cup-winning season)
2016-17 (Cleveland): .926/2.28 in 51 regular-season games
So while Forsberg has yet to impress at the NHL level, it’s pretty clear he has tons of potential. Perhaps more time as an actual NHL backup will be the key.
What some have to say about Forsberg
Dobber Prospects has been following Forsberg’s career since he was drafted by Columbus. Its writers have some nice little tidbits dating back as far as 2014:
"April 2014 – Forsberg is in his second, non-consecutive season with MODO of the Swedish Hockey League. He shared time with Linus Ullmark, who started the majority of the games. While Ullmark went 14-15-4, Forsberg posted a 10-8-4 record with a 2.44 GAA and .920 SV%. He also played one game for the Springfield Falcons, allowing one goal on 26 shots in his first win. Forsberg has a ton of raw talent, but needs to refine some of his technical abilities. Chris Bagwell (Ullmark has spent parts of the last two seasons with the Buffalo Sabres.)"
"February 2015 – Forsberg has been quite the pleasant surprise for a seventh-round pick. He has emerged as the starting goalie for the Springfield Falcons, currently holding an 18-7 record (2.04 GAA and .927 SV%). With injuries to (Curtis) McElhinney and (Sergei) Brobrovsky, Forsberg actually saw a few NHL starts. They weren’t great showings – a 4.25 GAA and .861 SV% – but he’s obviously earned the trust of the organization and could see more starts in the near future. Chris Bagwell"
"August 2016 – Forsberg led Lake Erie to a Calder Cup win. When fellow Columbus prospect Joonas Korpisalo struggled early on in the postseason, Forsberg came in and never looked back, going 9-0 and posting an astounding 0.949 SV%. He certainly brought himself back into the mix as a legitimate Columbus prospect. He’ll remain in the AHL in the season ahead, but if Sergei Bobrovsky gets injured again – how well Forsberg does with Lake Erie compared to Korpisalo’s performance will decide which one will get the call to start with the big club. It won’t be Curtis McElhinney, that’s for sure. Dobber"
"June 2017 – The 2016-17 season was one of regression for Anton Forsberg. He appeared in just a single (NHL) game in the 2016-17 season, a loss to Carolina which saw Forsberg give up four goals. When you look at the three-year picture, the number of NHL games has dropped from five, to four to just the single game. However, his 2016-17 AHL numbers are stellar: 27-17-2 with a 2.28 GAA and a .926 save percentage. In addition, Forsberg is one of the highest rated AHL goalies in the pipeline for Columbus. Overall, it raises the question as to whether he is capable of the always-tricky jump to the NHL. I believe he can be, but also believe that if he doesn’t prove himself soon, it may be somewhere else that Forsberg will ultimately shine. Mark Hinrich"
The last point is definitely one of interest for Blackhawks fans. Can Forsberg make that jump to full-time NHL anything — backup or starter — after posting really outstanding AHL numbers over multiple seasons?
As Hinrich predicted, Forsberg is getting his opportunity to shine somewhere else, and that place is Chicago. I think a strong performance from Forsberg in training camp would go a long way toward boosting his confidence and cementing him in that backup role behind Crow.
The Blackhawks really need Forsberg to take the reins in this regard, too. Berube has a similar amount of NHL experience, and these two are more reliable as NHL backups than anyone Chicago had in its system beforehand. Crow can’t start 82 regular-season games, so there needs to be someone who can actually help give the Blackhawks a chance to win when Crow is out.
In an offseason filled with speculation and concern, I’d love to believe Forsberg is that guy. And frankly, I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t hope he is or expect him to be that guy. The AHL numbers tell an impressive story — now it’s time for the next step.