6'7 Dennis Hildeby towers over a member of the Laval Rocket
Photo credit: AHL

Young Leafs goaltender ready to take advantage of unexpected opportunity

Published January 1, 2024 at 5:20 PM
BY DEAN CHAUDHRY

The old proverb, "one man's loss is another man's gain", perfectly sums up the season for the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Leafs have not only had more than their fair share of man games lost on the blueline, creating opportunities for players like William Lagesson and Simon Benoit, but now they're also dealing with an injury to Joseph Woll and, just yesterday, Ilya Samsonov being placed on waivers - and then clearing earlier today. As a result, another opportunity has been created, this time for highly touted prospect Dennis Hildeby, who is expected to get his first taste of NHL action this week.

The 22-year-old was drafted in the 4th round of the 2022 NHL Entry Draft. He posted a 3-2-0 record with a 1.93 G.A.A and a .931 SV% with 1 shutout in 7 games in the SHL in his draft season before going 11-9-0 with a 2.26 G.A.A. and a .918 the following season.

Given more opportunities with the Toronto Marlies this season, the 6'7 behemoth has been nothing short of spectacular, posting a 2.20 G.A.A. and a .919 SV% with 2 shutouts while carrying a 7-5-3 record.

The youngster is understandably excited for the opportunity and is ready to help the club out in any way possible as the Maple Leafs will be riding with an unexpected tandem of Jones and Hildeby:


"Brad called me and just congratulated me and explained the situation," the 22-year-old explained on Monday morning following Maple Leafs practice.

Hildeby calls this "a very proud moment," describing just how exuberant he is to get this opportunity at this early stage of his already impressive pro career.

"[I'm] just very excited and [I've] felt like I've done something good to get this call-up. I'm very excited."

Hildeby played in 2 games with the Marlies last year once his season in the SHL came to a conclusion. He struggled to the tune of a 5.28 G.A.A and a .849 SV% in those 2 games, but when asked what he thought his biggest difference was this year compared to last, he had this to say:

"We had a good start as a team and we've been playing good there," Hildeby said. "I feel like I found my pace there, been fairly consistent in my performances and I think that's part of it."

"I came here in August, fairly early, and I got a lot of time even before training camp to adapt, and I think that helped," Hildeby stated. "And obviously, my size helps a lot. The small ice, it almost makes it easier, like I can use [my size] more frequently here I think."

After receiving the news that he would be called up by the Maple Leafs, Hildeby told his brother and his girlfriend first - primarily because they live together - before ringing his parents right after:

"I have my brother and his girlfriend in my apartment already, so I met them first, then called my [dad and mom] straight after."

"I try and shut that down and talk about other normal stuff," he laughed.

"But that's also one of the big things of why I want to succeed. I want to play for them and make them proud after everything they've done for me. So that's a big motivation for me, making them proud too."

The transition from the AHL to the NHL is much larger than going from the SHL to the AHL but Hildeby is ready to prove his worth and he can't wait to help the team out in any way, shape, or form:

"I'm going to go in here and take advantage of this opportunity and do everything I've been doing so far this season because that's worked. It's important to not overthink stuff and just take it day by day and not do anything too different just because you're here. Like, keep doing what you're doing and just go from there, that's the plan."

POLL
January 1   |   916 answers
Young Leafs goaltender ready to take advantage of unexpected opportunity

How many games will Hildeby play during his NHL call-up?

1 or less12613.8 %
2-341845.6 %
More than 337240.6 %
LIST OF POLL
Latest 10 stories