Erik Källgren, 26, is a goaltender for the Toronto Maple Leafs organization, who has been with the team for the last two seasons. In his first season the goaltending tandem of Petr Mrazek and Jack Campbell both went down with injuries, and he was asked to fill the gap. He was able to seize the opportunity at that point and outperform expectations, which allowed him to grow in significance within the club. The road to the NHL for Källgren has been challenging to say the least, but he appears to have found a home in Toronto, so let’s look at his journey to the greatest hockey league in the world.
Källgren’s Career in Sweden
The Stockholm native played parts of five seasons in the Hockey Allsvenskan League (Swe-1), the best league behind the top Swedish Hockey League (SHL). Källgren played for two teams before making the jump to the SHL, spending time with IK Oskarshamn from 2014-2017 and AIK from 2017-2019. Over five seasons, he posted a 56-44-0 record in 105 appearances, averaged a .906 save percentage (SV%), and a 2.44 goals-against average (GAA).
Källgren was drafted by the Arizona Coyotes in the seventh round of the 2015 NHL Draft, but his time in North America was limited after that, playing just five games between the American Hockey League (AHL) and ECHL. After his brief time in North America, he returned to Europe for two seasons in 2019. He only played two games in the SHL with the Vaxjo Lakers, before heading to Finland for 18 games, which were played with TPS in the Finnish Elite League (SM-Liiga). The 2020-21 season was the best of his career, as he returned to the Vaxjo Lakers of the SHL and helped his team win the SHL championship. He played in 21 regular season games for a 12-9-0 record with a 2.37 GAA as well as a .911 SV%. He also played 10 playoff games, with a 7-3 record, a 1.74 GAA, and a .930 SV% – the best stats of his career so far.
Källgren’s Career in North America
After a great 2020-21 season, he become a free agent and signed with Frolunda HC of the SHL, only to opt out and sign with the Maple Leafs on May 19, 2021. After training camp he was sent down to the Toronto Marlies of the AHL to compete for a role.
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Due to injuries (on both the NHL and AHL teams), Källgren was called up on an emergency basis and made his Maple Leafs debut on Mar. 10, 2022 after Mrazek was pulled against the Coyotes. His first full 60-minute game was against the Dallas Stars on Mar. 15, 2022, facing 35 shots and posting a shutout to become just the fifth goalie in Maple Leafs history to record one in their first NHL start.
Källgren finished the season with an 8-4-1 record and posted a 3.31 GAA and a .888 SV%. After Campbell’s return, he stayed with the team because Mrazek was dealing with an injury as well. In fact, he stayed on the roster throughout the playoffs, where he played in one game in relief of Campbell, saving all 10 shots he faced.
In the offseason, the Maple Leafs traded for Matt Murray from the Ottawa Senators and signed Ilya Samsonov. The expectation was that Källgren and Joseph Woll would be the organization’s AHL goalies, but he was recalled at the start of the 2022-23 season due to injuries to Murray. He stayed with the team after Samsonov got hurt, which gave him another chance to make an impression in the starter role. This season, Källgren has appeared in 10 games for the Maple Leafs and four with the Marlies, with a 3-2-4 record in the NHL, and a 0-2-1 record in the AHL. After Murray and Samsonov returned, Källgren was sent back down to the Marlies.
The Maple Leafs gambled on Källgren, and so far it appears to have paid off. He has demonstrated the ability to step up when the team needs him and could secure the backup position next season. It would be ideal if he could perform at the same level as he did in the NHL while playing for the AHL’s Marlies and be at the top of his game in case the Leafs need him to rejoin the team at some point.