We know Hugo Alnefelt, the Tampa Bay Lightning’s goalie prospect from Sweden that stops pucks.
But now, the Lightning need him stopping pucks more than ever after it was announced that starting goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy will miss the first two months of the season after undergoing back surgery.
The Lightning will be venturing into the unknown to begin the season since Vasilevskiy has been quite durable for the team since he took over the starting job full time in 2017.
In recent seasons, the team had Curtis McElhinney and Brian Elliott — proven veteran goaltenders — on hand to step in if this situation ever arose. But currently, the only goalies signed are 22-year-old Alnefelt, 28-year-old Jonas Johansson, and 29-year-old Matt Tomkins.
Tomkins has no NHL experience, Johansson has mixed results over 35 games, and Alnefelt has only played 20 minutes in one game back in 2021.
Johansson was largely expected to serve as Vasilevskiy’s backup this year, but that was never fully given.
Tampa Bay Lightning have long prepared Hugo Alnefelt for NHL action
Since being selected in the third round of the 2019 NHL Draft, Hugo Alnefelt has been on the path to manning the crease for the Lightning in NHL games.
At 6-foot-3 Alnefelt has the size. With 40 games of SHL experience as a teenager he has the experience. And without any real challengers drafted since 2019, the organization has been fully committed to developing Alnefelt into being their next man up in the crease.
Alnefelt played 56 games with the Syracuse Crunch in the American Hockey League the past two seasons, and his save numbers improved sizably year-over-year with his GAA improving from 3.14 to 2.77, and his save percentage improving from 0.882 to .904.
While those numbers are not eye popping, they were in line with those of what the Crunch’s veteran goaltender, Max Lagace, had in both seasons.
Most importantly, Alnefelt proved himself to be a winner. He led the Crunch’s goaltenders with 17 wins in his 33 games played last season. But two of the losses were not counted against him, so 17 wins in 31 games.
One of my biggest takeaways on watching Alnefelt since signing with the Lightning, and playing for the Crunch, is that when he is hot, he is hot. Likewise, pucks find their way past him in quick order when he is off his game.
Some of that can be attributed to the nature of the Crunch’s defense having been aggressive, and leading to quick successions of rush chances against, but nonetheless it will be worth keeping an eye out for.
Alnefelt is unlikely to step in and immediately take on a full starter’s workload — not even Vasilevskiy did that — but I do believe that he could split the starting job with someone else until Vasilevskiy returns.
With the Lightning’s current goaltenders light on NHL experience, look for the team to assess their trade and waivers options. But until a suitable option can be found, it is Hugo Alnefelt’s opportunity to make a statement in Vasilevskiy’s absence.