UND picks up goaltender from Sweden

Jakob Hellsten will come to Grand Forks next season.

UND's Shane Pinto fist-bumps the bench after scoring the Fighting Hawks' second goal in the second period Friday at the Ralph Engelstad Arena. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald
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The National Collegiate Hockey Conference's all-rookie team goaltender in 2018-19 was Denver's Filip Larsson, who is from Sweden.

The NCHC's all-rookie team goaltender in 2019-20 was Denver's Magnus Chrona, who is from Sweden.

The NCHC's all-rookie team goaltender in 2020-21 was Miami's Ludvig Persson, who is from Sweden.

UND wouldn't mind if that trend continues.

The Fighting Hawks have received a commitment from Swedish goaltender Jakob Hellsten, who will come to campus this fall as a freshman.


Hellsten will join a goaltending group that already includes Zach Driscoll, a senior transfer from Bemidji State, and Harrison Feeney, who has been at UND for two-and-a-half seasons.

The 5-foot-11, 181-pound Hellsten is 21 years old, currently playing for the Halmstad Hammers in the Swedish hockey league, HockeyEttan. In 24 games this season, he is 15-8 with a .908 save percentage and a 2.62 goals-against average.

Hellsten has played with Swedish national teams as a 16-, 17- and an 18-year old.

Hellsten's father, Joa, is a goaltending coach in Sweden.

Originally eligible for the NHL Draft in 2018, Hellsten went unselected, though InGoal Magazine listed him as one of the 10 prospects to watch.

"Although he is moderate in size at 5-foot-11, Hellsten continues to build a reputation of a ‘big game’ goaltender through his international play," the magazine wrote.

UND hasn't often ventured overseas for players. Only six Europeans have ever played for the men's program: Finland's Joel Janatuinen (2015-19), Norway's Ludvig Hoff (2016-19), Slovakia's Matej Tomek (2015-17), Slovakia's Rastislav Spirko (2004-06), Denmark's Lars Oxholm (1991-93) and the Czech Republic's Zdenek (Stan) Marek (1950-51).

Five of the six were already playing in North America when they committed, though.


Janatuinen, Hoff and Spirko were playing in the United States Hockey League. Tomek, the lone goalie of the group, was playing in the North American Hockey League. Oxholm, the lone defenseman of the group, was playing in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League.

According to records, it appears Marek was playing in Europe in the late 1940s before coming to UND. Hellsten may be the first to come straight to UND from Europe since then.

Hellsten is set to be the first Swede to ever play for the UND men's team. The women's program, which was discontinued in 2017, had one Swede in defenseman Johanna Fallman, an Olympian who is still playing professionally. The women's team also had an associate coach from Sweden in Peter Elander, the former medal-winning Olympic coach.

On the men's side, European goalies have found major success in college hockey recently.

Earlier this month, Finland's Filip Lindberg led UMass to the NCAA national championship, while posting the nation's best save percentage for the season (.949). Latvia's Mareks Mitens of Lake Superior State, Sweden's Emil Zetterquist of St. Lawrence and Sweden's Persson of Miami all joined Lindberg in the top 13 nationally in save percentage.

The last four all-rookie team goalies in the NCHC were Europeans. Prior to Persson, Chrona and Larsson, Slovakia's David Hrenak of St. Cloud State won it in 2017-18.

Finland's Kasimir Kaskisuo of Minnesota Duluth won it in 2014-15.

UND's European players

Joel Janatuinen, F, 2015-19, Espoo, Finland


Ludvig Hoff, F, 2016-19, Oslo, Norway

Matej Tomek, G, 2015-17, Bratislava, Slovakia

Rastislav Spirko, F, 2004-06, Vrutky, Slovakia

Lars Oxholm, D, 1991-93, Herning, Denmark

Zdenek (Stan) Marek, F, 1950-51, Prostejor, Czech Republic

Schlossman has covered college hockey for the Grand Forks Herald since 2005. He has been recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors as the top beat writer for the Herald's circulation division four times and the North Dakota sportswriter of the year once. He resides in Grand Forks. Reach him at
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