Red Wings Draft Candidates: Jesper Wallstedt

Look, I’m sure many of you don’t love the idea of the Detroit Red Wings drafting a goalie with the No. 6 pick in the 2021 NHL Draft. But hear me out.

Jesper Wallstedt is the top goaltending prospect in this year’s draft class. He put together an outstanding rookie season in Sweden’s top professional league and has found a home inside many draft analysts’ top 10

Related: Red Wings 2021 Draft Coverage

He’s the real deal. And the Red Wings should absolutely consider Wallstedt as the sixth-overall pick in this year’s draft.

Jesper Wallstedt Overview

Not too many goalies have produced draft-year campaigns in the SHL like Wallstedt. The netminder finished the 2020-21 season with a 2.23 goals-against average (GAA) and .908 save percentage in 22 games for Luleå. 

Stylistically, Wallstedt plays big, blocking game and stands deep in his crease – perhaps a combination of fellow countrymen Robin Lehner and Henrik Lundqvist. Wallstedt is also super efficient, rarely sprawling to get back into position. He tracks the puck that well, and is almost always square on the puck.

In addition, Wallstedt’s crease movement and adjustments are way above-average for draft-eligible goalies. His crease adjustments look effortless, but are actually quite precise as the game moves around him. And when play is in tight, Wallstedt seals off the bottom of the net incredibly well. He’s a technically sound goalie – more so than anyone else in this draft class.

However, there are drawbacks to his game – nothing a good goalie coach can’t fix, though. First, Wallstedt tends to over-rely on RVH positioning. While this seals off the short side completely, it also prevents him from being able to quickly react to cross-ice passes or odd bounces. This is the same issue Petr Mrazek had during his Red Wings tenure. Additionally, Wallstedt could benefit from stickhandling and poke-check practice – both aspects of his game could use improvement.

Overall, the positives drastically outweigh the negatives. Wallstedt’s poise and efficient game make him an outstanding prospect and one deserving of a top-10 selection in this year’s draft. It’s fair to group Wallstedt in the same talent cohort as recent first-round picks Yaroslav Askarov and Spencer Knight. Whoever drafts the Swedish netminder will have a franchise goalie on their hands.

Red Wings Fit

From a fit perspective, Wallstedt is perfect for the Red Wings. Yes, he’s Swedish, but also because the organization lacks a bonafide goalie of the future. 

Potential Detroit Red Wings draft pick Jesper Wallstedt
Jesper Wallstedt representing Sweden at the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship. (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)

In my most recent prospect rankings, only three goalies slotted into Detroit’s top 25. According to recent reports, the Red Wings’ top goalie prospect—Keith Petruzzelli (ranked No. 12)—likely will not be signing with the team and is expected to become a free agent. Beyond him, Filip Larsson and Jan Bednar are far from sure things. 

Clearly, the Red Wings’ prospect pipeline could benefit from a true franchise netminder, and Wallstedt is exactly that. He could step into a starting role by the 2023-24 season and remain firmly entrenched in Detroit’s crease for a decade thereafter. The Red Wings wouldn’t have to worry about goaltending stability for quite some time.

It’s worth noting that the 2022 draft class doesn’t have a Wallstedt/Askarov/Knight near the top. This doesn’t mean that the Red Wings won’t be able to find a talented goalie next year – it’ll just be more difficult.

Related: 2021 NHL Draft Guide

However, the organization could also use top-line scoring and a top-pair blueliner to solidify their skater pool. Steve Yzerman and Kris Draper will need to balance Detroit’s overall needs when considering their options for the No. 6 pick.

Final Word

On the merits of drafting Wallstedt sixth-overall, the decision isn’t a clear yes or no. It honestly depends on who’s available. If William Eklund or Luke Hughes fall to No. 6, they should be prioritized. Mason McTavish is a toss-up – both he and Wallstedt would be great adds. Otherwise, Wallstedt should be the choice, in my opinion.

The Red Wings’ lack of goaltending depth is obvious. Drafting Wallstedt would solve that issue.

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