With the 20th pick of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft, the Minnesota Wild have selected Jesper Wallstedt from Luleå of the SHL.
About Jesper Wallstedt
Wallstedt was labelled as one of the top goalies in this draft from the very beginning of this year. Throughout the season he continued to shine and show his dominance during his draft season. He has the potential to be a perennial starter for years to come. He held his own as an 18-year-old in the SHL, going 12-10-0 with a 2.23 goals against average and .908 save percentage. At 6-foot-3, 212 pounds, he definitely has the frame to provide the quality goaltending that any team would love to have.
THW Prospect Profile Excerpt
“Following 2020 NHL Draft standout Yaroslav Askarov, Swedish goaltender Jesper Wallstedt will look to become the next big goaltending prospect to come out of the European circuit. He could actually become even bigger than Askarov when all is said and done. Yes, he’s that good. All the superlatives you can think of apply to Wallstedt. He’s quick laterally, strong on his skates, almost perfect technically, and finally, never gives up on a play. He’s also calm as a cucumber, possesses a lightning-quick glove hand, and can handle the puck efficiently outside of his crease. Basically, what I am saying is, there are not many weaknesses to his game.
Related: 2021 NHL Draft Guide
“Playing in the SHL at 18-years-old is amazing in itself, but when you excel there too, a whole other level is reached. When you consider that there has never been a Swedish goaltender drafted during the first-round in NHL history, let alone the top-10, the allure of Wallstedt gets even higher. Needless to say, he’s a pretty rare commodity.
“Looking to become the first goaltender to be selected in the top-10 since superstar Carey Price, Wallstedt oozes franchise netminder potential. In fact, a lot of what was said about Price in his draft year can be said about Wallstedt, especially when it comes to how calm he is in the crease. He had a tremendous season playing for Lulea HF, posting a sparkling 2.23 goals-against average (GAA) and .908 save percentage to go along with two shutouts. He usurped regular starter David Rautio later in the season, but struggled a bit in the playoffs, giving way to 28-year-old Joel Lassinanti.
“Next season, Walstedt will almost certainly take over the starting duties full time both in Lulea and for Team Sweden at the 2022 World Junior Championship. As great as he is right now, he’s probably not ready for a starting position in the NHL at this point. Most goaltenders, even the franchise ones like Price, needed time at the AHL level and as a backup to a veteran before they were ready for the crease full time. He will likely take the same path before his greatness is realized with whichever team is fortunate enough to select him in July.”
How This Affects the Wild’s Plans
It was surprising to not see Wallstedt be the first goalie taken as Sebastian Cossa was selected by the Detroit Red Wings. However, the Wild found the opportunity to draft a promising goaltender with great athleticism. He has the potential to be a capable starter in the league for many years and gives the Wild promise in net. He’s got the awareness, mobility and reflexes that will make him a starter in the NHL. He’s always square with the shooter and his size makes it extremely difficult to get anything by when he’s in position.
While it may be a few years before Wallstedt makes the jump to the NHL, he’s definitely going to be one of many young goaltending prospects to take the league by storm in the crease.
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Peter is in his third year with The Hockey Writers, covering the Toronto Maple Leafs and heading the Draft and Prospects section. He has previously interned at The Hockey News and worked on Toronto Marlies broadcasts for Rogers TV. He currently is the co-host of the podcast Sticks in the 6ix and a frequent guest on Maple Leafs Lounge. Aside from hockey, he also enjoys drumming, animation and impressions/ voices.