Wild’s Wallstedt Could be The Next Henrik Lundqvist But Better

Prospects are the key to an organization’s success. The top-end ones grow and develop into NHLers, while the ones that don’t stay with the American Hockey League (AHL) team and help that team win. You need both to help your entire organization and not just the club at the highest level.

Jesper Wallstedt Iowa Wild
Jesper Wallstedt, Iowa Wild (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

The Minnesota Wild have one of the best goalie prospects in the NHL with Jesper Wallstedt. The Swedish netminder made his mark in the AHL this year, two years removed from his 20th-overall selection in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft. The Wild have a great goaltender grinding his way up to the big club who could turn out better than one of the best in history.

Lundqvist Was An Elite Goalie

Henrik Lundqvist is the best Swedish goaltender of all time. That is a huge feat, given that he started his career as a seventh-round draft pick in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft. He played for the New York Rangers for 15 years. In his 16th year, he had signed with the Washington Capitals, but couldn’t fulfill his contract due to health concerns and was forced to retire. During his tenure, he was one of the most dominant goaltenders in the entire NHL. Lundqvist was a Vezina Trophy finalist three times, won it once, and was a Hart Trophy finalist once as the NHL’s most valuable player.

Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers
Henrik Lundqvist with the New York Rangers (Photo Credit: Andy Martin, Jr.)

Lundqvist was known for his technical skill and poise when minding the net. He was always deep in his net, which meant that he could move laterally very quickly to stop shots coming off of cross-seam passes. Lundqvist didn’t need to flop around like Dominik Hasek because he was always square to shooters and always in a good position.

Wallstedt Has Similar Style To Lundqvist

Wallstedt has incredibly sound mechanics for a young player. He is a strong puck tracker and is in the right place at the right time. These have been his strengths since his draft year. Wallstedt rarely scrambles and is about to play deep in the net because of his 6-foot-3 frame.

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Lundqvist’s Career Highlights

Lundqvist had great athleticism despite playing deeper in his net. Wallstedt has the same kind of athleticism, he just hasn’t needed to use it much, so you don’t see it as much. Because Wallstedt doesn’t rely on athletic ability, he has a better chance of playing for a very long time in the NHL.

Wallstedt Had Better Numbers At the Entry Draft

Wallstedt played 22 games for the Swedish Hockey League’s (SHL) Lulea squad. That’s the most games a 17-year-old goalie has played in the SHL in one season (the next highest was seven). Wallstedt put together 2.23 goals-against average (GAA) and a .908 save percentage (SV%) in that time. For SV%, he ranked 13th out of 23 goalies who played 20-plus games.

Jesper Wallstedt Sweden
Jesper Wallstedt, Sweden, 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)

Lundqvist, on the other hand, spent his draft year in the J20 SuperElit league playing for the Vastra Frolunda HC team. He also posted good numbers with a 2.45 GAA and a .904 SV%. Wallstedt gets the advantage here because of reaching the same statistical success in a much tougher league.

Wallstedt Is Developing Faster Than Lundqvist

Lundqvist split the year after he was drafted between J20, Allsvenskan, and SHL (formerly Elitserien). The four years after were spent primarily in the SHL, where he honed his game and became dominant. In Lundqvist’s last SHL season in 2004-05, he played 44 games with a 1.79 GAA and a .936 SV%. Wallstedt is only two years into his career post-draft, so let’s hone in on those years.

Henrik Lundqvist’s First Two Post-Draft Seasons

Lundqvist struggled in his first season, jumping around between the three leagues. The SHL and Allsvenskan were too much for him, but he enjoyed success in the J20, similar to his draft year. Lundqvist found his footing in the SHL the next season and wasn’t that far off from his game in the J20 the year previous.

Jesper Wallstedt’s First Two Post-Draft Seasons

There is no arguing that Wallstedt has better numbers. Wallstedt’s draft year plus one (D+1) is on par with Lundqvist’s fifth (D+5). Wallstedt is already in North America, acclimating to the different ice sizes. By the time Lundqvist reached North America, he jumped straight into NHL action in his D+6 season. Wallstedt had a rough start to the year but rebounded in a big way after. Wallstedt was the AHL Goaltender of the Month in January.

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Wallstedt is the goalie of the Wild’s future, regardless of if he is rushed to the NHL, or not. He’s off to an incredible start to his professional career. Wallstedt is developing quicker and better than Lundqvist did. At 20 years old, he is better than when Lundqvist was the same age. By the time Wallstedt calls it a career we’ll see if he was indeed better than Lundqvist.

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