2019-20 Team: MODO (Allsvenskan)
Date of Birth: July 28, 2002
Place of Birth: Sollefteå, Sweden
Ht: 6-foot-4 Wt: 192 pounds
NHL Draft Eligibility: 2020 first-year eligible
- NHL Central Scouting: 14th (Among EU Skaters)
- Bob McKenzie, TSN: 27th
- Future Considerations: 49th
- Andrew Forbes’ Top-217 Rankings: 26th (March)
- Josh Bell’s Final Rankings: 30th
- Larry Fisher’s Top-500 Final Rankings: 31st
In a draft where most of the focus is on the plethora of enticing young forwards, defensemen like MODO’s William Wallinder may see a slight bump in stock for teams seeking to fill a need.
One of the words scouts often use to describe the towering Swede is ‘raw’. You’re not going to walk down the street and see too many 6-foot-4 17-year-olds, but what makes Wallinder stand out, in particular, is his ability to accelerate and make plays at a high pace for such a big body. Those are the qualities that have caught the attention of NHL teams and rocketed him up draft rankings over the past year.
Related: THW’s 2020 Draft Guide
Scouts have had difficulty pinning where Wallinder might go in the draft, with some rankings listing him as a top-30 pick and others, like Future Considerations, listing him as low as 49th. But unlike his inconsistent classifications, Wallinder has played quite steadily as he has ascended through the top hockey leagues in Sweden.
Five assists in one game was all it took in the U-18 league this season before he was immediately promoted to the U-20. He played 37 games with MODO J20, tallying 5 goals and 24 points. Once again, the powerful defenseman was proving he was ready for the next level.
Finishing his season with MODO in Allsvenskan, the league just below the SHL, he collected 2 assists in 18 games, but that’s not quite indicative of any major struggles. In a league of grown men, Wallinder played far fewer minutes in a diminished role. It hurts his draft value that he hasn’t touched the SHL yet, like many other top Swedish prospects do, but that’s where the conversation shifts to his rawness and youth.
Wallinder skates exceptionally well for such a big guy. He also has deceptively quick hands with the puck, and boasts a heavy shot with a powerful release. He is comfortable quarterbacking a team’s power play, and his tendencies to shoot are backed up by the fact that he rarely misses the net or takes a risky shot that can set an opposition rush into motion.
Defensively, Wallinder knows how to use his size. He does well clearing the front of the net, which makes him a viable option on the penalty kill. He’s not afraid to get physical and go for a big hit, but his aggression can cause him to occasionally lose his positioning. He can also get caught cheating trying to start or join a potential rush before the puck has exited the zone.
Wallinder has some bite to his game, and often gets into scrums after the whistle in defense of himself or his teammates. Despite the snarl to his game, he does well to avoid sentencing, as he keeps his penalty minutes relatively low.
The standout of the left-handed defenseman’s game is his confidence with the puck. He has the speed, fluidity and stickhandling that’s typically uncommon in big defensemen. Because of his strong edges and ability to impact offensively and defensively, he became the anchor for his junior teams, where he often played north of 25 minutes a night.
Other THW Draft Profiles
William Wallinder – NHL Draft Projection
Wallinder is essentially the full package when it comes to defensemen. The uncertainty is how he will develop in the coming years, and how he’s able to improve his areas of weakness. The good news is, the young Swede has quickly climbed the ranks of every level he’s played at because of his willingness to learn and listen to his coaches. Because of all those great qualities, and the scarcity of top defensemen in this upcoming draft, Wallinder will likely be chosen in the 20-to-30 range of the first round, possibly even earlier.
“Wallinder is an excellent skater with strong edges, excellent balance, and fluid movements in all directions. He looks graceful in open ice and can carry the puck from end to end with speed and agility. Even in a clogged neutral zone, Wallinder is confident in his stickhandling and nimble enough to sidestep or weave away from pressure while keeping his head on a swivel and attacking the weakest point. If possession changes, Wallinder can reverse direction on a dime and begin a powerful backskate while maintaining a tight gap with his stick positioned properly. One of several noticeable aspects of the way he defends is his ability to maintain focus on the puck while taking occasional peeks at possible threats developing elsewhere. Wallinder has a highly-active stick near his own goal but he will drop a quick first step to pounce on a puck in the corner. Even with his back to the wall and under pressure from multiple directions, Wallinder will either use the boards for a bank pass or quickly pivot away from his checker to explode up the ice. He also battles hard for low-slot positioning ” – Steve Kournianos, The Draft Analyst
“Wallinder is a puck-rushing defenseman with great size and a left-handed shot. He loves to join the rush and he’s often times even leading the rush. He is a great skater and has good puck skills which allow him to play that type of a role. But sometimes he has a tendency to keep the puck on his stick for too long. His strengths are mostly in transition and on the rush attack, though, as he isn’t the most natural offensive threat in the offensive zone. His biggest weakness can be found at the other end. At times, he seems disinterested in defending, almost like he’s just waiting for his team to get the puck back so that they can start rushing towards the offensive end once again.” – Jokke Nevalainen, DobberProspects
- Size and reach
- Skating and transitioning
- Puck control
- Raw, coachable toolkit
Under Construction – Improvements to Make
- Adapting to higher-paced men’s leagues
- Offensive-zone instincts
- Defensive intensity
Often times, drafting a big defenseman can go wrong if the player can’t make improvements in his areas of weakness. Thankfully for Wallinder, his shortcomings are manageable, and his strengths are rare to find. I project him to be a future middle-pairing defenseman in the NHL, but if he can become more defensively sound, he could work his way into a top-pair role one day. There should be little doubt Wallinder will become a future regular NHL defenseman, but he’ll likely be a long-term project.
Risk – 2.5/5, Reward – 4/5
Fantasy Hockey Potential
Offense – 7/10, Defense – 8/10
Wallinder played five games for Sweden in the 2019 U-18 Hlinka Gretzky Cup, helping his country win a bronze medal. His two points in 18 games with Allsvenskan this season were good enough to earn him honors for most points by a U-18 Junior, an award that only three other defensemen have won before.
Matt Cosman is a Sheridan College print journalism graduate from Oakville, Ontario. I’ve been with THW since 2019 covering the Carolina Hurricanes, one of my favorite childhood teams. When I’m not in my hockey bubble you can probably catch me jamming out on the piano or losing money at the poker tables.