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Goalie Jesper Wallstedt Is Giving the Wild A Glimpse Of Their Future At World Juniors

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The Minnesota Wild see Swedish goaltender Jesper Wallstedt at the World Juniors. On Monday, their potential franchise goalkeeper blocked 27 of 30 shots in a 6-3 win over the Russians, then interned en route to a 48-save shutout against Slovakia.

Wallstedt’s talent was fully demonstrated in Sweden’s first two games. He’s known for his composure, great positioning, and conscientiousness – just a few of his many strengths. On one of the biggest stages in the world, a 19-year-old goalkeeper usually wouldn’t have the confidence to attempt to score into the empty Russians net at the end of the game. But he did. He’s just calm, cool, and serene.

Wallstedt drew a lot of attention in the shutout win over Slovakia due to their incredible performance. Still, he diverted some of the attention after the game. β€œIt’s always an improvement in confidence, but I couldn’t do this performance without the team in front of me,” said Wallstedt. β€œWe had a lot of blocked shots and we put their shots in areas where I could often control saves, so this performance couldn’t be achieved without the big team in front of me.”

That says a lot about Wallstedt. He was riddled with scoring chances and 48 shots in the game, while also giving his side credit despite his performance single-handedly saving Sweden.

The young goalie saw his stock drop slightly last spring, which is why he dropped to the 20th pick. He wasn’t even the first goalie chosen in last year’s draft. But there is no doubt that he made his presence known at the start of the World Juniors, likely making teams second guess their draft decisions.

As a teenager, Wallstedt excelled in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL), one of the toughest leagues in the world. After posting a .908 save percentage and a 2.23 goals-against average in 22 games just a year ago, Wallstedt has followed up with insane numbers this season. In 17 games for Lulea HF, Wallstedt has posted a .923 save percentage and 1.82 goals-against average.

Considering his numbers over the past two years and his performance in the first two games, it’s no wonder pundits are projecting the Swedish keeper as an elite prospect. Wallstedt consolidates his place in the same level as his fellow hopeful top goalkeepers Yaroslav Askarov and Spencer Knight.

His advantage as an elite goalie prospect is why the Wild traded two spots to get Wallstedt in last year’s draft. Chances are the Edmonton Oilers will regret that move in the future. The same goes for the Detroit Red Wings, who selected goaltender Sebastian Cossa five spots earlier.

The Wild lacked high-end goalie prospects since its inception. They also don’t have a solid record with the goaltending draft. The only three goalies the Wild have drafted and bred in the NHL are Josh Harding, Darcy Kuemper and Kaapo Kahkonen. Likewise, the organization has not had an elite franchise goalie in its history. Nicklas Backstrom and Devan Dubnyk, two of the Wild’s longest-serving goaltenders, have both been overrated in their respective spells. The two keepers were hardly analytical darlings.

When the opportunity presented itself, the Wild jumped on it and became the first team in NHL history to catch a Swedish goaltender in the first round. There’s no question that Bill Guerin and Judd Bracket came out of the draft as one of the biggest winners considering how much value they got from Wallstedt in the 20th pick.

Some of Wallstedt’s closest comparables are Frederik Andersen, Jacob Markstrom, and Thatcher Demko. When 10KSkating rinks contacted Byron Bader, the creator of HockeyProspecting and consultant for the NHL Draft, he mentioned another goaltender that comes to mind is Andrei Vasilevskiy.

β€œMarkstrom is a very good line-up. Similar SHL track, ”Bader said. β€œEven though Wallstedt was there even earlier, and I think he will make the NHL earlier than Markstrom. Vasilevskiy also comes to mind. A few years on the Pro-Euro track and came straight into the NHL and thrived. “

Developing Wallstedt into an elite starter will be paramount for an organization that has often had issues between the pipes.

With the addition of Wallstedt, the Wild have one of the NHL’s largest and most promising prospect pipelines. There is already so much talent with Marco Rossi, Matt Boldy, Adam Beckman and Calen Addison, among others, in the system.

In a few years, the Wild will need Wallstedt to step in and make an impact. Cam Talbot still has a year on his contract after this season, so his departure will leave a hole. Likewise, the scouts doubt that Kaapo Kahkonen could truly become an NHL starter. It looks like he’s destined to be a good replacement in the league.

It’s also worth noting that Wallstedt is still a few years away from joining the Wild’s roster, so it’s critical to consider age-related regression when it comes to defense. While it’s likely that Jared Spurgeon and Jonas Brodin will continue to be strong defenders of the Wild throughout their respective contracts, at some point there will likely be some sort of age-related regression. It will be important for the Wild to be a strong goalkeeper, and Wallstedt is the potential ace at the net who can achieve that.

All data via Elite outlook.

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