The first round of the 2021 NHL Draft will take place on July 23. Following the results of the draft lottery, the Calgary Flames hold the 12th overall selection and will have a chance to add a high-end prospect to their organization.
Jesper Wallstedt is widely considered the top goaltender available in this year’s draft and the Flames may not get the chance to draft him at the 12th spot. Stranger things have happened, however, and Brad Treliving is no stranger to making maneuvers involving the Flames’ draft picks.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at Sweden’s heir presumptive to “King” Henrik Lundqvist.
Despite only having turned 18 last November, Wallstedt established himself as a starting goalie in the top-tier Swedish Hockey League in the 2020–21 season.
Wallstedt and Hugo Alnefelt were the only two U-20 goaltenders in the entire SHL to play five or more games in 2020–21. The Tampa Bay Lightning selected Alnefelt way back in the third round of the 2019 draft; Wallstedt is only just now becoming eligible to be selected.
Wallstedt has been playing up to his competition for many years. As a 13-year-old in the 2015–16 season, Wallstedt earned a spot and played on VIK Västerås’ U-18 Division I team. The following year, he was selected to join Västerås’ U-20 team in the SuperElit league.
The year after that, 2017–18, Wallstedt made Sweden’s U-18 World Junior team as a 15-year-old. Jimmy Hamrin described Wallstedt’s ascent as “unheard of in modern Swedish hockey” in his profile for McKeen’s Magazine (paywall):
Wallstedt is an elite NHL goalie prospect who has the potential to be a starter and a top goalie in the league in his prime. He is the best Swedish goalie prospect I have seen, and I would be surprised if he does not end up getting drafted in the first round, which would make him the first Swedish goalie ever to do so. We have seen Spencer Knight (13th overall) and Yaroslav Askarov (11th overall) getting picked high the two last years. I would say that Wallstedt is in the same category of talent as those two. Both, but especially Askarov, are more athletically spectacular than Wallstedt but I would give his hockey sense and composure a higher praise than either.
Standing 6’3″ and weighing 213 pounds, Wallstedt is a big man but would be a relatively average-sized goaltender in the modern NHL.
Alexander Appleyard praised Wallstedt’s puckhandling ability over at Smaht Scouting:
In a day and age where – partially due to the trapezoid – many goalies struggle with the puck on their stick Wallstedt is an exception. He grew up playing both goalie and skater, and his puck-handling makes you think he could have been a success had he never decided to don the mask. Impervious to pressure with the puck on his stick behind the net, Wallstedt can deceive forwards and is comfortable passing both forehand and backhand. At times he acts as effectively a third defenseman, and it is not a rare site seeing him head out of net to claim loose pucks in-front of him and dish out pin-point passes.
In 2017, Wallstedt broke Victor Hedman’s record and became the youngest player to score a goal in the history of the Swedish SuperElit league. Yes, the youngest player, not the youngest goaltender. Max Lee elaborated for The Puck Authority in 2018:
On October 7th, 2006 at 15 years, 9 months and 19 days old, Victor Hedman became the youngest goal scorer in SuperElit history.
For Wallstedt, just breaking one of Hedman’s records wasn’t nearly good enough. This is because on October 25th, 2017 at 14 years, 11 months and 11 days old, Jesper Wallstedt scored a goal in a game against Brynäs IF, the same team Hedman scored on 11 years prior. The goaltender not only scored the empty net goal, but also assisted on VIK Västerås’ first goal of the game.
In 22 SHL games with Luleå HF in 2020–21, Wallstedt posted a 12-10-0 record to go along with a 2.23 goals-against average and a .908 save percentage. He also recorded two shutouts.
Wallstedt spent the majority of the previous year with Luleå’s U-20 SuperElit team, going 16-11-0 with a .923 SV% and a 2.53 GAA. He also made his SHL debut that season, putting up a .944 save percentage in a losing effort.
At the 2021 World Juniors, Wallstedt represented Sweden and suited up for two games. He ultimately went 0-1-0 but still managed a .923 save percentage.
Availability and fit
Dustin Wolf is one of the top young goaltenders in hockey. Back in October 2020, Scott Wheeler of The Athletic ranked Wolf as the fifth-best goalie prospect affiliated with an NHL team (behind Yaroslav Askarov, Ilya Sorokin, Spencer Knight, and Connor Ingram).
Still, Wolf has a lot to prove at both the AHL and (eventually) the NHL levels before he can be considered a “sure thing.” Beyond him, the Flames’ goaltending ranks are underwhelming.
Tyler Parsons has battled through a cornucopia of injuries and has barely escaped the ECHL when healthy. Artyom Zagidulin is a 25-year-old without a contract for next season who has been average—at best—with Stockton. Daniil Chechelev was only just drafted in 2020 and looks to potentially be multiple years away from even signing an NHL contract.
The Flames might already have Wolf but, if he stumbles, they don’t exactly have a ton with which they can back him up. Wallstedt would make for one hell of an insurance policy. It sure would be an interesting change of pace if the Flames eventually became the team with too many good goalies.
Wallstedt is ranked at the following positions by these publications and scouting services:
McKeen’s Hockey — 4th
Future Considerations — 7th
Sportsnet (Sam Cosentino) — 12th
Dobber Prospects — 4th
TSN (Bob McKenzie) — 10th
Draft Prospects Hockey — 10th
NHL Central Scouting (European Goaltenders) — 1st
Recruit Scouting — 12th
EliteProspects.com — 6th
Smaht Scouting — 7th