For a fair bit of time NHL teams were hesitant to use high 1st round picks on goaltenders. The challenges and complexities of scouting the position, projecting their future value compared to skaters, and developing them saw most goaltenders slide to the late 1st round at the earliest or the 2nd round more often than not. This trend has changed in recent years as highly rated goaltenders Spencer Knight and Yaroslav Askarov came into the draft with a lot of hype.
Knight would be selected 13th overall by the Florida Panthers in the 2019 NHL Draft while Askarov would be selected 11th overall by the Nashville Predators in the 2020 NHL Draft. Knight starred for two seasons at Boston College before making a positive impression for the Panthers at the end of this season and in the playoffs. Askarov has continued to be a standout goaltender in Russia in the SKA St. Petersburg system. It’s still too early to say whether drafting these goaltenders that early was a good move or not, but the early returns are really promising. I certainly think the Panthers and Predators will make out well long term by taking these goaltenders but only time will tell.
This year’s draft also features a goaltender that could become the cornerstone of a franchise. Jesper Wallstedt is a highly rated Swedish goaltender that spent his draft season as a rookie in the Swedish Hockey League where he had a lot of success playing against men. He also added more international experience to his resume by playing for Sweden’s U20 team at the World Junior Championship. In today’s profile, we will take a closer look at Wallstedt to see what he has already accomplished, what skills he possesses, and what his future could hold.
Before we get to know more about Wallstedt, I should note that when it comes to talking about goaltenders there are a few additional metrics I like to look at for more context. These are Goals Saved Above Average (GSAA), GSAA per 30 shots (GSAA/30), GSAA per 60 minutes (GSAA/60) and Goals Allowed % Minus (GA%-). I also like to take a look at Quality Starts, Really Bad Starts, and Bail Outs.
Goals Saved Above Average = Saves-(League Average SV%*Shots Against); (Developed by Hockey Reference)
Goals Allowed Percentage Minus = 100*((1-player save %)/(1-league average save %)); (Developed by Hockey Reference)
Quality Start = The starting goalie must stop at least a league average number of shots or play at least as well as a replacement-level goalie (88.5%) while allowing two goals or fewer. (Developed by Robert Vollman)
Really Bad Starts and Bail Outs = The Really Bad Start, where a goalie fails to stop even 85% of the shots, leaving his team barely a 10% chance of winning. The opposite of a Wasted Quality Start is a Bail-Out, which is defined by being awarded a win despite failing to achieve a Quality Start. (Developed by Robert Vollman)
For GSAA, you obviously want to have a positive value. For GA%- you want to be below 100 which is league average. For example a 92 GA%- would mean you were about 8% better than league average while a 108 GA%- would mean you were 8 percent below league average.
Who is Jesper Wallstedt?
Jesper Wallstedt is a top goaltending prospect that spent last season with Lulea HF in the Swedish Hockey League. According to his Elite Prospects profile, he was born on November 14, 2002 in Vasteras, Sweden. He is listed at 6’3”, 214 lbs. and catches with his left hand. He came up through the VIK Vasteras system before transferring to Lulea HF before the 2018-19 season.
Looking over his stats on Elite Prospects, the first thing that stands out is how he’s always been playing above his age group. In his age 13 season in 2015-16, he played 6 games for the VIK Vasteras U16 team and a game for the J18 team. In his age 14 season in 2016-17, he played in 10 U16 games, 23 J18 games, and appeared twice for Sweden’s U16 team. Not only did he play for the J18 team for VIK Vasteras that season but he was productive with a .904 SV% in 5 J18 Elit games, a .925 SV% in 9 J18 Allsvenskan games, and .936 SV% in 9 J18 Allsvenskan playoff games. Across those 2 appearances for Sweden’s U16 team he had a .957 SV%.
His age 15 season in 2017-18 was his final season with VIK Vasteras. He put up a .928 SV% in 7 J18 Elit games but mainly spent the season at the J20 level in the J20 SuperElit. In that competition he went 15-8 with a 2.28 GAA and .921 SV% in 25 regular season games. In 3 playoff games he put up a .922 SV%. That season he also spent some time with Sweden’s U16 and U17 teams. He was on the roster for their U18 WJC Bronze Medal winning team but didn’t appear in the competition.
Wallstedt would move to Lulea HF for his age 16 season in 2018-19. He had success in 5 appearances for their J18 team but mainly spent the season with the J20 team in the J20 SuperElit. He went 12-8 with a 2.65 GAA and .901 SV% in 21 regular season games. He played well for Sweden at the U17 World Championships where he had a .919 SV% in 5 games as they won the Bronze. He also played in 2 games for Sweden at the U18 World Championships with a .936 SV% where they took home Gold. He also represented Sweden’s U18 team at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup where he had a .893 SV% in 2 games as one of three U17 goaltenders at the competition (Askarov was another, as was 2021 draft eligible overager Nick Malik). Sweden took home a Silver Medal at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup.
His age 17 season in 2019-20 would bring more success as he went 16-11 with a 2.53 GAA and .923 SV% in 28 J20 SuperElit games. He even made his professional debut on March 10, 2020 when he made 17 saves on 18 shots in 38:47 against HV71. Across 7 games for Sweden’s U18 team he had a .922 SV%. He put up a .936 SV% for Sweden’s U18 team at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup as they took home Bronze Medals.
The 2020-21 season was his age 18 season and draft year. Wallstedt took a big step up in competition as a rookie in the SHL. According to the SHL site, Wallstedt went 11-8-3 (W-L-T) with a 2.23 GAA, .908 SV%, and 2 shutouts in 22 games. He made 2 appearances in the playoffs where he went 0-1 with a .871 SV%. He played twice for Sweden at the U20 WJC where he went 0-1 with a 2.40 GAA and .923 SV%.
Digging deeper into his rookie SHL season and I found that he had a 99 Goals Allowed % Minus, 0.38 Goals Saved Above Average, 0.02 GSAA per 30 Shots, 0.02 GSAA per 60 Minutes, 24.14 Workload (Shots Against Per GP), 13 Quality Starts (59.09%), 5 Really Bad Starts (22.73%), 2 Bail Outs (9.09%). 23 Goaltenders played at least 20 or more games in the SHL last season. Wallstedt’s ranks in (): 99 GA%- (14th), 0.38 GSAA (14th), 0.02 GSAA per 30 Shots (14th), 0.02 GSAA per 60 Minutes (14th), 24.14 Workload (20th). I don’t know how his Quality Starts/Really Bad Starts/Bail Outs compare to other goaltenders, but an 18 year old putting up a near 60% Quality Start% is encouraging and something he can build off of.
Finally, it’s worth noting that according to Elite Prospects, 4 Goaltenders have played 10+ games in the SHL in their draft year. Wallstedt leads the way with 22 GP (2nd place is 13 GP) and .908 SV% (2nd place is .898). Essentially, Wallstedt performed at a slightly above league average level while not facing a high workload. As an 18 year old rookie, that is absolutely fantastic given the quality of competition he faced in the SHL. He’s been facing older competition than his age group at almost every step of his development and it’s encouraging that he now has had success against professional players with years of experience. Now let’s see where various outlets have Wallstedt ranked.
Where is Jesper Wallstedt Ranked?
As you can see from the rankings below, most outlets view Wallstedt as the best goaltender in the draft and as a top 10 prospect. Even despite some rankings outside of the top 10, it’s likely that one of the teams picking in the top 10 will decide to take a chance on a goaltender of his caliber and potential with their pick.
- #1 European Goalies - NHL Central Scouting (Final Ranking)
- #6 - Elite Prospects (May Ranking)
- #10 - Elite Prospects Consolidated Rankings (Most Recent Ranking)
- #14- Hockey Prospect (April Ranking)
- #10 - TSN - Bob McKenzie (Midseason Ranking)
- #9 - TSN - Craig Button (May Ranking)
- #7 - FC Hockey (Spring Ranking)
- #4 - McKeen’s Hockey (April Ranking)
- #12 - Sportsnet (May Ranking)
- #10 - Draft Prospects Hockey (Spring Ranking)
- #4 - Dobber Prospects (March Ranking)
- #13 - The Draft Analyst - Steve Kournianos (Final Top 32 Ranking)
- #10 - NHL.com - Mike G. Morreale (April Ranking)
- #3 - Scouching - Will Scouch (Post-Lottery Rankings)
What Others Say About Jesper Wallstedt
Ben Kerr of Last Word on Sports has this in-depth scouting report on Jesper Wallstedt. He breaks the goaltender’s game down by skating and talent as well as mental make-up before providing a projection and comparison. In the skating and talent section, I thought what Kerr had to say about Wallstedt’s rebound control and positioning stood out:
His rebound control is very good for a young goalie, far ahead of other prospects his age...He is also extremely efficient in his movements and is almost always square to the puck...He is pretty good at angling pucks to the corners when he can’t swallow them.
Regarding Wallstedt’s skating:
His strong legs take away the bottom of the net...He is able to take away those angles but still gets a good backward push, which makes him hard to deke. Those strong legs also give him a strong push and good side-to-side movement.
Kerr also rates Wallstedt’s puck handling ability, writing:
He often acts like a third defenceman for his team, quickly moving the puck to his defenceman and helping the transition game.
It seems like Wallstedt really has a good understanding of how to read the game, be efficient in his movement to not only save shots but prevent secondary chances from occurring, and has the ability to move the puck up the ice to help in the transition game.
Kerr also gave a glowing review of Wallstedt’s mental make-up. Here is an excerpt:
Wallstedt also shows maturity, not being rattled by goals or traffic around his net. He keeps his composure and is ready to make the next save no matter what the situation.
That’s exactly what you want from your goaltender and with his skills, it’s no wonder why he’s so highly rated. Finally, Kerr notes that Wallstedt is a few years away from the NHL but his style is comparable to one of the best goaltenders in the NHL today:
His style is comparable to Tuukka Rask, however this is more of a stylistic comparison than one based on skill and ability.
Alexander Appleyard of Smaht Scouting has this report on Wallstedt. After praising Wallstedt’s poise he wrote this on the goaltender’s style of play:
He rarely needs to make big saves, or rely on athleticism, because his skating ability and anticipation leave him in the perfect position to deal with shots simply the majority of the time. As with most modern goalies his base set is Reverse-VH when players get in close on his peripheries, and he is a master at the age of 18.
It is interesting to read that Wallstedt is able to rely on technique over athleticism. It seems for what he lacks physically, he more than makes up for with his understanding of how to play the position. The Reverse VH (good one minute breakdown video here) is a popular style in the NHL and it’s encouraging to read that he knows how to incorporate it into his game already.
We read that he has great rebound control but I thought it was interesting that the stats seem to back that up:
Smaht Scouting’s Josh Tessler has been tracking the NHL 2021 draft eligible goalies, and from a statistical perspective Wallstedt has allowed less rebounds that virtually every other goalie who will be eligible in 2021.
Appleyard also notes that Wallstedt allowing few rebounds while playing in the SHL as an 18 year old rookie is really impressive.
Here is some of what Appleyard has to say about Wallstedt’s glove:
But with Wallstedt’s technically ability, alongside fantastic hand-eye coordination, he plucks the puck out of the air with ease, even on shots that are hard and accurate.
The report also gives a glowing review of his puck handling. Here is an excerpt:
Impervious to pressure with the puck on his stick behind the net, Wallstedt can deceive forwards and is comfortable passing both forehand and backhand.
So what does Appleyard feel is a concern for Wallstedt’s development? He notes that there are no glaring technical weaknesses but that his athleticism could improve:
The only major question? His athleticism. Simply put, Wallstedt is not Askarov or Knight in that area. He is not “as” quick up and down or side-to-side as many high-end goalie talents...
He also compares the young goaltender’s style to that of Tuukka Rask but notes some slight differences between the two:
The Bruins goalie is slightly more athletic than Wallstedt – though he is not elite in this regard himself – but the Swede is a far superior puck-handler and better with his rebound control.
Overall, that is another really positive report on Wallstedt and it is interesting to see his style once again compared to Rask. While developing into a top goaltender like Rask is a very difficult proposition, it certainly seems Wallstedt has enough technical skills to develop into a solid NHL goaltender should he not reach that peak.
Next, we have this player profile on Wallstedt by Jakub Hromada of Recruit Scouting. It has a thorough breakdown of Wallstedt’s play that WJC and notes that his high danger SV% was among the best in the tournament. There is a whole section on Wallstedt’s posture and I thought this part really stood out:
So when the player is looking to shoot, Wallstedt lowered himself a bit. It looks like this. Visually it looks like he had more space on his glove side and blocker side, less between the legs. He’s kind of tempting the opponents to shoot there and that’s where he’s dominant. With his glove.
It seems that Wallstedt isn’t short on confidence so he has no problem with pressuring the shooter to try to beat him up high, knowing that he can stop it. It’s exceptional to see that attitude in a young goaltender that is already playing against professionals.
The conclusion and comparison part of the report notes:
Wallstedt is a terrific goaltender who might not have overwhelmed potential as Askarov, but his ability to be at the right place at the right time is huge.
Wallstedt style of play reminds me a lot of Connor Hellebuyck. He makes the goaltender’s job very easy, his positioning is his best threat.
From this report, it seems that Wallstedt may not have the same potential as Askarov but does have a fairly safe style that should help him reach his floor as an NHL goaltender.
Back in March, Dobber Prospects released their mid-season rankings. Here’s some of what Danny Tiffany had to say about Wallstedt:
To start, Wallstedt uses his big frame to his advantage and blends that with really good positioning. However, it’s Wallstedts IQ and understanding of plays before they happen that make him the X-Factor every time he’s between the pipes. His use of the RVH and VH techniques is as good as it gets.
This seems to back up the other reports about Wallstedt’s positioning, abilities to utilize the VH (vertical horizontal) and RVH (reverse vertical horizontal) techniques, and his vision.
Finally, I thought this part on Wallstedt’s upside from The Draft Analyst was interesting from this post on potential #1 picks:
Wallstedt has all the making of a bonafide franchise goalie for a variety of reasons. Yes, he already has the size, quickness, and technical know-how to form a solid foundation. But Wallstedt’s biggest attributes at this stage of his development center on his experience and big-game exposure. He’s been facing the best shooters and scorers available at every level and met those challenges with distinction
As I noted earlier in the post, Wallstedt has been playing players in older age groups at every stage of his development. It’s not too surprising that he already found himself playing at a solid level in the SHL at 18 years old.
A Little Video
The first highlights package we have is courtesy of Recrutes Hockey. Wallstedt’s poise, movement, and skills are on full display throughout the whole thing so I definitely recommend giving it a watch:
The next video we have is from Draft Prospects Hockey. This video may be less than 2 minutes but is packed with highlights and a scouting report narrated over the action:
An Opinion of Sorts
Drafting and developing goaltenders is a big challenge no matter the quality of the prospect. Using a high 1st round pick on a goaltender is a gamble but one that could prove to be extremely valuable should it pay off. I think Wallstedt has shown enough technical skills, a strong mentality, and above average vision to warrant a team taking a chance on him early in the draft. He has the potential to be a goaltender that you could build your franchise around. Even if he doesn’t reach that level, it seems he has enough skills to at least become a serviceable NHL goaltender for years to come. His experience playing at a solid level in the SHL at 18 definitely bodes well for his long term prospects. Some may say he doesn’t have the potential of a Knight or Askarov, but there is a lot to like about Wallstedt’s game and I think he has a really bright future ahead of him.
I wouldn’t want the Devils to draft him with the 4th overall pick but that has more to do with the caliber of defensemen and forwards available at that slot than anything negative about Wallstedt’s game. I think he could be worth a shot for a team drafting in the back half of the top 10 and that’s where I think he’ll go. If he ends up slipping between #10 to #15 then I think a team would have to jump at the chance to take him at one of those slots.
What are your thoughts on Jesper Wallstedt? Do you believe he is a potential franchise goaltender? Would you want the Devils to use the 4th overall pick on him? Leave your comments below and thank you for reading!