Wallstedt understands that patience is necessary


ST. Paul, Minn. — Jesper Wallstedt is seen as the Minnesota Wild’s goaltender of the future, but the 20th overall pick in the 2021 NHL Draft knows he has a ways to go.

« There’s still a lot of hard work to do to reach this level, » admitted the 19-year-old goaltender. I’m not guaranteed a spot in the NHL, even though I was drafted in the first round. »

Wallstedt’s performance, however, solidified his status as an elite Wild prospect.

He led the Swedish Hockey League with a 1.98 goals-against average and ranked fourth with a .918 save percentage in 22 games with Lulea last season. He also helped Sweden win the bronze medal at the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship, posting a 3-1 record with a 1.62 mba and .940 save percentage in five games.

The Wild expect Wallstedt to play with Iowa of the American Hockey League this season so he can acclimate to North American rinks.

« It’s really important that he acclimatize to the North American game, » said Wild general manager Bill Guerin. It’s a process he will have to follow in order to carve out a place in the NHL. We want to make sure we’re doing the right things and it’s not developing in a rush. »

Wallstedt (6-foot-3, 214 pounds) offers a commanding presence in net, and he believes his style of play is a cross between those of two former NHL stars, Henrik Lundqvist and Martin Brodeur. His ability to stay alert to his positioning and stop the initial shot without giving back is one of the main reasons the Wild hold him in such high esteem.

The Wild, however, do not want to accelerate their rise to the NHL, even if they are their goalkeeper of the future.

« It can be a long process, » Wild director of player development Brad Bombardir said. We have to be patient with him. It’s gonna take a while. He’s still young. »

The situation in net for the Wild is established for now. Marc-André Fleury, who signed a two-year, $7 million contract on July 7, is expected to be the Wild’s No. Filip Gustavsson will act as a reserve.

Wallstedt understands that there are certain elements of his game that he can still improve, including his explosiveness and his lateral movements, especially as he adapts to North American rinks.

« The angles are sometimes different, » he explained. You can move more while standing. In Sweden, cross passes can be much longer. Here everything is a little tighter, so you have to try to stay on your feet a little more often. But there are some things that we will discuss at the start of the season. We will determine what suits me and how I want to play in these situations. »

Wallstedt is willing to be patient and work to improve his game and ultimately land a job in the NHL.

« I just have to do my job there, » he said. I hope that one day I can prove to the organization and to myself that I deserve a position at the highest level. »


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