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  • Jesper Wallstedt Overcame A Slow Start To Deliver On His Prospect Hype

    Image courtesy of © Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
    Luke Sims


    Expectations were high in Jesper Wallstedt’s first season in North America. The prized prospect and future of the Minnesota Wild’s crease had lofty expectations to meet. The North American game is much different than that of Sweden’s leagues. He was only 19 when he suited up and played in his first game with the Iowa Wild. 

    Wallstedt had a solid season in Iowa. He split time with Zane McIntyre, the other Iowa netminder. Still, he finished fourth among AHL rookies and 14th overall in the league in goals against average (GAA) with 2.68. He had a .908 save percentage in 38 games, putting him 23rd among qualified goaltenders in the AHL last year. He also had an 18-15-5 record with a shutout. 

    However, things didn’t start well for Wallstedt. It took him a bit before he played to the standard he had set for himself in Sweden. In the 2021-22 season, Playing for Luleå HF of the SHL, he recorded a 1.98 GAA and a .918 save percentage. Those are great numbers for a then 18-19-year-old goalie. 

    After the first few months in Iowa, he began to settle into being the player he was for the rest of the season. He won AHL goaltender of the month in January, around the same time that he played in the AHL all-star game. He relished all these opportunities and took everything that came at him, good or bad, with a positive attitude. 



    Wallstedt was inconsistent. That’s all a part of getting used to the game on this side of the world. He was also only 20 years old during most of the year. It’s rare for a young goalie to find success in the AHL. 

    Most goalies don’t turn pro for at least two or three years after teams draft them, then it probably takes almost five to reach the NHL. Wallstedt was already playing pro in Sweden and turned pro in North America one year after the Wild drafted him. 

    Despite playing well in the regular season, Wallstedt looked green in the playoffs. He only got in two games and lost both. He had a goals-against average over 3.00 and a save percentage below .900. Those are disappointing numbers for what was a disappointing playoff run overall for the Iowa Wild. The Iowa Wild only played two games as they lost to the Rockford IceHogs in a best-of-three series. 

    After the season, Wallstedt was named to the AHL top prospect team. The year was not perfect, but he played substantial minutes and performed substantially well. He met or even succeeded in most people’s expectations of him. 

    Oh yeah, he also did this:



    Confidence and swagger have always been a part of his game. But he’s also known for his calm demeanor and infectious personality in the locker room. He’s gotten used to the lifestyle and the environment of hockey in North America. 

    The Swedish Meatwall did not disappoint at an international level either. Wallstedt took care of business in the World Championships and other international games for Sweden. He did not lose a single game at the World Championships, posting a 0.67 GAA and a .947 save percentage. That’s incredible work for a young netminder. 

    Minnesota has Wallstedt signed through the 2024-25 season. That will outlast Marc-Andre Fleury and likely Filip Gustavsson’s new contract. 

    Wallstedt will play in Iowa again next year. Iowa also has McIntyre under contract for next season. But instead of splitting games, I’d imagine Wallstedt is in the net for most of them. I’d guess the Wild will want to get him used to more pro hockey so that he could be ready to contribute in the NHL after the following season. 

    The Wild don’t have any other goalie prospects who are close to making the NHL. Hunter Jones is another one of their goalie prospects, but he’s 22 and has barely scratched the surface of AHL minutes, playing in 29 games over three years. The former second-round pick isn't in Minnesota’s immediate plans. 

    You should assume that this is Fleury's last year in Minnesota because he has to be close to retiring. The soon-to-be Hall of Famer will serve as the backup to Gustavsson in his age-39 season. Gustavsson will receive a maximum of a two-year deal if an arbiter makes the decision and they can’t reach an agreement before the arbitration hearing, leaving the door open for Wallstedt to play in the NHL as soon as after next season. Wallstedt may even get a look if the Wild need an injury replacement, but they have to be careful with his development. 

    The idea for the Wild to dump Gustavsson and roll with Wallstedt and Fleury would not be good for Wallstedt or the Wild. Rushing a highly-touted goalie prospect before he is ready usually does not work out well in the long term. Just ask Carter Hart and the Philadelphia Flyers. Hart was once touted in the same breath as Wallstedt is now in terms of a prospect, and he debuted too early. Now his stats have suffered at the NHL level. Most goalies don’t debut until they are 23 - 25 and won’t reach their prime until around 27. 

    Wild management has stated that they don’t want to rush him to the big-league club. They want him to take his time to develop down in Iowa. As long as Gus and Fleury can hold down the net in the NHL, there is no need for Wallstedt to come up and play minutes for the Minnesota Wild. Let him keep growing and developing so there can be a smooth transition when the time comes.

    Expectations were high, pressure was high, and Jesper Wallstedt delivered. He scored, he saved, and he’s well on his way to becoming the steady masked man the Wild fans have fancied for years. 

    All stats and data via Elite Prospects and CapFriendly unless otherwise noted. 

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    Wallstedt, is like "Wallstreet", most people think they know what they're doing and  can throw money at it and have limited knowledge and chance success when it comes too it, just like goalies.

    Even seasoned traders can lose it all or hit it big. I like to think of it as a longterm investment with Wallstedt to enjoy the value long term and invest, invest, invest. Don't sell too soon,  becsuse of the highs and lows and lose the ability to have lifetime success and make the big money!


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    From watching the highlights section of Iowa Wild hockey, my conclusion on The Wall was that he had to alter/adjust his game. It took about 3 months. Early on, he was scored upon from weird angles, angles Swedish players do not necessarily shoot from. As the season progressed, he got more ready for the sharp angle shots coming in and looked like he had made the adjustment.

    Coming down the stretch, it seemed like an awful lot of goals were scored off of rebounds. Was it lousy rebound control? I can't say that it was, but we were given poor camera angles. To me, it looked like some young, possibly undersized D were not winning puck battles and The Wall had no shot at getting over.

    The Wall also changed the highlight package we were given. They started including big saves by the goalies more. The Iowa back end consisted of Sustr, Hicketts and Mermis, with S. Johansson, O'Rourke, Hunt thrown in with Ottenbreit. I thought that O'Rourke and Hunt struggled on pouncing on rebounds and controlling the front of the net, but it could have been anyone of the defenders. At times, 3 rookies were on the back line along with the rookie goaltender. That's quite a learning curve. (also, I know O'Rourke played a couple of years ago, but I still believe he was a rookie)

    Next season, Lambos will be added back there making it even younger. Masters will get a late start due to his injury in the Memorial Cup. With that many young guys in Iowa, I believe we will be using the Heartlanders to give some ice time to a couple of these guys. Don't worry about them being sent down, they need ice time, and I'd rather them play 20 minutes instead of sitting in a press box. I would consider rotating them down there as they really are more a part of the Iowa Wild team. We also might see some forwards moved down there just for ice time purposes. Having the Heartlanders so close is a good way to keep the pipeline going. When you have a deep prospect pool, and they start to age, you need a 2nd team to help with ice time. It was a good move by Guerin to get a close E team.

    I would like to see The Wall make his starting debut next season with the Wild. Now, it depends how the whole season works out. If the Wild struggle, I could see MAF being traded at the deadline to a team thin at goalie but ready to make a Stanley Cup run. Of course, the same can be said for Zuccarello, Foligno, and Hartman. 

    My belief is that according to the progression of The Wall, he will be ready to jump in around mid-March. I'd say keep him eligible for the A playoffs and a deep run. Askarov made that last season. 

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    22 minutes ago, mnfaninnc said:

    I would like to see The Wall make his starting debut next season with the Wild. Now, it depends how the whole season works out. If the Wild struggle, I could see MAF being traded at the deadline to a team thin at goalie but ready to make a Stanley Cup run. Of course, the same can be said for Zuccarello, Foligno, and Hartman.

    Barring an injury to Gus or Flower I don’t think we see The Wall in St. Paul next season. 

    Flower has said that he doesn’t want to uproot his family again. I see very little chance they trade him at the deadline unless he requests it. He’s at a status now he can kinda dictate his direction. 

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    When I played junior our goalie could shoot the puck real well and scored a goalie-goal. They’re the best and seeing a goalie celebrate is so funny. One of the best things. Super embarrassing for the empty net team. Wallstedt definitely has some unique confidence and personality. 

    Mnfaninnc and I agree, give him a few NHL games this year. Look at the schedule, pencil him in when there’s little AHL conflict. Unless it costs the Wild too much money somehow, I think he should get a start at the Excel once, or get half of a back to back on the road. California trip perhaps?

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    On 7/8/2023 at 11:28 AM, M_Nels said:

    Barring an injury to Gus or Flower I don’t think we see The Wall in St. Paul next season. 

    And this is where I was suggesting it. Last season, when Fleury went down for a little while and Goose2 took over the net, it was McIntyre who got the call. He comfortably sat on the bench sipping water and catching errant pucks. 

    It will happen again this season as goalies tend to tweak something, maybe strain but not fully pull muscles. This is where I'd like The Wall to get the call up, but instead of just watching, I'd like him to get starts. McIntyre was not an NHL goalie, so I get the sitting as a backup. The Wall might not be ready, but he is supposed to be an NHL goalie.

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