Wild general manager Bill Guerin made it clear heading into the 2021 NHL Draft that he’d only trade up if it made sense for the franchise. On Friday night, he traded up for what he clearly believes could be the goaltender of the future.
After watching the Swedish goaltender Jesper Wallstedt fall throughout the first round, Guerin made sure he didn’t fall any farther. He traded up to the No. 20 pick to get his guy, flipping the No. 22 pick and the No. 90 pick to the Edmonton Oilers to facilitate the move.
It’s clear that the Wild saw something special 6-foot-3, 215-pound Wallstedt, who played Lulea of the Swedish Hockey League last season, posting a 12-10-0 record to go along with a 2.23 goals against average, a .908 save percentage. He is first Swedish goaltender ever selected in the first round of the NHL draft.
Despite the time change, Wallstedt watched the draft from his hometown in Vasteras, Sweden, about an hour away from Stockholm. He was overcome with emotion when he saw the Wild were trading up to pick him.
“It was very surreal and made me very happy,” Wallstedt said. “I didn’t really know where to go. I hugged my mom and brother and dad. It was just an unreal experience.”
Not surprisingly, Wallstedt grew up idolizing legendary Swedish goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. He used to stay up to watch New York Rangers games was a kid and even attended Lundqvist’s goaltending camp. That said, Wallstedt was clear he’s not trying to be Lundqvist in the pros.
“I don’t think I’m trying to build a style like him; I’m trying to build a style like me,” Wallstedt said. “I want to make myself unique in the style that I want to play. But I still think I’ve learned a lot of things on my technical side from all those camps.”
Asked about his timeline for reaching the NHL, Wallstedt said he was going to sit down with the Wild in the coming days and discuss his future.
“I’m preparing myself to be ready for next season,” Wallstedt said. “If the Wild feel they’re really ready to put me in the NHL, I’ll prepare myself to be there. I’ll be ready for wherever I am going to play and really compete for a good spot to keep developing.”