There have been 31 Swedish-born goalies in NHL history to suit up for at least one regular-season game. Some of them were undrafted and none of them were selected in the first round.
That streak ends with bona fide first-round talent Jesper Wallstedt.
Henrik Lundqvist is a likely future Hall of Famer, Robin Lehner is among the best goalies currently playing, while both Oscar Dansk (2012) and Jacob Markstrom (2008) were each taken with the first selection of the second round in their respective draft years yet none were as highly touted as Wallstedt.
With sound positioning and prototypical size for an NHL goalie, Wallstedt has it all on paper.
Team: Lulea, Swedish Hockey League
From: Vasteras, Sweden
Weight: 225 pounds
“He’s assertive the way he carries himself, the way he challenges, the way he moves to the point where he can be intimidating to shooters,” Dan Marr, director of NHL Central Scouting, told Sportsnet’s Mike Shulman back in November. “And he likes to keep the door closed — he’s a competitor. But he has all the athletic tools, the goaltending skills. This kid is the complete package right now. He’s very, very impressive.”
Wallstedt’s 12-10-0 record, 2.23 goals-against average, .908 save percentage and two shutouts this past season with Lulea don’t necessarily jump off the page, but for an 18-year-old netminder playing against grown men in one of hockey’s top overseas leagues you quickly realize how high his ceiling is.
“He's a big, pretty athletic goalie that's been playing the entire year in the SHL, doing a great job, being one of the better goalies in the league,” one Swedish scout told ESPN’s Emily Kaplan. “Playing in the SHL as a young player is not that common, and being a young goalie in that league is even more uncommon. I would have him high. He's the third-best Swede in this draft.”
What do the experts say?
Sam Cosentino: “Has put together a solid first pro season. Size, athletic ability and a late birthday are all key attributes of the vaunted first-round goalie. …
Central Scouting's Al Jensen: “Jesper has excellent pro potential with a very good chance to be a quality No. 1 goalie in the NHL. He's got a very good pro presence in the net and uses his size very well. … He plays the top of the paint and is square to the shots, looks calm and controlled with a very good compete and plays a typical butterfly style with excellent coverage.”
Adam Kimelman of NHL.com: “The Red Wings need a goalie to add to their development pipeline and Wallstedt is the best available. Detroit general manager Steve Yzerman is fearless when it comes to identifying talent. Two years ago, the Red Wings had the No. 6 pick and went against the grain to select defenceman Moritz Seider, who now looks like a future top-pair player. It wouldn't be a surprise to see a similar move by the Red Wings here. Wallstedt has a calm, controlled style, tracks pucks well and already has experience playing in the top league.”
Mike G. Morreale of NHL.com: “Central Scouting director of European scouting Goran Stubb said Wallstedt is the best Sweden-born goalie prospect he's seen in at least five years. The 18-year-old can read the game well, has good quickness and plays a hybrid butterfly/athletic style. He was 11-8 with three ties, a 2.23 goals-against average, .908 save percentage and two shutouts in 22 SHL games.”