It looks like the stars are aligning for the Minnesota Wild as far as the goaltending future is concerned.
The Wild shocked fans during last year’s NHL Entry Draft when the team flipped picks with the Edmonton Oilers in order to take perhaps future franchise goalie Jesper Wallstedt 20th overall. The pick seemed kind of odd for a team that was most likely relying on now former goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen to be a No. 1 goalie in years to come.
Fast forward to this years trade deadline. The Wild felt they needed to go into ‘act now’ mode and go for it goalie-wise, trading for in future Hall Of Famer Marc-Andre Fleury. The move was made to boost their chances in the playoffs and so far, the fit for the Wild couldn’t have worked out better.
In a subsequent move, the Wild moved Kahkonen to the San Jose Sharks in order to make room for Fleury.
This season, Wallstedt has been playing Lulea Hf in the SHL and his numbers rank 4th in save percentage with .918 and ranks first in with a 1.98 goals against average while appearing in only 22 games in Sweden’s top professional league.
Why is next season good for him to come to North America?
The answer is simple.
The Wild currently have Cam Talbot under contract for next season and could quite possibly squeeze another year out of Fleury or perhaps sign a cheap backup option as part of the stop-gap solution while Wallstedt develops.
Iowa’s current goalie situation would allow Wallstedt to see some serious game time as Zane Mcintyre was brought in as a depth option for this season. Dereck Baribeau probably won’t be seeing the NHL anytime soon and has been down with the Iowa Heartlanders periodically throughout this season.
Many will remember the Wild also drafted Hunter Jones in the second round of the 2019 NHL Draft and have been working on his game with the Heartlanders of the ECHL. Jones could be in tandem with Wallstedt next season if the Wild feel he’s ready for more of a work load in Iowa.
It’s not too often now a days that a goaltender get’s drafted and draws instant comparisons to Henrik Lundquist, but Wallstedt could truly be the next ‘King’ in the State of Hockey.
*Stats found at eliteprospects.com