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Blackhawks’ No. 11 pick in 2021 NHL Draft: Making case for Jesper Wallstedt

If Chicago wants a goalie, this Swedish netminder would be worthy of a first-round pick.

Russia v Sweden: Preliminary Round Group B - 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images

The Second City Hockey staff will be profiling players who could be available at the No. 11 spot in the 2021 NHL Draft, where the Blackhawks will make their first-round selection. The draft starts Friday, June 23.

Conventional hockey wisdom says that goalies should not be drafted high in the first round. Conventional hockey wisdom also just gave Pierre McGuire a high-ranking front-office job. So let’s dispense with conventional hockey wisdom and see what the Blackhawks would get if they took Swedish goaltender Jesper Wallstedt with the No. 11 overall pick in this year’s draft.

The Basics

Position: Goaltender
Age: 18 (Nov. 14, 2002)
Hometown: Vasteras, Sweden
Height: 6-foot-3
Weight: 214 pounds
Catches: Left
Team: Lulea (SHL, Sweden)

Draft rankings

NHL Central Scouting (NHL): No. 1 European goalie
Elite Prospects: No. 6
Scott Wheeler (The Athletic): No. 12
Corey Pronman (The Athletic): No. 11
Cam Robinson (Dobber Prospects): No. 4
Craig Button (TSN): No. 9

Wallstedt is ranked about as high as any goalie has been in recent memory, cracking the top 10 in several prospect rankings. He’s certainly caught the eye of the SCH staff, as we picked him in the SB Nation NHL Mock Draft. Much of what you’ll read here is just re-stating the positive traits that led to that conclusion. There’s a smoothness to Wallstedt’s game with little wasted movement in the crease because he often knows where the puck is and — more importantly — where it’s going. He doesn’t have the athleticism of say, a Jonathan Quick or a Marc-Andre Fleury, but goalies who are as technically sound as Wallstedt won’t need that athleticism for highlight-reel saves because they’re often in the right place all of the time. His rebound control has also been lauded by scouting reports everywhere. Again, it reads very similar to what Corey Crawford provided to the Blackhawks in the last decade.

There was some regression towards the end of the season, with Wallstedt stopping only 57 of 70 shots (.814 save percentage) in the final four games of the season. That won’t diminish the overall body of work here, though. Wallstedt does everything right from a technique/fundamental standpoint and has the hockey IQ to read plays as they develop. He may not have the size of the 6-6 Sebastian Cossa — the top rated North American goalie in this draft — but a 6-3, 214-pound goalie is plenty big enough for today’s NHL.

He also once scored a goal as a 14-year-old while playing in Sweden’s Under-20 league, as he told TSN in an interview that was posted on Wednesday, indicative of the above average puck-handling skills he was to go along with all of the other attributes. It’s hard to find many negatives about Wallstedt online. This deep dive from All About the Jersey has nothing but glowing reviews. The same goes for this one from Hockey Wilderness. The only thing close to a red flag is Wallstedt not displaying a ton of athleticism, but — as detailed above — that can be overcome for a goaltender.

Organizational fit

Behind its NHL trio of Collin Delia, Kevin Lankinen and Malcom Subban, there isn’t a ton of goalie depth. Only Arvid Soderblom has a contract, a 21-year-old goalie who’s also from Sweden and put up comparable numbers with Skelleftea: 13-8 record, 2.03 GAA, .922 SV% (he was also mistakenly omitted from Tuesday’s mock draft post. My apologies). Outside of them, the only long-term candidates are 2019 sixth-round pick Dominic Basse and 2020 second-round pick Drew Commesso. There’s still plenty of room for more goaltending talent in the organization and having too many good prospects has never been a bad thing.