Wallstedt continues to take steps forward

Photo: Tim Garland

Patrick Williams, TheAHL.com Features Writer

If Minnesota Wild fans are trying to remain patient, Jesper Wallstedt surely is testing their resolve.

The Iowa Wild netminder is largely viewed as Minnesota’s future in net. For the time being, however, he continues to dominate the American Hockey League.

Taken 20th overall in the 2021 NHL Draft by Minnesota, Wallstedt ranks second in the AHL with a .933 save percentage. His 2.09 goals-against average puts him fourth, and he has turned in a pair of shutouts while recording all 10 of Iowa’s wins this season. Last night, he shut down the Chicago Wolves’ formidable trio of Vasily Ponomarev, Rocco Grimaldi and Chris Terry in the shootout to help the Wild pull out a 4-3 victory.

It was the latest stout performance for Wallstedt, who has been named the Howies Hockey Tape/AHL Player of the Week twice already this season. He also spent a week in his native Sweden as Minnesota’s third goaltender during their NHL Global Series visit to Stockholm in November.

“It felt like I got a huge restart,” Wallstedt of going back home, “and it felt almost like it was the start of the season again, which gave me a lot of energy. I just feel like I’m in a good spot after that trip.”

While Wallstedt awaits his first NHL game, he continues to make his case with Iowa. And he used his last season both with Iowa and internationally to make this past summer a particularly productive one. He went to the AHL All-Star Classic last February, and earned a spot on the 2022-23 AHL Top Prospects Team. And the fixture with Sweden’s national program at several levels in recent seasons was selected to wear the Tre Kronor at the IIHF World Championship last May.

“I think I wasn’t as prepared last year as I was this year,” Wallstedt explained. “I didn’t know what the NHL or the AHL were like. But now having one season in my backpack, I know a little bit more what it takes and how to prepare yourself, what the schedule is going to be like… I could get a much better summer training in.”

The work has paid off with a durability, especially at times like earlier this month when he stopped 83 of 86 shots in earning wins on back-to-back nights at Colorado. Wallstedt ranks second in the league in minutes played (889), appearances (15) and shots faced (462).

Wallstedt cites his work with goaltending coach Richard Bachman as a reason he continues to excel.

“I feel like I’m just more acclimated this year,” he said. “I’ve been ready to go from the start of the season.”

And yet there is still room to grow, something that bodes well for Wallstedt’s future with Minnesota. In the meantime, opponents around the AHL will have to contend with a goaltender who makes Iowa a dangerous opponent every single night.

“I just turned 21, so I still have a lot to develop,” Wallstedt said. “I’m just going to work my [butt] off and see how it goes and continue improving.”