The truth is we have a better chance of obtaining America’s nuclear codes than we have of breaching General manager Steve Yzerman’s wall of secrecy when it comes to the Detroit Red Wings’ draft strategy.
Yzerman doesn’t let many people know what he’s thinking when it comes to team decisions. He plays it close to the vest. Yzerman chooses words carefully at press conferences, always guarded in his conversations. He can make buttoned up New York Islanders GM Lou Lamoriello look like an open book.
Nobody is ever confident in their reads on Yzerman. That’s why there has been been considerable social media debate about whether Yzerman will select Swedish 6-foot-3 goalie Jesper Wallstedt with the No. 6 draft pick at the July 23-24 NHL draft.
“(Spencer) Knight and (Yaroslav) Askarov are the two big goalie names over the past couple of years. We saw what Knight did in the NHL playoffs, and I think Wallstedt is better prospect than either of them,” said Tony Ferrari, Managing Editor and Director of Scouting for Dobber Prospects.
Wallstedt can be fast-tracked
The Florida Panthers drafted Knight 13th overall in 2019. Knight, 20, signed late in the season and was 4-0 with a 2.32 goals-against average. He played two brilliant games, going 1-1 against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the playoffs. The Nashville Predators drafted Askarov 11th last year and he’s still playing in the Kontinental Hockey League.
Wallstedt is under contract for next season, and then Ferrari believes he could jump to the NHL in 2022-23. “He’s been playing against men for two years in the Swedish Elite League,” Ferrari said. “He’s capable of coming over then and at least being a backup.”
Wallstedt, 18, was 12-10 with a 2.23 playing for Lulea in the Swedish Elite League. “He’s a solid technician, who plays quiet in the net…Let’s his size do the work,” said Kyle Woodlief, chief scout for Red Line Report. “All fundamentals are in place and he’s got the right mental makeup for a goalie.”
The only negative you hear about Wallstedt is that he needs to work on his diet and conditioning. He has a tendency to gain weight.
Mock drafts predict Detroit taking goalie
TSN’s draft analyst Craig Button predicts Detroit will take Wallstedt at No. 6 in his mock draft. The Sportsnet mock draft lists Swedish standout William Eklund going No. 6 to Detroit.
MyNHLDraft.com predicts Eklund going No. 5 to Columbus and Detroit drafting Wallstedt at No. 6. The same mock draft also has Detroit taking 6-foot-6 Edmonton goalie Sebastian Cossa with the No. 23 pick it acquired from Washington.
If Wallstedt and Eklund were both gone, the Red Wings may select defenseman Brandt Clarke, a Canadian who played in Slovakia, or Western Hockey League standout Dylan Guenther.
NHL teams are reluctant to draft goalie early
The Red Wings’ rebuild hasn’t yet secured a quality goaltending prospect. Over the past 15 years, the NHL has shown a reluctance to draft goalies in the top 10. If the Red Wings take Wallstedt at No. 6, he would be the first goalie drafted that early since Carey Price went fifth to the Montreal Canadiens in 2005.
GMs hesitate to draft goalies early in the first round because they seem more difficult to project at age 18. It usually takes longer for goalies to arrive in the NHL and historically teams have found starters in later rounds.
Vezina finalist Colorado starter Philipp Grubauer was a fourth round pick, while prize Islanders youngster Ilya Sorokin was a third round pick. Winnipeg starter Connor Hellebuyck, a past Vezina Trophy winner, went in the fifth round. The Nashville Predators drafted Pekka Rinne in the eighth round, 258th overall.
When Yzerman was Tampa Bay’s GM, he used the No. 19 pick in 2012 to draft Andrei Vasilevskiy. Today, Vasilevskiy is considered the NHL’s top goalie.
Since becoming Detroit’s GM, Yzerman has been a bold, aggressive trader and drafter. He seems comfortable going against the grain, surprising people with his moves. Drafting a goalie at No. 6 fits his management style.
But no one outside the organization knows whether the Red Wings even have Wallstedt ranked in the top 10 for this draft. And Yzerman is not going to give you that information.