The 2021 NHL Draft will be held on July 23-24. NHL.com is counting down to the draft with in-depth profiles on top prospects and other features. Today, a look at the top eligible International prospects. NHL.com’s full draft coverage can be found here.
Jesper Wallstedt is projected to be the first Sweden-born goalie selected in the first round in the history of the NHL Draft.
Wallstedt (6-foot-3, 214 pounds) is No. 1 in NHL Central Scouting’s final ranking of International goalies for the 2021 NHL Draft. He was 11-8 with three ties, a 2.23 goals-against average, a .907 save percentage and two shutouts in 22 games this season with Lulea of the Swedish Hockey League, the top professional men’s league in Sweden.
“He is a great competitor, is quick, he reads the game very well, and despite being young, already has a lot of experience,” said Goran Stubb, NHL director of European Scouting. “He was in and out with Lulea in the senior league, and at present is in a class of his own among European goalies.”
The first round is July 23 (8 p.m. ET; ESPN2, SN, SN NOW), and rounds 2-7 are July 24 (11 a.m. ET; NHLN, SN, SN NOW).
Oscar Dansk (Columbus Blue Jackets, 2012 NHL Draft) and Jacob Markstrom (Florida Panthers, 2008 NHL Draft), each taken with the first pick of the second round (No. 31), are the highest-selected Sweden-born goalies chosen in the NHL Draft.
[RELATED: Complete 2021 NHL Draft coverage]
Wallstedt had a 2.40 GAA and .923 save percentage in two games for Sweden at the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship and is expected to play an even bigger role for his country at the 2022 WJC.
Stubb shared his thoughts on nine other International prospects in a Q&A:
Right wing Nikita Chibrikov (No. 4 in Central Scouting’s final ranking of International skaters) scored 13 points (four goals, nine assists) in seven games for second-place Russia at the 2021 IIHF Under-18 World Championship. He played 16 games with St. Petersburg in the Kontinental Hockey League this season. What do you like about him?
“I think he is more or less a classical Russian forward, is skilled, is fast, and has good hockey sense. He’s full of surprises and an excellent prospect. He’s by far the best Russia-born prospect this season; a very good player.”
What can you tell us about center Aatu Raty (No. 3)?
“The talent is still there. He just had a tough season; there were a lot of expectations on him. He made the Karpat league team, and Karpat is one of the top clubs in Finland and has been for so many years. They had a tough season though, and when you’re a young player on a struggling team, it’s not easy to play up to your own standard. I still think Raty will be a [heck] of a hockey player; he just had a rough season.”
Right wing Samu Tuomaala (No. 10) made the U-18 World Championship All-Tournament Team after scoring 11 points (five goals, six assists) in seven games for Finland. What have you seen from him?
“Tuomaala had a really good season in the Finnish junior league, and I think it was good for him that Karpat didn’t rush him to their top-league team. He developed very well having a big roll on the junior team (15 goals, 16 assists in 30 games). He was playing on the power play, a regular shift, and shorthanded. This is a guy with a lot of good hockey in him, and what I really like about him is, he’s the guy who can score the big goals.”
What can you tell us about some of the Sweden-born forwards expected to go in the first round: left wing William Eklund (No. 1), and right wings Isak Rosen (No. 8), Fabian Lysell (No. 9), Simon Robertsson (No. 11) and Oskar Olausson (No. 13)?
“William Eklund is a complete player, even if he is not very big (5-10, 176). He has the skills, the attitude, and he just loves the game. He’s the kind of guy who goes out and makes ice in the backyard so his kid brothers can practice, and he goes out and plays with them. He’s just a great player. He plays regular with Djurgarden in SHL but had a tough season because he was hurt. He missed 2021 World Junior Championship because of COVID-19 and then had an appendectomy, but every time he came back he played well; he’s a real talent.
“Rosen is a great skater with very good backhand control. He competes hard on every shift. Lysell is a speedster with great skills who likes to go for the net. Robertsson has good size and is a good skater, and Olausson is a strong skater who is solid and reliable every game.”
Defenseman Simon Edvinsson (No. 2) scored four points (one goal, three assists) for Sweden at the U-18s. Is he the top International player at his position?
“I don’t know if there’s anyone close. I think this is a player who could be the next world star coming out of Sweden. He’s really, really good. Has the size (6-4, 198) and the speed and the hockey sense. He’s a leader, and I think he was probably the best 2021 NHL Draft-eligible prospect at the Under-18 World Championship.”
Listen: New episode of NHL Draft Class