LA Kings Draft: The case to take Jesper Wallstedt eighth overall

LA Kings Draft (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)
LA Kings Draft (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images) /

One of the more intriguing storylines to monitor during the first round of the 2021 NHL Draft is when Swedish netminder Jesper Wallstedt will be taken off the board. The LA Kings have Cal Petersen and Jonathan Quick at the NHL level. The latter is under contract for another two seasons if he’s not claimed in the Seattle expansion draft or traded in a separate deal entirely.

Regardless, the Kings need to be prepared for life after the future Hall-of-Famer in Quick. Of course, Petersen more than proved that he’s capable of being the number one goalie of the future, but he will turn 27 in October.

In the pipeline, Los Angeles has a wealth of talent between the pipes, but are any as good as Wallstedt is projected to be? The Kings are no stranger to having goalies emerge out of nowhere. Before Quick came along, it was an endless carousel of netminders trying to solidify themselves as the number one goalie.

Lukas Parik was plucked in the third round of the 2019 NHL Draft. He recently signed a one-year deal to keep him with the Kings’ organization now that he’s 20-year-old. He spent the majority of the 2021 season with Dubuque of the USHL, posting a 3.35 GAA in 28 games.

David Hrenak and Jacob Ingham were both selected in the 2018 Draft, in the fifth and sixth rounds, respectively. Matt Villalta was taken in the third round the year prior. In the most recent draft, the Kings took Finnish netminder Juho Markkanen in the fourth round.

LA Kings need to consider taking Jesper Wallstedt if the top defensemen are off the board.

Plenty of goalies in the pipeline, but none arguably have the highest ceiling as Jesper Wallstedt, and he’s already drawing comparisons to Bruins Tuukka Rask.

"Wallstedt and Rask are not only a similar size, but play a similar technical game, while being extremely poised and calm, and not often getting into bad positions. Both also have a lightning quick glove. The Bruins goalie is slightly more athletic than Wallstedt – though he is not elite in this regard himself – but the Swede is a far superior puck-handler and better with his rebound control. – Smaht Scouting"

If the top-tier defensemen are already off the board when the LA Kings are on the clock, the Kings scouting department must seriously consider taking Wallstedt.

Consider the age of when elite – some even Stanley Cup-winning – goaltenders take over number one netminding duties.

  • Rask (Age 25): 36 of 48 starts for Boston in shortened 2012-13 season
  • Andrei Vasilevskiy (Age 22): 50 of 82 starts for Tampa in 2016-17 season
  • Corey Crawford (Age 26): 57 of 82 starts for Chicago in 2010-11 season
  • Darcy Kuemper (Age 28): 55 of 82 starts for Arizona in 2018-19 season
  • Jordan Binnington (Age 26): 50 of 71 starts for St. Louis in shortened 2019-20 season
  • Pekka Rinne (Age 26): 52 of 82 starts for Nashville in 2008-09 season
  • Henrik Lundqvist (Age 24): 53 of 82 games for NY Rangers in 2005-06 season

Elite goaltenders in the league, with their average age of taking over as the number one goalie right around 25. Of course, you have your exceptions in Vasilevkiy, Hellebuyck, Price, etc. The point being is that by the time Wallstedt reaches his full potential, Cal Petersen could be approaching 34 or 35 years of age, the same age when the torch was passed from Quick to him.

With so much of the game and particularly the postseason predicated on the play of goalies, taking Jesper Wallstedt with the eighth overall pick in the 2021 NHL Draft wouldn’t be the worst outcome in the world for the Los Angeles Kings.