DES MOINES, IOWA – Jesper Wallstedt backed up Zane McIntyre in Iowa’s tilt against the Milwaukee Admirals on March 7, so he remained on the ice longer with healthy scratches and goalie coach Richard Bachman.
Earlier in the season, Army said he wanted to get off the ice. Now, he remains out there, faces more shots and spends more time working on the details of his game, which Army said he’s more aware of.
“He’s working more diligently,” Army said. “He understands the importance of it.”
Army said conditioning is a major facet in the evolution of Wallstedt’s game because he practices more effectively and doesn’t get tired as easily.
“He’d be like ‘Okay, I’m tired. It’s too long. I can’t stay within the drills. I can’t work the right way,’” Army recalled about Wallstedt earlier in the season.
Wallstedt exhibited signs of fatigue if a drill went longer than anticipated, such as playing looser in goal, and now “he doesn’t show that anymore,” Army said. Those improved practice habits and conditioning – which has resulted in Wallstedt being in better shape – have helped him mold a more consistent game and give him a boost of energy, Army said. The next step he said Wallstedt needs to take is making sure he gets adequate sleep and is eating correctly like all these younger players have to learn how to do. It’s something that has already improved, too.
What are some words that come to Army’s mind about Wallstedt?
Smart. Intuitive. Mature.
Army said this is what allows Wallstedt to read the game so effectively, be in the right position and not allow many rebounds, and having control in the crease. While he can scramble if it’s necessary, he doesn’t usually need to. It helps that he holds a “great economy of movement,” Army said.
“I feel like I’m getting quicker in position, being more on my toes and being ready better, but there’s still a little bit of speed that has to keep developing,” Wallstedt said.
Army said Wallstedt’s size allows him to play toward the top of the blue paint instead of sinking back into the net, especially against a bigger team like Manitoba.
Most importantly, Army said Wallstedt is giving Iowa a chance to win almost every night because of these factors. Wallstedt is 16-13-5 on the year with a 2.69 goals against average and .910 save percentage. After all, he’s already building a strong foundation in Iowa. But it’s still his rookie season in the AHL, so naturally it takes time to adjust.
“I feel like I’m getting more used to everything, getting into it better and trusting the process, it takes some time to get used to everything,” Wallstedt said.
Part of that adjustment has to do with off-ice factors, too. On March 11, Wallstedt said the week prior he was missing his family in Sweden.
“It was kind of like a tough week or so I had because I was maybe thinking a little bit too much and my head maybe wasn’t in the right spot,” Wallstedt said.
The 20-year-old netminder lost six games in a row between Feb. 4 and March 1, five of which came after the all-star break. Like Walker, Army said Wallstedt was “a little gassed” after the break. To his credit, though, Wallstedt held a .930 SV% or higher in three of those contests. The Wild’s high-profile goalie prospect is 3-2-0 with a 2.20 GAA and .921 SV% in his past five starts and continues to roll in Iowa.