The Moose Jaw Warriors put to the death the hope of a Jesper Wallstedt sighting in the white, black, and red Monday as they have dealt the Swedish goaltender to the Portland Winterhawks in exchange for a sixth-round pick in 2023.
NEWS: We have acquired a 6th round pick in 2023 from Portland in exchange for the rights to import goalie Jesper Wallstedt
— Moose Jaw Warriors (@MJWARRIORS) June 8, 2021
This writer wrote about how the plans of Moose Jaw general manager Jason Ripplinger this off-season hinged on whether they could acquire the services of the projected Top 10 National Hockey League pick a month ago, and so with that answer in his pocket, he is now able to move forward and plan for a 2021-2022 campaign in which he expects the Warriors to contend for a championship.
The consensus concerning Wallstedt, whom the Warriors took in the 2019 Canadian Hockey League Import Draft, is that it is a longshot for him to play any games the CHL, as with a year of success as a starter at the senior level in Sweden, he could play in the American Hockey League, return to his club in Lulea, or even make the NHL, depending on the wishes of the club that picks him. To put it another way: no goaltender is going to go before him at the next NHL Draft…so he will have a ton of options.
If he is so good, why trade him?
Well, that’s a good question! As was mentioned earlier, Ripplinger and company really feel like the window to compete for a championship is right now. Captain Daemon Hunt has confirmed he’ll be back despite two stints in the AHL, forward Ryder Korczak will be back after going somewhere in the Top 2 rounds of the NHL draft, Team Canada U18 gold medalist Denton Mateychuk will be fresh off an incredible first full year, it can only be assumed that Brayden Yager will be ready to go all guns-a-blazing after the benefit of his great showing at the Regina Hub; and whoever else you want to put on the long list of what could be considered Moose Jaw’s core (you could easily add Eric Alarie, who led the team in scoring, and Czech import Martin Rysavy, who will also be coming off a Top 4 round NHL draft slot, among others), so a premium goaltender still looks like the final need.
So yes, Wallstedt would have been perfect, but the point is that waiting and hoping he and his NHL club choose Moose Jaw over wherever else is too big of a gamble.
Brett Mirwald, Moose Jaw’s expected-to-return 2003-born goaltender, had a fine rookie campaign overall at the Hub, with a 3.54 goals-against average over 16 games, and in fact got more ice time than anyone was expecting when all was said and done, and could potentially be the answer to that question, but that is far from knowable at this point. Mirwald had a great U18 career with the Saskatoon Blazers U18s, some outstanding showings at the Regina Hub, and any struggles he might have had otherwise certainly appeared acceptable for a fresh rookie under the circumstances.
That all being said, if the Warriors are dead serious about this crew, you would have to think someone else other than recent 2005-born signee Jackson Unger – who did not get into a game in March/April – is coming down the pipe to compete with Mirwald for that spot.
The Portland angle?
This is the second off-season in a row in which the Warriors sent a goalie to the Winterhawks, as it was Brock Gould who headed to Oregon from Saskatchewan back in mid-March.
Yet it was the 2002-born Dante Giannuzzi who stole the show in the net for the U.S. Division runner-ups, and so it stands to reason that the big Winnipegger would be a great candidate to take the Hawks forward.
That all being said, a sixth-rounder for the rights to a big fish like Wallstedt, for a Portland team led by Carolina Hurricanes’ first-rounder Seth Jarvis, means that they must have some sort of meaningful contact with him, and his agents; and however good Giannuzzi is, Wallstedt is another animal altogether.
I still don’t see Jesper playing a second in the CHL.