After making an impression at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup last summer, quite a few scouts put Wallinder high up on their lists. His size and skating made him stand out from his peers. However, when scouts studied him in Sweden during the season, they must have wondered what had happened to him.
Modo’s under-20 team had a terrible defence, and Wallinder couldn’t stabilize it, a feat that would have been expected from a high draft pick. This meant that his stock fell throughout the season. The fall stopped when Wallinder was called up to the main team and didn’t look as lost as he had in the minor league.
Birthplace: Sollefteå, Sweden
Date of birth: July 28, 2002
Weight: 192 lbs.
Team: Modo (HockeyAllsvenskan)
What makes him most interesting as a prospect is the combination of his size and excellent skating technique. It means that he should adjust more easily into an NHL role down the line. His skating ranks him among the best, if not as the best in the this year’s draft class. It is technically perfect, making use of long, high strides to gain speed, and his edgework allows him to throw off opponents with quick changes in direction, turning his big body with ease. I haven’t been able to spot a flaw in his skating over the games that I have watched.
However, there is a big flaw in regard to Wallinder’s game, especially since he is a defender, and that is his defensive game. His posture and acumen are suspect at best. He can look uninterested and wander all over the ice at times, but his positioning did get better when he was promoted from Modo’s U20 team. The question that arises is: Was it Wallinder that stepped up his game, or was it more seasoned defenders who covered his mistakes?
It’s fascinating to see him use his long strides to gain a lot of speed and suddenly twist and turn using the edges and short, sharp strides to get through traffic. His lateral movement stands out and when he plays smartly he uses his skating to create time and space, which gives him time to pass the puck to open teammates.
He can activate the rush and his skating is made for the transition game. When he uses it the right way, he is a force to be reckoned with.
He has a decent wrist shot, and is good at identifying shooting lanes, but he could do with better aim rather than power. The problem with precision factors into his passing, as well. He spreads the passes all over the place, and while he can put it on the tape to a teammate he can also send it a yard wide.
Even if he is tall and already weighs a fair bit, he needs to grow into his body and add a few kilos, which will have to come without losing his amzing skating. The fact that he has been outmuscled at times in recent years is most likely down to the fact that he has always played against older players.
His defensive reads and his overall defensive game is suspect. With his speed, size, and agility, he really should be working close to the attacker, but more often than not he stands off at a distance. He is slow to adjust to different situations, and one has to wonder about his Hockey IQ. The fact that he got better during the season should show that he has the dedication to improve his game.
His decision-making is the main weakness. He needs to do better in this department. There was an improvement upon his promotion, but he was still prone to poor choices, trying to deke attackers close to his own net and creating opportunities against. If he works this out, and showcases a new maturity in the handful of games before the draft, he could be one of the late risers.
Elite Prospects: #47
Future Considerations: #32
Hockey Prospect: #45
McKeen’s Hockey: #13
NHL Central Scouting: #14 (European skaters)
He is raw, but he has a high potential. I find it difficult to see him going in the first round, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he does. His physical attributes will at least lead to a professional career in hockey. NHL teams will love his upside and hope that Modo and Wallinder himself can work out the mutiple flaws in his defensive game.
Djurgården’s coach, Robert Ohlsson, told Eyes On The Prize when asked about hockey IQ that shoulder-checking was the main thing to look for. The fact that Wallinder doesn’t do that shouldn’t mean that it he can’t learn it, and thereby improve his awareness and decision-making. Personally I think it is fixable, and the fact is that Wallinder did improve when he joined the senior team, by playing a simpler, smarter game, should mean that the dedication and willingness to work on his flaws is there. It could just have been hubris when playing with the Junior teams that impacted his game. If Wallinder has improved on his weaknesses when the season starts (set for the 2nd of October), he could boost his projection with a last-minute impression.