William Wallinder is the third defenseman evaluated in this series, and he’s also the most interesting. He is only 17 years old and won’t turn 18 until July, making him one of the youngest in the draft. For his age, he has great size, as he is listed at 6-foot-4, 191 pounds.
Wallinder is a left-handed shot born in Sweden who has also played his whole junior career in his home country, now serving in Modo Hockey’s system. In the final 2020 Draft Prospect Rankings, he ranks 14th among European skaters, this after being seventh in the midterm rankings.
Wallinder began as a 14-year-old in the under-18 Swedish junior league. He played between this league and short lengths in the under-16 league until the 2018-19 season when he debuted in the SuperElit. He only played two games in the top junior league in Sweden that season, before playing 37 this season (five goals, 19 assists).
For his play in the SuperElit this season, Wallinder was called up to the Allsvenskan. This is the second-tier professional league, behind the SHL, so he was playing against men twice his age. He played 18 games and tallied just two assists with a decent amount of ice time for his age. He was by far the youngest player in the league too.
Overall, for a defenseman his point production was solid in juniors. He owned a career .64 point per game average in the SuperElit, as well as a .85 average in 13 under-18 Allsvenskan games.
Wallinder’s Scouting Report
The first aspect of Wallinder’s game that stands out when watching his tape is his skating. Someone that is 6-foot-4 should not be able to move as quickly and smoothly as he does. This speed allows him to be terrific on the rush and in the transition from the defensive to the offensive zone.
Wallinder is also not afraid to go end-to-end, which outlines another strength of his game: transition and rushes. Overall, he is the best skating defenseman in this draft.
Wallinder was also an extremely efficient passer in juniors. Although it can be inconsistent at times, his passing ability is overall stellar. Another puck skill he excels at is his stickhandling. For a defenseman and the size he is, this ability is superb.
Defensively, he does need work, but due to his size, he has a great reach. He uses this reach to break-up the opposing play and is crafty in pushing pucks to his teammates. He also does a pretty good job in one-on-ones. His reach comes in handy in multiple areas in the defensive end.
Wallinder may be the rawest first-round prospect, so several areas need continued development.
First off, he is wildly inconsistent in the defensive end. Wallinder tends to wander out of position defensively, which can lead to opposing players being wide open in the crease. It is baffling to watch this occur, as there seems to be no in between. His positioning is either solid or a disaster.
Although he was a strong reach, his gap control is also an area of concern. If he did not have such a good reach, this issue would be a lot more apparent.
Wallinder plays with a very aggressive edge, which is good, as it enables him to create in transition and rushes. However, he sometimes plays too aggressive which results in bad pinches, as well as poor breakouts, as he gets going the other way too early.
Additionally, although he has great size, he needs to use it more often. He seems to shy away from this type of play, especially in terms of board battles and other areas where physicality should be implemented. Adding strength would help not only this area but his slap shot greatly.
Although he’s had some struggles, it’s worth mentioning several of these areas got better when he was called up to the Allsvenskan
Wallinder is the rawest prospect in the first round, but he has one of the highest ceilings and upside in the draft. But with this comes a chance of his development stunting and him not becoming the first-round talent he has the tools to become. To be successful he needs to be the beneficiary of great coaching. With all this said, it will be at least three to four years before Wallinder can be a meaningful contributor in the NHL.
If he progresses as he should, there is no reason he can’t become not only a stellar top-four, puck-moving defenseman but also one of the best defensemen that come out of this draft. With great risk, comes the possibility of enormous reward, making Wallinder the textbook “boom-or-bust” prospect.
Even with all this said, Wallinder should still come off the board in round one. Expect it to be in the latter part of the draft. Somewhere between picks 25-28.
Fit With the Devils
Wallinder is a “boom-or-bust” prospect the Devils should take a risk on if the pick makes sense. He does not make sense with any of the three projected first-rounders the Devils have. But if they were to trade back in round one or add an early-second rounder, he could provide great value.
If the Devils do take Wallinder, the team better be ready to coach him up when he comes to the organization. He is a player that has all the right tools, but coaching will be the determining factor in developing him into a top-four, puck-moving defender or not.
Ranking of Evaluated Prospects
1. Alexis Lafrenière (no profile will be released)
2. Tim Stützle (05/07/2020)
3. Quinton Byfield (05/08/2020)
4. Marco Rossi (04/30/2020)
5. Lucas Raymond (04/28/2020)
6. Jamie Drysdale (05/01/2020)
7. Alexander Holtz (04/29/2020)
8. Cole Perfetti (05/06/2020)
9. Yaroslav Askarov (05/05/2020)
10. Anton Lundell (05/11/2020)
11. Seth Jarvis (05/13/2020)
12. Jake Sanderson (05/04/2020)
13. Dawson Mercer (05/16/2020)
14. Noah Gunler (05/19/2020)
15. Rodion Amirov (05/12/2020)
16. Jack Quinn (05/09/2020)
17. Dylan Holloway (05/14/2020)
18. Connor Zary (05/15/2020)
19. Maverik Bourque (05/20/2020)
20. Hendrix Lapierre (05/21/2020)
21. William Wallinder (Today)
22. Lukas Reichel (05/18/2020)