Devils Draft Series: William Wallinder, Raw Defenseman With Unlimited Upside

May 23, 2020 - Devils Army Blog - View Full Article
William Wallinder is your classic “boom-or-boost” type prospect. (Photo by Erik Mårtensson/Bildbyrån)

Profile

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.

The Statistics

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

Strengths

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. 

Weaknesses 

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

Projection

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)

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Why Atlantic City Is a Good Place for the NHL Once the Season Resumes

May 23, 2020 - Devils Army Blog - View Full Article

Introduction

This past week has been kind to hockey fans, as it seems the NHL is making progress towards resuming their season. Ever since the season was paused back in March, the league has made it clear it has intentions of coming back. Specifically to award the Stanley Cup for the 2019-2020 season. The remaining of the season may go down in the record books with an asterisk, but at least there may be a happy ending.

It is expected that the NHL will set up teams in various “hub-cities”. This to cut down travel. As a result, teams will not be playing in front of fans in their home arena. The most logical and likely candidate is Las Vegas. This because Vegas is already has an NHL arena and training facilities. As well as more hotel rooms than anywhere else in the United States. In all likelihood the entire NHL can fit into Las Vegas. Instead, the league seems to be leaning towards more than one, perhaps multiple. One unlikely candidate that deserves a look is Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Atlantic City is my type of place. I’ve made a second home out of the five-dollar blackjack table at Borgata. The people who drive down the Garden State Parkway for a little R & R (not “rest and relaxation”, but in this case “roulette and more roulette”) are my type of people. Stay away from the buffets though. I am a classy gentleman so I go to Bobby Flay’s restaurant. Of course, that is after I beg the pit boss for mercy in the form of a comped steak dinner.

Hockey History In Atlantic City

Even if Atlantic City may be more known for penny slots, beaches, and free drinks at the roulette tables, it would also be a perfect candidate for hockey. Interestingly enough, Atlantic City holds a special place in hockey history. The first African-American player to sign a professional NHL contract was Art Dorrington. He played for the Atlantic City Seagulls, then a minor league team for the New York Rangers. Dorrington never made it to the big show, but in his defense the sweet saltwater taffy air of Atlantic City probably beats the rotting-garbage smell from Madison Square Garden.

Portrait of Canadian hockey player Arthur Dorrington, dressed in the uniform of the Atlantic City Sea Gulls, Atlantic City, New Jersey, November 30, 1950. Dorrington was the first black professional hockey player in the United States. (Photo by FPG/Getty Images)

In the modern era, Atlantic City has had some minor league hockey presence. The New Jersey Devils, then minor league team, the Albany Devils would play a few games a season at Boardwalk Hall. From 2001-2005, the city had the Atlantic City Boardwalk Bullies of the ECHL, who won the Kelly Cup in 2003. In 2012, the arena hosted both the AHL All-Star Game and Operation Hat Trick. Operation Hat Trick was a benefit hockey game that took place for Hurricane Sandy relief while the 2012-2013 NHL Lockout was ongoing. Then Devils’ Martin Brodeur and Andy Greene participated.

Let’s Talk about Logistics

Las Vegas has an NHL stadium in the T-Mobile Arena and the Golden Knights training facilities. Atlantic City’s facilities might not be as shiny and new, but they have adequate resources as well. Boardwalk Hall has long been home to ice hockey, and can quickly be converted back to an NHL style rink. The city also has a Philadelphia Flyers branded “skate zone” a few miles away from the Boardwalk as well.

Although Atlantic City lacks the number of hotel rooms available compared to Las Vegas, there are still nine major casino hotels. Additionally, there are several other reputable non-casino hotels. Anyone who’s made the long drive down to A.C. knows there are a few rather unfavorable motels just outside city limits. You know, the type of motel that looks like an unlicensed plastic surgeon in working out of the third floor. Don’t worry, the NHL will stay away from those.

As for transportation, Atlantic City is just a few hour drive away from almost all of the Metropolitan Division, except for the Carolina Hurricanes. Atlantic City International Airport is a few miles away, though technically not in Atlantic City. While it’s a rather small airport compared to the type NHL players are used to flying into, it’s still a commercial airport that would be capable of handling team arrivals if plane travel was needed.

As with any NHL game or event, medical professionals will need to be on standby. Although I can heal most of the wounds Atlantic City gives me with a complimentary Coors Light and a 3:00 AM rally at the craps table, NHL players need top-line medical attention. Well, the city is served by the AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center, filling that requirement.

Credit to the press of Atlantic City

Here is the most interesting piece of the puzzle. When the NBA was searching for possible sites a few months back, Atlantic City’s mayor admitted he was trying to convince the NBA to consider Atlantic City. If the city would roll out the red carpet one sports league, it’d most likely do it for another as well.

The Problems

Atlantic City, as a community, shares a lot of the same concerns as Las Vegas. These include the concerns that kept professional sports out for that city for so long. Atlantic City is a more gambling focused city than Las Vegas, which diversified its entertainment offerings compared to its cousin on the East Coast. Any problems would lie in the casinos.

Luckily, for hockey, the NHL has largely avoided any gambling-related problems involving the Golden Knights operations. Unfortunately, there have been a few exceptions. On the gambling side, there was Evander Kane’s gambling dispute with a Vegas casino. This happened when his San Jose Sharks were playing the Vegas Golden Knights in the NHL playoffs. And then there was the time Evgeny Kusnetsov went skiing, and not the type Lindsey Vonn is used too.

If the NHL could do damage control in Vegas, they can do it in Jersey. Of course, any outstanding details can be worked through. Atlantic City may not be a sure bet, but it’s worth Gary Bettman taking a look at.

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