Late in the third round of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft is about when the Red Wings started to draft goalies. Jesper Eliasson was the first of two goalies to be selected as part of the Red Wings 2018 draft class. Of the two he has the higher ceiling and greater potential.
Eliasson just turned 18-years-old in March. He stands 6’3” tall and is from Eksjo, Sweden. His height could be to blame for his slowness in the crease, but there is plenty of time to work that out. Besides, among countrymen his own age, Eliasson was stellar.
BY THE NUMBERS
A .930 save percentage in the Junior-20 Elit Swedish league is nothing to scoff at. It was enough to earn him a roster spot on Sweden’s U18 team at World Junior Championships, where the team won a Bronze medal. He was the second string goalie behind New York Rangers draft pick Olof Lindbom. Unfortunately, Eliasson’s play against faster competition on the International stage badly exposed his weaknesses as he posted a 3.00 goals against average and .885 save percentage in the only game he started.
What were those weaknesses? Eliasson’s big body allows him to cover up most of the net, but he does struggle getting around inside his crease. He’s not athletic, but he’s aggressive. He’s got a quick blocker, but is slow getting from one side of the net to the other, leaving him exposed on odd-man rushes.
We all know that goalies peak late. At 18-years-old, Eliasson has a ton of time to work these kinks in his game out. Next season, he’s making the jump to the Swedish SuperElit league, where he’ll face tougher competition. As he gets more comfortable in the game and builds some confidence, he will work out these wrinkles in his game.
The nice thing about Eliasson’s status is that he can come over to the U.S. any time, which leaves him open to play for Grand Rapids when the Red Wings deem him to be ready. He’s definitely further ahead in his development than the second goalie drafted and one of the few prospects in the system who could pan out, along with Keith Petruzzelli and Filip Larsson.
It will still be a few years before any of them see playing time at Little Caesars Arena, but their development is certainly worth keeping an eye on. As for Eliasson, if he focuses on his areas of opportunity, there’s no doubt that he can turn into an NHL-calibre goalie. He has the size and the drive for it, now he just has to teach himself the speed.