OSTRAVA, Czechia -- Jesper Wallstedt is pining for more time in the paint.

The 21-year-old, coming off a second straight strong season with the Iowa Wild in the American Hockey League, has his sights set on jumping to brighter lights.


"I'm trying to push to make the team next year," said Wallstedt from Czechia, where he's currently serving with Sweden at the 2024 IIHF World Championship. "That's my goal. We'll see how that goes. I feel like I've been putting in the work and giving myself a good opportunity to succeed.

"I feel like I had a very strong year in Iowa. We were struggling a little bit as a team. We maybe didn't have our best year. But I feel like I gave our team a good chance every night to succeed. And a couple strong starts in Minnesota at the end of the year... I still feel I was in more control and I was pushing my pace and being set and in control more.

"Game-wise I feel like I'm in a strong position."

Wallstedt, the No. 20 pick in the 2021 NHL Draft, netted an 18-15-5 record with a 2.70 goals-against average and .910 save percentage with two shutouts in 45 games in Iowa, one year removed from registering similar marks.

The 6-foot-3, 214-pound product of Vasteras registered a 3.09 goals-against average and .897 save percentage and one shutout in three auditions in Minnesota, including two down the stretch in April.

He showed well.

"I think he's on the right track," said goalie Filip Gustavsson, teammates with Wallstedt on both sides of the pond. "He's doing the right things. It's always usually a little bit slower for goalies to establish themselves here. You play 82 games over there. I experienced it this year. It's ups and downs a lot, especially this year for me. I think that's what they're looking for in goalies, to become a full-time NHLer, is the consistency.

"When they feel you hit that consistency, I think it's going to be fine."

Gustavsson, who started 43 of 82 games in Minnesota this season, is trying to help his fellow Swede along the way.

"We're good friends," Wallstedt said. "We both spent some time up in Luleå before so we both kind of have that Northern Sweden mentality a little bit... chill and calm. He's just funny. He's a fun guy to be around. A lot of jokes. Just have a good time together. We spent a little bit of time together this season as well with me coming to Sweden and being called up and so on. I know him very well. He's very fun to be around.

"If I need anything I can definitely ask him and he definitely has some good answers. He's a good guy to be around.

"It's a good relationship overall."

It's a unique relationship, too, with the up-and-comer trying to earn a spot that could eventually come at the expense of the veteran.

But that's just the goaltending fraternity, both parties attested to.

"That's the weird thing, but I guess everyone knows what we're in for," Wallstedt said. "Every goalie kind of understands that mentality and everyone understands how the game works. There's nothing that guarantees that says I'm going to be better than him. I still have to do the work and still have to be curious every day to how to become better. Spending time with him is definitely fun."

Ditto, suggested the 25-year-old Gustavsson.

"You always want your own countrymen to succeed in the NHL and play very good over there," Gustavsson. "It's both. You want to see it, but you want to keep your job yourself. That pushes yourself to keep fighting and become even better all the time."

That even extends to Europe, too.

Wallstedt, who currently slots third on the Wild depth chart behind Gustavsson and Marc-Andre Fleury, logs the same rank for Sweden, slotting behind Gustavsson and Philadelphia Flyers stopper Samuel Ersson at the World Championship.

But, again, Wallstedt feels close.

And his plan is to push in both instances, regardless of circumstance.

"I don't think I'm far away from them, either," said Wallstedt, who a year ago at the 2023 Worlds logged a 0.67 goals-against average and a .947 save percentage in three outings. "I think I'm here to compete. I have a very good structure and a strong season behind me in Iowa. I feel very confident even though I know what role I have.

"It's always something special to put the Three Crowns on you and go represent your country. That's nothing you take for granted, and every opportunity you get you try to say yes as long as you're healthy and it fits your schedule. For me, even though I have the role that I have, I think it was pretty clear for me to go represent my country as soon as I could.

"I know I have to be competing at my best and try to challenge the other goalies as good as I can, even though it's not the plan for me to play."

The same tune undoubtedly will be sung when September springs and training camp commences.

Because Wallstedt is knocking on the door.

"He's really close, I think," Wild defenseman and Sweden teammate Jonas Brodin said.

"I'm excited to see him next year."