William Wallen is ranked 213th by the ISS for the upcoming June NHL draft. (Photo courtesy of the Mississauga-St. Michael's Majors)
It began with a headache like none he’d ever had. Then came the vomiting. Soon he was in the back of an ambulance. Within two weeks, he had two brain surgeries; that was early October. By mid-January he was back on the ice for the Ontario League’s Mississauga-St. Michael’s Majors.
But there’s more to William Wallen than the brain aneurysm he had at the end of the Majors’ home opener and his recovery, even if that is what most fans outside of Sweden know about him.
“I don’t mind (talking about the aneurysm),” said the soft-spoken left winger. “But I’m trying to move on. You can’t really close your eyes to it, because that’s what happened and you just have to deal with it.”
Wallen would rather talk hockey.
He’s from a suburb of Stockholm and is the son of a former Swedish Elite League pro who’s now an agent for NHLers such as Patrik Berglund in St. Louis and Mikael Samuelsson in Detroit and whose stable of clients also includes likely top-two NHL draft pick Victor Hedman.
Wallen is a 17-year-old kid who moved to the Toronto suburb of Mississauga from Sweden to play hockey because he loves the mystique of Canadian major junior and wants to skate in the NHL.
“I’ve always had a thing for junior hockey in Canada,” said Wallen, who at one point had a 50/50 chance of surviving his medical ordeal. “There’s such a big interest. So many people watch the games. Here it’s like 4,000; back home it’s like 50.
“And I want to play in the NHL one day. Playing here gets me ready.”
The 16th pick in last year’s Canadian League import draft, Wallen’s biggest detriment is his size. But he doesn’t shy away from the tough areas of the ice and reminds some of American League rookie scoring sensation Nathan Gerbe, a Buffalo Sabres prospect.
“He’s a quick and dynamic skater who competes on the boards, makes good passes and has soft hands,” said one scout, who pointed out Wallen is also young for his draft class and just four weeks shy of being a 2010 selection. “We like the grit he brings and he plays hard at both ends of the ice. Hopefully he grows, because he has potential.”
Wallen grew up idolizing Pavel Bure because he saw similarities in their games. He was voted the No. 3 stickhandler in the OHL this season and, for his part, tries to ignore his diminutive stature.
“I’m not too worried about my size,” said the 5-foot-8, 170-pounder, currently ranked 213th by International Scouting Services for this June’s draft. “There’s nothing I can do about it.”
What Wallen worries about is his game, which he has proven is a skilled one.
“I’m a guy who scores goals,” said the owner of 17 goals and 38 points in 30 international games for Sweden. ”I’ve got to be going all the time; try to be quick and make plays. But my biggest strength is my scoring.”
Wallen could have stayed in Sweden this season, possibly playing for the Djurgarden senior team, with and against men more than twice his age. But, other than missing the first half of the season because of the aneurysm, he’s been happy with the way things have gone.
“Everything has been great,” said Wallen, who admitted he’s still not 100 percent recovered and continues to try to find his game. “I hope to come back next year, improve my game and put up more points. I think next year I can come back and show more of who I am.”
And who knows? Maybe Wallen will be a Swedish world junior team member next season.
“It’s not something I think about,” he said. “But if I made the team that would be awesome.”
You know what else is awesome? The fact this kid is still alive, playing the game he loves and looking forward to his future.
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