Erik Gustafsson was a 4th round draft pick in 2012 and we haven’t seen or heard too much about him since draft day. He was taken inside the top 100, and has been productive over the last 18 months.
PREVIOUSLY NUMBER NINETEEN ON THE LIST
- December 2004: L Liam Reddox (100)
- December 2005: D Danny Syvret (59)
- December 2006: G Glenn Fisher
- December 2007: D Sebastian Bisaillon (2)
- December 2008: L Phil Cornet (2)
- December 2009: G Olivier Roy
- December 2010: D Jeremie Blain
- December 2011: D Kyle Bigos
- December 2012: L Curtis Hamilton
This is the way the 19th man list should look—there are no first round picks and the players who made it (GP in NHL in brackets) did it as long shots. Reddox was an interesting player, always liked him (although Thoresen was the better player) and of course there’s still time for a couple of these players to emerge. Still, ranking Gustafsson here should indicate to us that major expectations are likely to result in disappointment.
WHAT THEY SAID ON DRAFT DAY
- Jonathan Willis: Not only does it seem that Gustafsson is a little bigger (6.00, 203) than initially advertised, he also is capable of playing an agitating game. Teammate Philip Holm, asked which player would spend the most time in the penalty box in 2012-13, nominated Gustafsson (quote via Google Translate): Gustafsson used to sit a lot. He has a little temper, talking a little trash talk like that. He will probably have to sit some minutes.
- Pronman: “I was able to catch a game of Oilers 2012 draft pick defenseman Erik Gustafsson in a recent European Trophy game. I did not comment on him at the draft or in Edmonton’s organizational write-up due to lack of notes. Mind you it was only one match, but from what one can gather from a singular game, I understand why Edmonton used a fourth round pick on him. Gustafsson, who was in his third draft eligible season, certainly has a fair amount of skill and mobility. Several times he showed the ability to be an effective puck carrier who can make impressive plays and be a starting point for offense. He’s a little undersized which won’t help him, but considering that I thought he defended at an ok level as his reads were fine.”
- Stu MacGregor: “Offensive, skilled defenceman. Again, a puck-mover we can hopefully fit in with the rest of our group to give us some puck movers and some size.”
- Elite Prospects: A skilled defenseman with some nice offensive skills. Can quarterback the powerplay and able to log big minutes. Has good vision and an edge to his game. Good release.
ERIK GUSTAFSSON, BY SEASON
|PLAYER||TOTAL||NHL E (.55)|
|GUSTAFSSON 2011-12 SEL||21, 3-11-14||82, 6-24-30|
|GUSTAFSSON 2012-13 Alls||49, 7-16-23||Not available|
|GUSTAFSSON 2013-14 SEL||30, 0-13-13||82, 0-20-20|
I don’t think there’s much doubt Gustafsson can contribute to the offense once he arrives in North America, this is not a Ladislav Smid-Oscar Klefbom type defenseman. On the other hand, as Klefbom proved you don’t really know about a player until he arrives in training camp and competes for a job. Gustafsson is an older prospect (Gustafsson is 14 months older than Klefbom but was chosen the year after) and if the Oilers plan on using him it’s probably now or never (this coming summer) to sign him.
In spite of being a prospect of interest, there’s a very good chance Gustafsson never plays for the Oilers. He has some things going against him: there’s a new GM in place with no emotional connection to him; the club will be adding (hopefully) Dillon Simpson and (probably) Darnell Nurse to the pro ranks while losing only Nick Schultz and (maybe) Corey Potter from the NHL/AHL depth chart. Here’s a list of defensemen (including Simpson and Nurse) likely to be Oilers BEFORE they make a decision on Gustafsson:
- Jeff Petry (rfa)
- Justin Schultz (rfa)
- Andrew Ference
- Anton Belov (UFA)
- Darnell Nurse*
- Phil Larsen (rfa)
- Taylor Fedun
- Martin Marincin
- Oscar Klefbom
- Dillon Simpson*
- Brandon Davidson
- Brad Hunt
- David Musil
- Martin Gernat
Plus they’ll be adding to the NHL defense. Gustafsson looks like he’s earned a contract and two or three years to show he can make the grade in the NHL, and my suspicion is that he gets it beginning next fall.
The major positive for Gustafsson comes from the new coach in Edmonton. Dallas Eakins clearly likes puck moving defensemen who are comfortable with transition passes and making quick decisions. It looks and sounds like Gustafsson’s skills are a nice match.