In the latest edition of "Really? THAT GUY is one of the Oilers' top 25 players under 25? I thought they had like a million high picks over the last decade? What gives?" we have...Erik Gustafsson.
I say that a bit tongue in cheek, but only slightly so. The fact of the matter is that the bottom part of this list is embarrassingly poor for a team who has spent the better part of 10 years compiling young assets. However, Erik Gustafsson may actually be one of the most interesting players among this group of "prospects"...
|22||Erik Gustafsson||03/14/92||#93, 2012||26||20||26||24||20||20||34||22||17||18|
Gustafsson is playing with Frolunda in the recently re-named SHL this season. Now, I'm the first to admit I don't spend what little free time I have streaming games from the SHL to scout Erik Gustafsson, but in looking at the data available on him...there's some things here worth noting...
- On a blueline where a great deal of the players are within a year of his age, he is 6th in total minutes played per game w/ 15:01. This implies he is likely used against secondary levels of competition and that he is not being blocked by a core of veteran players keeping him from earning additional minutes. Simple math tells us he's getting somewhere in the neighbourhood of 12 min. 5v5 per game (I'll provide the numbers as we go)
- Further support of the "he's likely not a tough minutes guy" thought process: of the 9 defencemen who have played more than 10 games for Frolunda this season, he ranks 8th in short-handed time-on-ice per game (0:38).
- None of this should lead you to believe he doesn't have a defined role that he performs well...he is firmly established on the team's 2nd PP unit (based on TOI distribution) with 2:04 min/gm with the man advantage.
- During that time, he produces points. A lot of them. In fact, he is 2nd among Dmen and 4th on the team in points generated on the powerplay. (1g-11a-12p)
- The flip side of that coin is that a very large percentage of his total point production comes when playing up a man. Those 12 PP points represent 63% of his total output (2g-17a-19p).
- Again, flipping back to the positive, those 19 points are good for 2nd on the team and 12th in the entire SHL among defencemen. When you consider he plays the least minutes/game of any player among the top 20 in scoring amongst Defencemen (nearly 4 minutes per game less than any other player in the top 20 and in most cases more than 5 minutes less) it is s safe to say that Gustafsson is making the most of the opportunities he is given.
- He's also 2nd among Dmen in shots with 64 SOG on the season
- While not a fan of the stat, for added context, Gustaffson is a plus 3 this season. He's been on the ice for 20 goals for and 17 against. Based on ice-time, that scoring rate falls right in line with his teammates, so he's not an especially high-event player based on his performance this season.
The list above may feel like a bit of a rollercoaster of "That's promising!" and "Oh...", well, that's probably about right.
It's pretty well established that offence is what Gustafsson brings to the table. He's shown a bit of an edge to his game in years past by posting some significant PIM totals (those are way down this year...14 PIM through 46 games), but he will make it or break it based on his ability to generate points.
So what does this mean for the Oilers?
Well, let me put it this way...He's a (soon to be) 22 year year old 6'0" 203 lbs. left-handed shooting Dman whose long term potential likely tops out as a #6 or 7 NHL defenceman if he reaches his potential.
There's nothing wrong with that, but taking a look at the Oilers' organizational depth chart on the left side...At the NHL level they have Andrew Ference with a NMC for 3 more years who will likely be taking up one spot on the bottom two pairings. They are likely looking to add another proven NHL Dman to the group over the off-season, and beyond that, the players battling for position to grab the 1 or 2 remaining spots with the big club over the next few years include:
- Martin Marincin,
- Darnell Nurse,
- Oscar Klefbom,
- Dillon Simpson,
- Martin Gernat,
- David Musil,
- Philip Larsen and,
- Brandon Davidson.
I won't spoil our list but every single one of those guys was eligible to be part of this Top 25 Under 25 ranking process, and thus far, we've only seen Brandon Davidson. Decide for yourself what that likely means about Gustafsson's chances of playing in the NHL for the Oilers any time soon.
He's got some tools, but unless his game breaks through to a whole new level at some point before Edmonton's rights to him expire, I suspect if we ever see "The Other Erik Gustafsson" in the NHL, it won't be as an Oiler.