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Frozen Frames: Understanding new defence prospect Gustav Olofsson’s style of play

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Injuries have limited his playing time, and that means there’s still room for the defenceman to grow.

Minnesota Wild v Columbus Blue Jackets Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

William Bitten was not a core piece of Montreal Canadiens’ rebuilding efforts, but he was a good prospect for the organization regardless. He had the potential of becoming a solid checking forward at the NHL level in some years’ time, not unlike the many elements with the team now that make the heavy pressure style of game the team is employing work so well.

That might be the main reason why the organization felt comfortable trading Bitten away. He was almost a commodity for the Habs who already have a collection of players capable of handling such a role with the NHL team.

What they need is to furnish their defence pipeline, especially on the left side of the ice. The rise of Mikey Reilly is a very welcome sight, but even if he maintains the same level of play — which would be a huge gift to the Habs going forward — the team will still need young defenders to step up as it aims to be more and more competitive.

Gustav Olofsson had been battling for a spot on the Minnesota blue line for a few years with Reilly. It was a spot he ultimately won last season, which led to Montreal’s first trade with the Wild: a fifth-round pick in 2019 for the once-prized NCAA defenceman.

Sustaining a shoulder injury in pre-season, Olofsson also found himself on the outside looking in in Minnessota, and the Habs decided to pounce on a second occasion to find value in another team’s depth.

Olofsson is a different player than Reilly. They are both mobile defenders, but while the latter is offensively inclined, it is quite the opposite for the 2013 second-rounder. Olofsson never really put up numbers at any level, and his game has always relied on his defensive reads more than his play with the puck.

That being said, Olofsson’s skating can help him push the pace of the game, and contribute to the attack at times. Plus, there could still be some untapped potential in that aspect of the defenceman’s game that is currently inconsistent.

Olofsson didn’t develop into the top-four presence the Wild had hoped when they drafted him. He lost a season to injury in what was supposed to be his debut with the Iowa Wild a few years back and was sidelined a few other times in his career. It’s likely that the lost time on ice didn’t favour the defenceman’s development.

If he can stay healthy this upcoming season, it could be the break he needs. He has the tools to be a better puck-mover and all-around contributor. Finding his confidence in a stable roster spot could help him grow as a player and reach more of his potential.

With what we are seeing from Reilly right now, a change of scenery and a vote of confidence could do wonders for the organization’s newest player.

The following sequences are from a game last season against the Washington Capitals. The clips showcase the stronger and weaker elements in Olofsson’s play.