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2018 NHL Draft prospect profile: David Gustafsson reads the play well at both ends

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The two-way centre requires work on offence, but his defence may just make up for it.

David Gustafsson made his start playing for Tingsryds AIF from 2012 to 2015 before moving up to the HV71 system. Last season, at 17 years old, he suited up for his first full season in the Swedish Hockey League.

In 45 games, he tallied 12 points (6G, 6A) and went on to play in two playoff games. After the post-season, Gustaffson extended his season by joining Team Sweden at the Under-18 World Championship, racking up an average of a point per game in seven contests (2G, 5A), more than tripling his points from the previous year’s tournament.

Birthplace: Tingsryd, Sweden
Date of birth: April 11, 2000
Shoots: Left
Position: Centre
Height: 6’1”
Weight: 194 lbs.
Team: HV71 (SHL)

Image credit: EliteProspects

Gustafsson’s greatest attributes are his lower-body strength and balance. This combination allows him to protect the puck, push his way to the front of the net, and grind it out to win battles along the boards. His skating technique, however, could use some refinement. His edgework needs improvement, and by focusing a bit more on his skating style he could easily enhance his already decent speed and acceleration.

That being said, his mobility issues don’t interfere with his ability to generate chances. Gustafsson may not be the most creative playmaker, sticking to simple passes and a north-south kind of play, but he’s a smart player. His ability to read the play compensates for his lack of creativity, as he proved by finishing fifth in scoring in the junior league.

He starts the play right from puck drop with his impressive faceoff skills. That know-how led to the best faceoff percentage (70.55%) during the Under-18 Worlds last season. His ability to make things happen helps him create scoring chances from turnovers, putting a play in motion even before his opponent has a chance to react to what’s happened.

He uses his strong legs to push his way to the front of the net and his big frame to screen the goalie. When he’s not obstructing the netminder, he’s firing off one of his quick releases that have a habit of fooling the goalies. Gustafsson has the hand-eye coordination and quickness to pounce on a rebound, and that coupled with an accurate wrist shot makes him someone you don’t want hanging around your net.

Rankings

Future Considerations: #43
Hockey Prospect: #106
ISS: #44
McKeen’s: #50
NHL Central Scouting: #24 (EU Skaters)

Thoughts

Gustafsson continues to climb the rankings, but it seems some people are cautious when betting on him. Their concerns are due to the fact thathis defensive strengths outweigh his offensive skills.

He’s very effective in the defensive zone, keeping things tidy and supporting defencemen down low against the cycle game and back pressuring against the rush. He may have to work on his overall high-end offensiveness, but Gustafsson has produced extremely well against his peers, proving that even though he needs to work on his offensive game, he can effectively shut down those who don’t.

Gustafsson’s offensive tools remain untapped. If he continues to work on improving his skating techniques and starts taking more chances with the puck, he has the potential to be a second- or third-line centre in the NHL. He could become a valuable secondary scorer who plays big minutes and can keep the puck out of his own net as well.