August 28, 2012
By Anthony SanFilippo - Philadelphia Flyers Inside
N.J. – The only remnant is a 2-inch pink
scar on his left wrist.
With the Flyers in need of a
defenseman because of various injuries last season,
Gustafsson, along with fellow defensive prospects
Marc-Andre Bourdon and Kevin Marshall were given
the chance to play a good chunk of games at the
NHL level for the first time.
Gustafsson and Bourdon were both
impressing the Flyers brass enough that the team
traded Marshall, and leaned on their other two,
young, defensive prospects to fill the void at
the NHL level.
It was the culmination of a lifelong
pursuit for Gustafsson, who felt he was ready
to stake a claim to a regular NHL spot and not
At first, it appeared positive
for Gustafsson. In just his fifth game of the
season, he became the first Flyers rookie to post
a rating of plus-6 in a game since 1984.
And while he was certainly receiving
plenty of accolades for that performance –
a game in which he played 23 minutes, the most
amount of ice time in his young career - he was
probably a bit fortunate that night, not really
being involved in three of the six goals he was
on the ice for, it was the last game he’d
play in quite awhile.
In that memorable game, Gustafsson
damaged the sheathing that protects tendons in
his wrist and needed it to be repaired surgically.
He didn’t make it back
to the NHL for nine weeks.
Even then, he really wasn’t
himself. Taking a couple months off in the middle
of a season is terrible for an athlete. It’s
almost like the offseason workouts and training
camp have to commence all over again.
He played another month without
accumulating even one point. He only took six
shots in that span.
But all the while he was taking
regular, or semi-regular shifts, and gaining plenty
He played pretty continually
through the end of March before taking another
He returned in the playoffs against
Pittsburgh, even scoring a goal in the series
clinching game against the Pens – when he
He also skated in each of the five playoff games
against New Jersey, which had the Flyers feeling
good about Gustafsson, 23, moving forward.
Now, after another summer of
training and working on his strength and speed,
Gustafsson is ready to finish what he started
a season ago.
“It’s been a great
summer,” he said. “I’ve had
no setbacks at all. I’ve been working a
little bit on strengthening the wrist, but otherwise
I’ve just been working on the strength schedule
(assistant strength and conditioning coach) Ryan
Podell gave me and I feel like I’m in really
Gustafsson also practiced during
the summer in Sweden with Timra IK of the Swedish
Elite League and is looking forward for the start
of the NHL season, so he can solidify his chances
of being in the NHL every day.
“I think this is the best
opportunity I’ve had so far within the Flyers
organization,” he said. “I think I
finally found my game at the end of last year,
and I hope I can carry that over and be even better
this year. I want to show everyone that I deserve
a spot on the roster and to get [more] playing
And considering the Flyers situation
on defense, which is marred with injuries, there
is a chance that Gustafsson can do just that.
“He’s come along
nicely,” said general manager Paul Holmgren.
“His first year here he was able to get
in a full season with the Phantoms and put up
really good numbers as an offensive guy who played
all situations and was able to pick up the tempo
of the game.
“He had to get quicker
and his skating needed to improve while he was
adapting. I think the brief number of games that
he played for the Flyers – he did a good
job of containing, and that’s what stood
out in our minds.
“He’s always going
to have some difficulty because he’s a smaller
statured guy, especially compared to some of the
forwards he plays against, but if you’re
smart, and you have a good stick and are competitive,
you can play around those deficiencies.”
And that’s what the Flyers
believe they have in Gustafsson. Good thing for
them, he feels the same way.
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