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Top 25 Under 25: #22 Johan Gustafsson

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Johan Gustafsson is expected to continue to work on his game during the 2014-15 season in net for the Iowa Wild.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport

After Johan Gustafsson's less than successful transition to North American pro hockey last season, his place on this list is perhaps lower than would have been anticipated when he was backing team Sweden to a World Junior Championship in 2012.  He looked like a player who could have easy success in the professional game. But goaltenders are notorious for taking longer to reach their peak than players of any other position, which mitigates some of the concern over Gustafsson's early struggles in Iowa. Even though, the Iowa Wild struggled to win games, Gustafsson managed to keep his season save percentage above .900.

These stats (and there's a lot of them) illustrate that he has a lot of varied experience at different levels. He has played behind a variety of squads, and been consistently successful in these efforts.

Scouting Report

The aspect of his game that is the strongest is his play down low and on the ice. He moves well and his great low play lets him play deeper in his net. His upper body play, however, needs more work. Justin Goldman says the following about his upper body play:

"But from the chest to the shoulder blades, it’s a bit of a different story. To me, this is the main area of focus for Gustafsson moving forward because he’s prone to exposing too much space in the upper corners. And against AHL-calibre shooters that can pick corners with decent accuracy, it’s easy for me to say that some adjustments will need to be made as his first season in North America gets underway."

As the Wild's goalie coach, Bob Mason is probably the person who knows Johan Gustafsson's game the best, and during the summer of 2013 he gave Joe O'Donnell a synopsis of Gustafsson's game and describes what Gustafsson needs to work on most.

Gustafsson's Continuing Development

The main reason not to worry about Gustafsson's transition is that he's a 6th round pick, so it's isn't like the Wild lost a lot to obtain him. There are also a lot more goalies than there are starting jobs for goalies in the NHL. The reason most teams draft at least one goaltender per year is that it is very hard to predict their success. Gustafsson will either improve and develop, or he won't and he'll return to Europe and the Wild will develop someone else. He should be expected to progress this coming season, particularly if Darcy Kuemper signs a one-way contract. Gustafsson will either figure out the North American pro game or go back to Europe and have a successful career. But with his athleticism and promise, it will be exciting to see what he does this season.