Much like Gustav Olofsson's career last year, his ranking in the Hockey Wilderness 25 Under 25 hasn't gone anywhere. He comes in at #12 in the Top-25 Under-25 for the second year in a row.
The lack of change in assessment of Olofsson's skills owes a debt to him not playing for the vast majority of the season last year. He came into the Minnesota Wild camp as a dark horse candidate to unseat Matt Dumba or Christian Folin for a spot with the Wild. He didn't do it. Then he hurt his shoulder and required season-ending surgery after being run into the end boards. He played one game in the 2014-15 season.
By the end of the year he was practicing with the team, but he never got back to a state where he could play in a game.
That was really too bad for the 2013 2nd round pick in what should have been his first full professional season and a key developmental year for the 6-foot-3 defenseman. (Not to mention he could have played for Sweden in the World Junior Championships in December, which could have been great for his development as well.)
Olofsson enters the 2015-16 season in much the same space as the year before. He still needs to make a transition to the pros and prove that he will bring the skills he showed in his single season with Colorado College. There, he was a two-way player who didn't deliver on the offensive skill he showed playing for the Green Bay Gamblers in the USHL, but was strong in his own zone. Though, it was a problem in camp that he didn't appear to have the same strength in his own zone in front of the net and in the corners against larger, faster, more talented competition.
He's lost some of that darkhorse status this season and looks like he's playing from behind inside the organization now. Where he had an outside shot at NHL time last year, it's less likely this year with Dumba looking like a lock to be a NHL regular going forward, Folin clearly placing himself ahead of Olofsson, Mike Reilly entering the fold as a mature defender who wants NHL time, Nate Prosser sticking around because... Nate Prosser, and Dylan Labbé turning pro and competing for time at the AHL level.
That leaves out the possibility of growth from prospects like Alex Gudbranson and Guillaume Gelinas, who should be below Olofsson in the pecking order after tough seasons last year that were hampered by injury and under-performing when they weren't injured. They enter training camp with something to prove.
Iowa also acquired some veteran defenders in Tyson Strachan and Maxime Fortunus, who will compete for ice time with Olofsson in Iowa.
That's not to say Olofsson can't compete or earn his way, but the landscape has shifted under him while he was unable to play in the 2014-15 season. He has the potential to be a strong role player, but any viewings of his nine total AHL games or his play at Colorado College makes it clear he's not a game-changer for the Wild's roster and will require some polishing in the AHL.
In his time at World Juniors, in the USHL, and in brief flashes in the NCAA, he's shown an ability to move play north-south and get out of the zone quickly. He's a heads-up player and a solid skater. But though he's 6-foot-3, he weighs just under 200 pounds and, unlike Jared Spurgeon, he hasn't played above his weight class during the brief glimpses we've had of him over the last year. Though it is worth noting that those glimpses were very brief and there was little game action to see him compete in.
That assessment is something that can change, particularly because he is only 20. He's still developing and by all accounts he's a hard worker.
At Olofsson's age the competition should be good and he needs to rise above the others around him to prove he's ready and is the player the Wild hoped he'd be. It will again be a big year, as the Wild are crunched on the cap with a lot of important RFAs needing new deals next summer. That could mean change is coming and a strong year could make him a part of the plan for the future instead of having his long-term role in the organization remain a question mark.