After spending the last two years at number 12, the 6’3” Swede named Gustav Olofsson has arguably earned a promotion to the tenth highest spot in our annual Top 25 Under 25 rankings. Beyond making his NHL debut, the oft injured defenseman was even selected to represent the Iowa Wild at the AHL All-Star Game last season.
Olofsson may be Swedish, but he’s largely learned the game from an American perspective. After playing youth hockey in California, he moved back to Sweden in 2009 for a year and played with IF Bjorkloven. He then made the trip back to the US where he played for the Colorado Thunderbirds’ U16 and U18 teams. He played for the Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL in his draft year, and a year later played for Colorado College before finishing the season in Iowa.
Since then, it’s hard not to mention injuries whenever Olofsson comes up. He only played one game in the 2014-2015 AHL season due to a shoulder injury and he was limited to 52 AHL games last season as a result of injuring his other shoulder. Even more recently, he took a minor knee injury at the 2016 Traverse City Prospects Tournament; reportedly, he will still be able to attend training camp.
Looks like Gustav Olofsson got lucky with his knee injury. Should be cleared to start #mnwild camp by end of weekend. Same w Sam Anas (head)— Michael Russo (@Russostrib) September 21, 2016
Despite his injuries, there are still plenty of reasons to be excited about Gustav Olofsson. At 6’3” and 196 pounds (89 kg), he’s tied with Christian Folin as our tallest Top 9 defenseman and just a tad lankier than “Thor,” who actually had to shed some muscle for training camp this year. A self-described puck-moving defenseman, Olofsson sees the game well, which helps him stay in position and make effective passes.
Before his injury, Olofsson played 52 games with the Iowa Wild, scoring 2 goals and 17 points. Olofsson often played on Iowa’s top pairing with the team’s captain, Maxime Fortunus, so he was deservedly getting plenty of ice time. Throughout his time in Iowa, he played well enough to be called up multiple times to the Minnesota Wild.
He looked good in his two games with the Minnesota Wild against the Bruins and the Stars, where he averaged 9:12 minutes of ice time. In addition to skating and passing well, he hit the post on his only shot in his debut against Boston, and more importantly, he made several good defensive decisions while not making any egregious mistakes that could have led to goals against.
While Olofsson didn’t attend this summer’s prospect development camp, he was able to play at one game of the recent Traverse City Prospect Tournament. In the tournament’s first game, Olofsson scored the Wild’s only goal and our own Barry Campbell said he was the Wild’s best player before the injury. Later in that game, Olofsson injured his knee and was out for the rest of the tournament. Many of the Wild Prospect Team’s defensive woes came from the absence of Olofsson.
There aren’t many videos of Olofsson out there it turns out. Here’s a video of the Bruins game where he debuted, but he doesn’t really make any appearances in it. Instead, here are two videos of his reaction to the coaching change mid-season and his first pro goal with the Iowa Wild two years ago.
This upcoming season will be very similar to the last one for the young defenseman. Reilly and Folin look to compete hard for spots on the Minnesota Wild roster while Russo has speculated that there could be a trade or that Prosser may have to be put on waivers if both of them have good showings at camp. This doesn’t leave much room for Olofsson at the beginning of the season to make the big team, but depending on injuries during the season, he will likely get at least a few games in the NHL.
However, the Expansion Draft is edging ever closer to the Wild’s depth on the blue line, and the Wild is almost guaranteed to lose a defenseman to the Something-Vegas-y Knights. In addition, a defenseman could also be traded as a result of the Reilly/Folin situation or in an attempt to get a 1C. Thus, the blueline situation now could be much different in a year, and we could be seeing Olofsson getting regular NHL minutes sooner than we might think.