It is still pretty damn hard to figure out where a player that we’ve barely seen play and just joined the Minnesota Wild organization, stands in terms of ranking the top young talent. Even with all the highlights, stats, and general reports from people that pay attention to the Ottawa Senators, how goaltender Filip Gustavsson stacks up against some other players in the Wild’s pool of players under the age of 25 is a mystery.
In the grand scheme of things, it is still a fairly vague mystery for a large portion of these players — all dependent on how they develop and progress before they start playing professional hockey full-time — but with Gustavsson we at least have a handful of top-level games to take from. And for being a once-highly touted goaltending prospect to now a backup that probably just needs some guidance, the 24-year-old has earned the no. 19 spot on our 2022 Top 25 Under 25.
Not bad for a player that was swapped one-for-one for a veteran goaltender that didn’t want to take a back seat to Marc-Andre Fleury.
Outside of his nine-game 2020-21 season, Gustavsson hasn’t had the best luck in the NHL. Through 27 games over a five-season span — not the greatest sample size to take anything from — he has earned a .905 save percentage and a 3.12 goals against average. I mean, not the absolute worst but not some world-shattering best either. Just kind of what you expect from a young goaltender trying to figure out some bearings around new teammates on a rebuilding team.
As of right now, the box score reads as two different goaltenders split between the AHL and NHL. In Belleville, Gustavsson was a surefire starter that was going to go ahead and steal some games from the opposition, and in the NHL he just appears to be adequate. Last season, he ranked below-average in terms of goals saved above expected — taking into consideration the location and game scenario of each shot attempt against Gustavsson — earning a minus-6.4 GSAx which ranked 48th among the 74 goaltenders to appear in at least 10 games. For a netminder that is still young and on a team that was not very good defensively, you can’t really ask much more for that. Hopefully he can improve as a backup to Fleury this season.
Roll the Tape
While highlights for skaters can’t tell the full story of a player, highlights for goaltenders is that tenfold. What can you take from a dude making a desperation save? Maybe some sense of their ability to react and be very flexible, but other than that unimportant stuff, it’s not a whole lot of substance.
Now that we’ve got some semblance of an idea what we’re watching, let’s see Gustavsson do some stuff!
We should be actually familiar with Gustavsson enough to remember his one appearance against the Wild in November of last season. Overall, it was not the best performance from him — made 38 saves on 43 shots in a 5-4 overtime loss for the Senators — but he did at least manage to get some highlights and put on display what it looks like when there’s a not-very-good defense in front of him.
Filip Gustavsson has taken this game over. pic.twitter.com/U63g4O6lPq— Everyday Sens (@EverydaySens) April 30, 2022
During his AHL days, he did more of the complete performances. Having some highlights trickle through, making multiple save sequences but also keeping his team in it by stopping the puck.
Also, he loved beating Toronto so we have to in-turn love him for that.
Filip Gustavsson skates way down the ice to celebrate Toronto's failure, and Roby Järventie waves them goodbye. pic.twitter.com/pN4et76ESV— Everyday Sens (@EverydaySens) April 30, 2022
When it comes to where Gustavsson fits into the Wild’s future, it’s a pretty clear picture. If everything goes well — he serves as an adequate backup this season and can be relied upon in case Fleury needs some rest, as his workload increases — he can be the young bridge to a Minnesota crease that is ruled by top prospect Jesper Wallstedt. Instead of relying on elderly Fleury to try and perform well enough and have to throw Wallstedt into the role when the veteran’s contract is up in two years, Gustavsson can let everyone relax a little bit.
Now, if suddenly Filip turns out to be even better than we could ever imagine, then it provides an interesting picture in all of this. At least he would be a 1B to Fleury’s 1A and then can stick around and let Wallstedt ease into his NHL career as the Wild have steady goaltending. Either way, there is some flexibility and a calming nature to the addition of Gustavsson.
If he stinks, well, it would be easy to just not qualify him next summer and poof he’s gone.