Photo Credit: DobberProspects

Maybe Later: David Gustafsson

This year’s draft has been chocked full of talent. There’s a plethora of future NHLers it seems, especially with defenders and centers. Both of these are positions of relative weakness within the Toronto prospect pool, so this year seems like a prime opportunity to snatch up a chunk of prospects.

For this reason, I expect the Leafs to trade down their 1st round draft selection in order to take a multitude of players instead of just one. They should be able to get an early 2nd round pick and a 3rd round pick, or some similar package. The evidence of Kyle Dubas doing something similar in the 2014 draft also contributes to this theory.

One of the players I’m hoping they look at with that potential early 2nd round pick (along with K’Andre Miller who I covered before) is David Gustafsson.

Who is David Gustafsson?

Gustafsson is a center playing for HV71 in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL). He played in the men’s professional league at the highest tier in Sweden for the majority of the season.

Here are some demographics for Gustafsson:

  • Age/Birthdate: 17.43/ April 11, 2000
  • Birthplace: SWE
  • Size: 6-foot-1/ 194 lbs
  • Position: C
  • Handedness: L

Where is Gustafsson ranked?

NHL CS – International 24

Gustafsson has been dropping a bit as certain players start getting more attention from the popular hockey sites. In mid season, both Button and McKenzie at TSN have dropped Gustafsson since mid-season (5 spots for Bob, 20 spots for Craig). However, in the less popular sites like Future Considerations, Gustafsson has risen considerably since spring, from 61 to 43.

To consolidate these, it looks like Gustafsson could realistically be picked anywhere between 25 and 45. Dropping Kournianos at the top and McKenzie on the bottom, we end up with 24 to 55. It’s a crazy range, to be sure. However, given that he plays center and will likely be viewed as a “safe” pick, it seems very unlikely that he escapes the first half of the second round.

With prospects like these, it’s hard not to imagine that the scouts who have spent the time watching the Swedish leagues in detail are the ones who are impressed with Gustafsson, while the ones who maybe only saw him in the big tournaments aren’t as much a fan. Then again, perhaps it’s the opposite; perhaps the ones who saw him dominate the World Junior U18 tournament are the ones highly ranking him, and the ones who are more informed dislike something about his game.

What do the numbers say?


It’s perennially impressive to see European U18 players in the top tier leagues in their countries, and the SHL is the most impressive of them all. To hack it for 45 games on a playoff team is definitely something to marvel at.

The old “51% rule” from the Computer Boys in the Florida Panthers organization back in their Canucks Army days comes to mind. It goes like this: if you’re a draft eligible player in the SHL and can score 0.11 points per game or more, there’s a 51% chance that you’re going to make the NHL at some point. Well, Gustafsson hit 0.27 points per game this season, so I’m making the bet that he can make the NHL, partly based on that rule.

What are the scouts saying?

David Gustafsson is only 17 years old but has already played a full season in the SHL on HV71 – a team that won the SHL Championship last season and is on its way to the playoffs yet again. Gustafsson is physically mature and defensively reliable which is why he’s able to play in the SHL at such a young age but has shown a little more offensively as the season has progressed. He’s a natural center and already good on faceoffs at the SHL level but needs to continue working on his skating and offensive tools. Gustafsson was one of the final cuts from Sweden’s World Junior Championship team in December. Jokke Nevalainen – Dobber Prospects

Gustafsson is a smart player who is effective in the defensive zone. That side of the game is what stands out when looking at him compared to his peers. He has a professional defensive game and makes sure that he is tidy in his own zone. He’s willing to grind it out along the boards to win battles in all three zones. The Tingsryd born centre is smart in his own zone and doesn’t overcommit to engage his opponent.

He understood his role with HV71 and made the most of it while posting good goal differentials. He generally made his teammates better with him than without and it was because of his defensive zone play.

His skating can be considered a weakness as he lacks two-step quickness and a high-end top speed but he gets around the ice perfectly fine. He uses his large frame and strong legs to protect the puck easily. It’s a side to his game that will improve as he matures, so it’s not something that should be considered a hindrance. Ryan Biech – Canucks Army

As an aside, I highly recommend checking out Ryan Biech’s piece if you want a ton of statistical information on Gustafsson. A lot of it is very supportive of his chances to make the NHL.


As you look up highlight videos for Gustafsson, you’ll notice that his backhand seems to be his go-to move to beat the goalie. It’s often an underutilized move in the NHL and if he can get some more power behind it, it could be a dangerous weapon even against NHL goalies.

Why should the Leafs draft David Gustafsson?

The Leafs are really lacking in center depth in their prospect pool right now. Besides Adam Brooks, there isn’t a prospect at C who really stands a good chance to make the NHL. Gustafsson is exactly that player who they need, who they can almost bank on making it at some point. He’s the new age definition of a safe pick: he’s already playing against adults; he has shown capable offensive skill; and if he doesn’t make it at center he can always be moved to the wing. Let’s be clear: this is no Frederik Gauthier who lacked any hope of ability to generate offense at the NHL level and is banking entirely on defensive skill to make it. While Gustafsson is good defensively, he’s also shown that he’s capable of scoring at the SHL level as a 17 year old, which should easily translate to the NHL.

The timeline for a player like Gustafsson is likely shorter than a highly skilled center like Dominik Bokk or Jake Wise, and for a team who is making runs at the Cup right now, that could be of value.

An added benefit is that he plays with recently signed Leafs prospect Pierre Engvall in HV71, so his transition to the Marlies organization may be very soon. He is under contract with HV71 until 2020, so after next year he could viably be in North America fighting for an NHL job with his teammate. This doesn’t affect how the team should evaluate him in the draft, but it’s a nice bonus if the timing is right and they do select him.

MLN Draft #Content


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