When I posted yesterday about the Chicago Blackhawks sending center Vincent Hinostroza to Rockford, I mentioned that the Blackhawks could always intentionally play a man down instead of calling someone up in Hinostroza’s steed. Of course, that theory was quickly put to rest when Tanner Kero received a big-league nod.
But, actually, it wasn’t put to rest. I had forgotten the Blackhawks were already intentionally playing a man down entering the regular season, leaving them a spot to call up someone else if they so desired. As of last night, the Blackhawks were carrying 13 forwards, six healthy defensemen, two goaltenders and two injured defensemen in Duncan Keith and Michal Rozsival.
So the Blackhawks decided today to add a seventh healthy defenseman to the mish-mash group that has managed two consecutive shutouts, calling up Erik Gustafsson from Rockford. Gustafsson, along with Kero, immediately hit the ice today for a morning skate with the Blackhawks.
Gustafsson was one of the last cuts from the training camp/preseason roster after impressing on the blue line. He played in eight games for the IceHogs before getting called up, notching an assist, 10 penalty minutes, 16 shots on goal and a minus-2 rating in that time.
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Gustafsson is a tall but thin blueliner, checking in at 6-foot-0 and 176 pounds. The 23-year-old Swede (yup, another one) was drafted by Edmonton with a 2012 fourth-round pick and was signed by the Blackhawks as a free agent in April of this year.
As far as what Gustafsson brings to the table, Eliteproprospects.com offers this take on Gustafsson:
“A skilled defenseman with some nice offensive skills. Can quarterback the powerplay and able to log big minutes. Has good vision and an edge to his game. Good release.”
Assuming Gustafsson suits up at some point in the near future, he’ll be making his NHL debut in his first game up from Rockford. He’s spent the majority of his hockey career in overseas action, most-recently playing for Frolunda HC of the Swedish Hockey League in the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons. In those two campaigns, he tallied 105 games played, six goals, 43 assists, a plus-2 rating and 22 penalty minutes. In last season’s SHL playoffs, he participated in 12 games, scoring a goal with two assists and racking up 31 penalty minutes.
So that “edge” comment certainly has some merit, as Gustafsson has no problem taking the body to opponents and making them uncomfortable … to the point where he’s penalized for it. While Blackhawks Joel Quenneville is noted for his appreciation of grit, he typically won’t tolerate silly penalties, especially by youngsters. Gustafsson certainly shouldn’t lose that edge that can have value in a hockey game, but he’ll have to reign it in if he sees the ice in game action.
That, of course, is the big question: Will Gustafsson play while he’s here? The Chicago Sun-Times’ Mark Lazerus pointed this out:
“Probably not” is referring to Gustafsson’s chances of suiting up in a game for the Blackhawks, in Lazerus’ estimation. Of course, with David Rundblad still looking a bit lost out there and the Blackhawks on a back-to-back starting tomorrow, it wouldn’t be totally stunning to see Gustafsson get a look in one of the two outings.
What do you think of Gustafsson’s call-up? Let us know in the comments section.
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