Blackhawks News

Chicago Blackhawks, Gustav Forsling Agree To Deal

By Colin Likas
Mar 2, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Team North America associate general manager Stan Bowman speaks to media during a press conference for the upcoming 2016 World Cup of Hockey at Intercontinental Hotel. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 2, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Team North America associate general manager Stan Bowman speaks to media during a press conference for the upcoming 2016 World Cup of Hockey at Intercontinental Hotel. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports /
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Chicago Blackhawks Sign Gustav Forsling To 3-Year Deal

It was no secret the Chicago Blackhawks defense struggled in the 2015-16 season, serving as easily the weakest point of a team attempting to repeat as the Stanley Cup winner. While there aren’t a ton of NHL-ready blueliners waiting in the AHL, the Blackhawks seem to be making it a point to work now on their defense of the future.

The team announced Wednesday it had signed defenseman Gustav Forsling to an entry-level contract, with a (typical) length of three years. Forsling was acquired for defenseman Adam Clendening from the Vancouver Canucks in a 2015 trade.

Forsling, 19, was selected by the Canucks in the 2014 draft’s fifth round before being moved to Chicago. The 5-foot-11, 172-pound blueliner has not yet played a season on North American ice, spending the last two years with Linkopings HC in Sweden. In 48 games last regular season, he compiled 6 goals, 15 assists and a plus-21 rating. Forsling added a goal and 2 assists in another six postseason games.

Forsling was part of Sweden’s team at the 2015 and 2016 World Junior Championship events. He led all defensemen with 3 goals and 5 assists in seven games at the 2015 event before compiling 2 goals and 1 assist in six games at this year’s event. Interestingly, his plus/minus rating (0 in 2015, plus-2 in 2016) was far from tops among defensemen despite his apparent scoring prowess.

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This is the second young defenseman the Blackhawks have signed to an entry-level deal in the last month. On April 14, Carl Dahlstrom inked his deal as well. Dahlstrom, 21, is a teammate of Forsling’s on Linkopings HC in Sweden. A second-round pick by the Blackhawks in 2013, Dahlstrom recorded 1 goal, 7 assists and a plus-11 rating in 50 games for Linkopings this regular season, adding an assist in six playoff appearances. Dahlstrom, however, has gotten a crack at North American ice, playing seven games for the Rockford IceHogs between the regular season and playoffs earlier this year. He netted one assist in that time.

The Blackhawks also signed forward Luke Johnson to an entry-level deal on April 29, continuing to bolster their ranks after recent trades purged a little depth.

Forsling projects as a guy who needs to put on some weight, but who can currently do things like quarterback a powerplay unit and successfully posses the puck with consistency. From Hockey’s Future:

“Forsling is an undersized but exciting skating defenseman who excels in the creative aspects of the game.

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Injuries have been an issue, partially due to his lack of stature, but he has the ability to control the tempo and flow of a game, particularly on the powerplay. Forsling is able to control the puck and distributes it in a timely fashion. As with many smaller, offensively-inclined defensemen, he is a work in progress when it comes to his positional play in his own end of the ice, and he is at a disadvantage against bigger, stronger players in tight areas.”

Improving his positional play is going to be important as far as Forsling cracking the Blackhawks lineup in the future. Coach Joel Quenneville tends to become frustrated by mistakes in that regard (unless your name is Trevor van Riemsdyk). Q may also become frustrated with Forsling’s lack of size, should he ever make the roster, so it’s just another reason for the youngster to bulk up. At 19 years of age, he has some time to do so.

An additional note of interest from Hockey’s Future says Forsling “projects as a Sami Vatanen– or Torey Krug-type defenseman.” I really wouldn’t mind having someone like that playing on the Blackhawks blue line. Neither guy will blow you away defensively, but they have strong offensive instincts and are plenty capable in the D-zone. That’s more than some of the guys the Blackhawks trotted out this season can say.

Next: Chicago Blackhawks Fans — Moving Forward

We’ll likely learn more about Forsling’s contract with time, such as if there’s any clause about him getting to return to Sweden if he doesn’t make the Blackhawks roster out of this year’s training camp. Forsling will likely follow Dahlstrom to Rockford at some point, but when remains to be seen.

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