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Chicago Blackhawks 2018-19 Season Player Grades: Gustav Forsling

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CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - FEBRUARY 24: Mattias Janmark #13 of the Dallas Stars and Gustav Forsling #42 of the Chicago Blackhawksbattle for the puck at the United Center on February 24, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - FEBRUARY 24: Mattias Janmark #13 of the Dallas Stars and Gustav Forsling #42 of the Chicago Blackhawksbattle for the puck at the United Center on February 24, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /
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Gustav Forsling is at the end of his 3-year entry level contract with the Chicago Blackhawks.  He might be at the end of his career with the team.

Gustav Forsling came to the Chicago Blackhawks in 2015 via trade with the Vancouver Canucks for defenseman Adam Clendening.  The hype surrounding the Swedish defenseman was that he had tremendous offensive upside.  Interestingly, the same had been said about Clendening, four years senior to Forsling.  Clendening never found his defensive footing to go with his offensive talent and ran out of time with the ‘Hawks organization.  Time may be running out on the 22-year old Forsling as well.

Statistically Speaking

Forsling’s statistics don’t jump out at you. In his three seasons of part-time duty with the ‘Hawks, he has played 122 games, tallying 8 goals, 19 assists, 27 points, a minus-8 rating, and 42 penalty minutes.  In 2018-19, he played 43 games, tallying 3 goals, 6 assists, 9 points, a minus-9 rating, and 30 penalty minutes.

In his first season, Forsling was a third pairing defender.  He was sheltered in his minutes and responsibilities.  He looked completely overmatched at times, but the expectation level was not high for a 20-year old.

In his second season, he was paired with Jan Rutta, and they were surprisingly good together, becoming coach Joel Quenneville‘s new shutdown pair.  They excelled until their wheels fell off, and Forsling was sent back down to Rockford.  The Athletic’s Corey Sznajder provided a detailed look at this puzzling defender in an excellent article.

In 2018-19, Forsling started the season recovering from a wrist injury suffered in the previous season.  He replaced Henri Jokiharju when he returned to the team, a move that came as a surprise to many.  Forsling was immediately slotted in with 2nd pair minutes, but you can see in the chart above (courtesy hockeyviz.com) that his minutes were severely cut as his play didn’t warrant the heavier minutes.  In the next chart, you can see that he did not pair well with any defender.  His pairing with Brent Seabrook was one of the worst pairings this season for the team.
In 2018-19, Forsling started the season recovering from a wrist injury suffered in the previous season.  He replaced Henri Jokiharju when he returned to the team, a move that came as a surprise to many.  Forsling was immediately slotted in with 2nd pair minutes, but you can see in the chart above (courtesy hockeyviz.com) that his minutes were severely cut as his play didn’t warrant the heavier minutes.  In the next chart, you can see that he did not pair well with any defender.  His pairing with Brent Seabrook was one of the worst pairings this season for the team. /

If we look at his overall performance for 2018-19, it doesn’t paint a pretty picture.

Forsling does not excel in Corsica‘s Star Ratings.  In their conglomerate analysis tool, Forsling rates 181st among NHL defenders with a rating of 0.3854. This places him just above the stellar Fredrik Claesson of the New York Rangers.  By comparson, the San Jose Sharks Brent Burns leads in this category with a rating of 9.6969.

In stat-happy fantasy league hockey, Forsling is not a darling.  From Scout.com/hockey comes this analysis:

WEEKLY FANTASY VALUE
When compared to other defensemen in week 24, these are 5 better options at lower start percentages: Zach Trotman (3.2 FP), Matt Donovan (3 FP), Jason Demers (3.3 FP), Marco Scandella (2.6 FP), and Ben Lovejoy (3 FP). Deryk Engelland (1.1 FP), Nikita Zadorov (1.5 FP), Alec Martinez (1.3 FP), John Moore (1.3 FP), and Braydon Coburn (1.1 FP) are all projected for fewer points than Forsling but are starting in more leagues. He is starting in just 1% of leagues and with a projected defenseman rank of #151 in week 24. It makes sense that he is not starting in many leagues.

The Eye Test

Forsling is a wonderful skater.  He is fluid and quick.  The trouble is that he still hasn’t figured out the game.  Yes, he’s only 22, but he has played in the NHL for parts of three seasons.  I spent his first two seasons yelling at him to get off the ice. In his third season, he’s still making rookie mistakes.  While he is getting stronger on the boards, he still blows his coverage when opposing forwards play below the goal line.

In a February 2019 interview with zonecoverage.com, @RealFansProgram had this to say about Gustav Forsling:

“Gustav Forsling should be jettisoned because he might just be the worst player in the NHL and I don’t want to watch him anymore.”

Ouch.

2018-19 Final Grade

The easy route would be to give Forsling the letter of his last name for his final grade.  However, given the fact that he’s still just 22 years old, and that defensemen take longer to develop, I’m giving him a D-.  The ‘Hawks organization desperately injected him into the roster before he was ready in 2016-17. Either Coach Q saw something special in him, or general manager Stan Bowman placated the young player with a roster spot, to prevent him from returning home to Sweden.

Forsling’s entry level contract included a clause providing him an option to return to Sweden, if he didn’t make the NHL roster to begin the season. His premature initiation into the NHL and his wrist injury afford him some thin excuses for his lack of development.  Thus, the half step up from a grade of F.

Forsling is now a restricted free agent.  Since he is still very young and waivers exempt, the ‘Hawks could take a chance on him and sign him to a 1-year 2-way contract.  They could keep him around to see if he develops in the AHL, which is where he belongs right now.  Will he ever make it as an NHL’er?  Well, in Q-speak, “We’ll see.”

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