Unlike last week’s signing of Finnish phenom Mikael Granlund, yesterday’s acquisition of Swedish goaltender Johan Gustafsson by the Minnesota Wild came without much fanfare. The 20 year old, drafted in the sixth round of the 2010 NHL Draft, would have been eligible to re-enter this year’s draft in Pittsburgh if he had not been signed by the Wild by Friday. He was reportedly inked to a three-year entry-level deal.
Playing in the Swedish Elite League last season, Gustafsson compiled a .932 save percentage, along with an impressive 1.68 goals against average. He also gained a lot of attention in this year’s World Junior Championship. He shined throughout the tournament, capping it off with a shutout performance against Russia in the gold medal game.
Gustafsson’s signing continues to add to a young, talented group of players in Minnesota’s system. From the 2010 draft class alone, the Wild has already signed Granlund, Jason Zucker, Brett Bulmer, and Johan Larsson, a teammate of Gustafsson’s at the World Juniors. It also gives some stability to a currently uncertain goaltending situation. Barring some freak events, it is highly unlikely that Gustafsson will see an NHL rink this season, and will continue playing in Sweden next year. However, it is becoming increasingly unlikely that backup Wild goaltender Josh Harding will return to Minnesota next season, meaning that, currently, Matt Hackett would be backing up Niklas Backstrom, putting Darcy Kuemper in Houston. Gustafsson’s presence in a system of good netminders gives the franchise that much more flexibility at the position.
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