The Flyers made an under-the-radar free agent signing this week. They brought in the services of 28-year-old defenseman Erik Gustafsson to the City of Brotherly Love. After a slightly bumpy year, the former fourth-round pick is ready to rekindle a fire that once burned bright. He spoke with reporters on Tuesday about the move to Philly and what we can expect from him when the pucks drop next season.
Gustafsson chose the Flyers for a reason. He believes that the team offered the best opportunity for him to get back to his best. This was largely in part due to what they ask of their defensemen.
“I don’t think I was not disappointed about last season, but it was a lot of learning experiences too, coming off one of the best seasons I’ve had. I think I can come back to that position and with the Philadelphia Flyers is my best option.
It’s clear that Erik Gustafsson is an offensively-minded defender. He broke out in 2018, putting up 60 points and finishing sixth in the NHL among defensemen. While he took a while to find his footing with Calgary, he did score 4 points through 10 postseason appearances in the Bubble. This was surge in production he will be hoping to carry over into life with his new team.
“Well I’m an offensive guy. I like to join the rush and play the power play. What I have to learn and be better at is my defensive part of my game. I think I have taken a step from last year. I think I have taken a step even when I was with Calgary and in the playoffs. If I can come in and play like I did last couple games in the playoffs, it’s going to be a fun season for me and the team. I’m going to do everything I can to help the team win.”
His defense has often been regarded as scrappy and sloppy, but it’s the schematic fit and a focus on the power-play that could help him find a prominent role in Philly.
“They’re playing an offensive type of game. They like the D to join in the rush. That’s my type to play the game too. With all the forwards and defensemen we have, and the goaltending too, I think this was the best fit for me to be part of. I like how they are playing and where the team is going. I think we can have a fun season whenever it’s starting. That’s why I chose to play with the Flyers. “
Erik Gustafsson is currently in his home Country of Sweden after a tough playoff series against the Stars ended in heartbreak. The good news is that while he may be a million miles away from his new team, he’s already familiar with a few new teammates, and working out with one!
I know a couple guys from before, Oskar and Hägg, too. I’m actually practicing with Hägg right now back home here. Both of them are two very good guys that I know. I’m looking forward to playing with them.
What’s interesting here is that, hypothetically, Hagg would join Gustafsson on the third line. The 25-year-old was recently signed to a two-year contract extension after an impressive 2019 campaign. He led the team in hits during his fourth season at the NHL level, as well as blocks per-60 minutes of players that had played in more than 5 games. It was a season to remember for the former second-round pick, who tallied 13 points across 49 games.
Hagg’s physical skillset would complement Gustafsson’s nicely. We’ve already seen the impact that chemistry has on a defensive pairing. Look no further than Matt Niskanen and Ivan Provorov last year. Getting on the same page is vital and having only been a Flyer for less than a day, Gustafsson is already taking the right steps.
Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire