The Minnesota Wild may be struggling–actually, that’s a major understatement–but a pair of prospects participating in the 2014 Under-20 World Junior Hockey Championship Tournament currently being held in Malmo, Sweden seem to be showing just why the Wild tabbed them as top picks in the past two drafts.
Going into the tournament, all the focus within the Wild fan base was on defenseman Mathew Dumba, who had finally made Team Canada after being the final cut each of the past two years. Minnesota’s top selection in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, defenseman Gustav Olofsson (46th overall), was simply a side note. That was short-lived.
In four games for Team Sweden, Olofsson is third in tournament scoring by defensemen with a goal and three assists for four points and a defenseman-best plus-6 rating. Dumba, an assistant captain for Canada and Minnesota’s top pick (7th overall) in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, has notched just one assist in contrast.
Olofsson’s latest helper came on Jacob de la Rose’s game-winning goal over Russia late in the third period of today’s 3-2 win by the Swedes. That can be found in the game’s highlight reel below.
A big reason why Olofsson plays so well is due to his experience playing on both European and North American ice. He knows the ins and outs of both playing styles and adapts quickly. Most of the players in the tournament either play in leagues directly within their country or play in the Canadian major junior leagues. Olofsson is one of the few non-North American players to have developed in his home country, in North American Pee-Wee/Bantams/Midgets, the United States Hockey League and the NCAA. In other words, he is very well-rounded, which should make the rest of his collegiate career and his transition to North American pro hockey that much easier.
The 6’4″ 191-pound Swede has been nothing short of brilliant for his country, playing huge minutes and contributing just as good defensively as he has offensively. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again–there’s got to be something in the water that makes Swedish blue liners so good.