Well, that was quick.
After adjusting my work schedule, I’ve found myself getting up at 2:00 AM CT during the week to work the morning shift at the local NBC affiliate. As such, I have begun taking naps in the middle of the day. Today, I passed out for four measly hours, and the Minnesota Wild had the audacity to sign top prospect Gustav Olofsson to an entry-level deal. All kidding aside, this is big news indeed for the Wild.
With its 2013 first round pick in the hands of the Buffalo Sabres, the Wild’s scouting staff hit a homerun mid-way through the second round, selecting Olofsson from the USHL’s Green Bay Gamblers with the 46th overall pick. A Swedish-born defenseman, Olofsson had an exceptional season with the Gamblers, scoring two goals and 21 assists for 23 points and a plus-11 rating in 63 games as a rookie. His exceptional play would earn him USHL All-Rookie Team honors, not unlike fellow countryman Jonas Brodin, who was named to the NHL’s All-Rookie Team after an outstanding freshman campaign with Minnesota.
After being drafted over the summer, Olofsson joined Colorado College, scoring four goals and four assists for eight points and a negative-12 rating in 30 games. The real highlight of his season, however, was leading Team Sweden to a silver medal finish at the 2014 U-20 World Junior Championships over Christmas break. Having been the only NCAA invite on Sweden’s roster, Olofsson led all Swedish defensemen in scoring with a goal and four assists for five points and a plus-5 rating in seven games. Suddenly everyone around the hockey world was wondering just who exactly this Olofsson kid was.
With his contract set to begin starting this fall, Olofsson will join Iowa next week on a pro tryout agreement. When next season begins, he’ll still only be 19, meaning he could conceivably be reassigned to the Portland Winterhawks who hold his WHL rights. Minnesota’s No. 1 prospect, Mathew Dumba, is currently playing there and putting up some very impressive numbers to boot. However, it sounds like the plan is for him to begin his pro career fulltime with the Baby Wild next season.
This is a big move, to be sure. At 6’4″ and 190-pounds, Olofsson brings an intriguing mix of size, smarts and quality play on both sides of the puck. He’s got all the tools to suggest he’s close to being NHL-ready if he isn’t already. However, there’s no sense in rushing him.
There’s a reason you and I aren’t at the helm of an NHL franchise, but it may be smart for Wild GM Chuck Fletcher to ease him into the pro ranks. Let Olofsson play out the rest of Iowa’s season, give him a few games at the start of Minnesota’s regular season, then maybe reassign him to Portland for an action-packed season and potentially a deep playoff run in one of the best major junior leagues on the planet. Remember, Olofsson has basically gone from Midget, to a season in the USHL to a season in the NCAA. While he’s been impressive, the total amount of time he’s spent playing high(ish)-level hockey leaves a lot to be desired.
In the end, while the timing may be a little sudden, the signing itself comes as no surprise to people who have kept their eyes on Olofsson. He’s big, mobile and highly talented, and models his play after countrymen Brodin and Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson. That’s an impressive combination the Wild brass and fans hope he can develop into. This is a big step in the right direction for Olofsson, and–if it helps lure fellow Swede and top undrafted collegiate free agent defenseman Christian Folin into the fold–that’s just the icing on the cake.
Tags: Gustav Olofsson