Immediately the first person you would think of is Kimmo Timonen when comparing Flyers prospect Erik Gustafsson to any player on the current Flyers squad.
If that’s the case, then the Flyers have found an undrafted, hidden gem in the rinks of Northern Michigan University.
Gustafsson is a 5’10’’, 193-pound, fast puck-moving defenseman, who was the no. 1 D-man and stabilizing force on the Flyers’ AHL affiliate in Adirondack.
Undrafted, the Flyers signed Gustafsson to an entry-level contract on Mar. 3, 2010 and appeared in five games for the Phantoms towards the end of the 2009-10 season where he averaged over a point per game, recording seven points (2G-5A).
In his first full season with the Flyers farm club, Gustafsson recorded 49 points (5G-44A) while committing just 14 minutes in penalties in 72 games in Glens Falls.
He led the team in assists (44) and ranked second on the club in total points (49), one behind leading scorer Denis Hamel (50)
In addition, he led all rookie defensemen in the AHL in points (49) and finished eighth among all blueliners. His numbers warranted being named to the AHL All-Star Classic, the League’s mid-season showcase event as well as the end of year AHL All-Rookie Team.
Gustafsson has even made good strides with the parent club, earning call ups to the Flyers on three occasions, eventually making his NHL debut at Ottawa on Feb. 26 where he had over 16 minutes of time-on-ice (16:06) and registered a shot on goal.
“I thought he played well,” said Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette of the 22-year-old’s NHL debut. “To get him that experience right now is really important.”
He appeared in two other games during the regular season (Mar. 17 at Atlanta & Mar. 19 at Dallas) averaging over eight minutes of ice time in those two contests.
Immediately following Adirondack’s season, Gustafsson joined the Flyers as a member of the “Black Aces” for their playoff run, even traveling to Buffalo as an emergency back up should any defenseman were a last minute scratch.
A native of Kvissleby, Sweden, Gustafsson first got his exposure to North American Hockey at Northern Michigan U. where he recorded 93 points, including 86 assists in three full seasons and 123 games.