WINNIPEG - For the second time in his career, David Gustafsson will represent his country at the World Junior Hockey Championship.
On Friday, the Winnipeg Jets loaned the forward to Sweden for the event.
"We liked the idea that David was preparing for his role in the role that he was given, even on short minutes. At the same time, we became very mindful of those minutes," said head coach Paul Maurice. "This is some really high-level hockey, albeit amateur, but the best players in the world. It will be a great test for him. He'll improve in that time."
This year's tournament takes place from December 26, 2019 to January 5, 2020 in Ostrava and Trinec, Czech Republic.
At last year's event, Gustafsson had three assists in five games for Sweden, who eventually lost 2-0 to Switzerland in the quarter final.
Maurice said Gustafsson earned his spot on the Jets roster out of camp, then impressed the coaching staff during his 22 games of NHL action, especially when Mark Letestu's health forced the veteran out of the line-up for six months.
"He's learned hockey from a completely different perspective - pace, speed, all those things now have meaning in the summer when we say 'it's about foot speed for you. Your reads are good,'" said Maurice. "He has a real-time foundation of what we're talking about."
Gustafsson scored his first NHL goal against the San Jose Sharks on November 27. Even though the 19-year-old averaged 6:09 of ice time, Maurice liked how Gustafsson kept a positive mindset on the bench and around the room.
"That's a learned skill. All of these amateurs that make it to your fourth line, they were the first line, number one D, number one goalie on all their teams. This is a new idea," Maurice said. "There is no rhythm to the game. You get in the game and it's at least twice as fast as any game you've ever played. For European guys, the rink isn't the right size. So there is a whole host of things that go into it."
As for what's next for Gustafsson at the conclusion of the tournament, Maurice said that is a conversation that will be had by a number of people involved.
"The player will have a voice in that. So will the agent, so will clearly Kevin (Cheveldayoff) and the Winnipeg Jets," Maurice said. "It will all now be 'what's best for the next step for David?'"