8. Filip Gustavsson (Reader Rank: 8, Last Year: N/A)
Though losing Brassard was a tough pill to swallow, it was the right move and fans were happy he went to a great team but more importantly the return (for once) was actually a really good package that included top goalie prospect Filip Gustavsson. The tough part about goalies is as good as they may be, it’s tough to truly predict their future and how they will adjust to the NHL game. Assuming Gustavsson is allowed to develop properly, I’m going to take the positive view on Filip and get really excited about the potential of having a future franchise goalie.
Filip Gustavsson was drafted 55th overall in 2016 by the Pittsburgh Penguins with reviews coming in high for him. He caught the attention of scouts before the draft in the U-18 where he dominated the tournament and received best goaltender honours. His biggest drawback at the time was his size (while tall, he was too thin to fill in the net) and his style of play being too deep in the crease allowing players to see more of his net. His play was as strong butterfly style with strong legs and side to side movement. His rebound control was good for his age but still not great however he was described as a goalie who really utilizes his blocker and has a strong glove game that minimizes the amount of rebounds he allows. What caught my attention were the reviews of his reactions and work ethic which at 18 and younger where emotions are running high and experience in dealing with tough situation is low, most goalies tend to be less calm.
“Gustavsson shows poise and leadership in the face of adversity. He remains calm in the face of an onslaught of shots, something that regularly happened during the Under 17, and the Hlinka tournaments. The other quality teams in those tournaments were regularly out shooting the Swedes, but Gustavsson remained calm, and his teammates fed off of it as the tournaments went on. While every goalie will allow the occasional bad goal, he doesn’t let getting scored on bother him, and bounces back quickly to his normal high level of play.” - Ben Kerr
Move forward to February 2018 and Filip Gustavsson went from a great prospect in the rich Penguins prospect pool to the goalie of the future for the Ottawa Senators. Once again he was coming off an impressive silver medal performance at the World Juniors where he was the goalie to watch. He ended the tournament with a 1.81 GAA and .924 save % in 6 games played which earned him yet another international “best goaltender” award. Watching him play in Sweden and the WJC really does show that he has only gotten stronger since his draft and is truly a well positioned and exciting goalie to watch.
Filip Gustavsson is still very young and probably a couple of years away from the NHL considering he still has to adjust to the North American style but it will be exciting to see how he does in Belleville this season. After the development camp in Ottawa this summer, Filip recognized that his game is still not NHL ready but I don’t think he will have a lot of issues getting his game together after a few AHL games under his belt.
“I feel like my game suits the ice here; I just need to make some small adjustments. I need to be realistic. I’m probably not going to play in the NHL next year. I’m probably going to play in Belleville or somewhere like that.” - Filip Gustavsson
Judging from his first AHL game highlights (compliments of the great SensProspects), it doesn’t seem like his transition time will be very long. Coach Pierre Groulx mentioned that his adjustment will include getting used to the speed and size of the players infront of him as well as getting used to the trapezoid which isn’t really used in Europe. He describes him as a conservative goalie which will make his transition easier and once again mentions his calmness, maturity and his strong read of the game.
I haven’t been this excited about a goalie since Robin Lehner, although I am hoping we get a completely different ending with Filip. His first interview in Ottawa really shows his maturity and his excitement just to be in the NHL while also recognizing he doesn’t want to rush himself until he is absolutely ready. Expect many comparisons to Henrik Lundqvist in the near future but time will tell what kind of goalie he will become. While I vowed never to buy a jersey with a goalie on it, Filip Gustavsson may be the one to change this rule in the near future - a Belleville Senators jersey perhaps?
With Craig Anderson’s career coming to an end shortly, it does seem like all the pressure will be on Gustavsson and Hogberg (who struggled last season) in nets. Next season in Belleville is extremely important for Filip Gustavsson in terms of assessing how far he is from NHL play time and how much of his game was affected by the move. All in all, I have high hopes for Filip Gustavsson and I hope the Sens management team really does take the time and effort to help him develop to his full potential.