Phantoms Player Spotlight with Erik Gustafsson

Published on April 20th, 2011

With Fran Rubert

Erik Gustafsson, the 22-year old from Kvissleby, Sweden is in his first season with the Adirondack Phantoms. The young Swede played three years at the University of Northern Michigan where he played with fellow Phantoms goaltender Brian Stewart. He was named to the CCHA All-Conference first team and was captain of the team; he also was named as the league’s best offensive defenseman in consecutive years posting 7 goals, 86 assists.

This past year he played six pre-season games with the Flyers recording one assist and was called up for three games during the season. Also he led all AHL rookies with 44 assists and all rookie defensemen with 49 points in 72 games and was named to the AHL 2010-11 All-Rookie Team. Current assistant Phantoms coach Kjell Samuelsson exclaimed, “Gustafsson has a bright future ahead of him and surely will be in the NHL someday.”

Center Ice: The team had a good second half of the season, what turned it around for you?
Erik Gustafsson: We really started understanding what we had to do; we did not have the start that we wanted but in the first half we learned a lot; I think it took us awhile to adapt to the game at this level but we had some good help especially from coach John Patterson.

Center Ice: The game earlier in December against Albany – it looked like the defense had problems breaking out of the zone. Was that because you were still trying to get use to your defensive pairings?
Erik Gustafsson: Yeah, maybe a little bit but I think at times we wanted to do a little too much with the puck and sometimes the right play is just getting it out; especially for me it was an adjustment because you do not have as much time, you have to make smarter decisions and make that first pass to get out of the zone.

Center Ice: You played at Northern Michigan University, why did you decide to play college hockey?
Erik Gustafsson: I always wanted to come over and play when I was younger. The rinks are not as big as back home and the coach from Northern Michigan saw me play back home in a couple of games and he asked me if I wanted to come over. At the time I did not have anything else going for me so I said yeah and it worked out pretty good.

Center Ice: Did you have to make some adjustments before you went professional?
Erik Gustafsson:  For sure I had a great coaching staff there, Walt Kyle had coached in the American Hockey League (Hamilton Bulldogs, Baltimore Bandits) and had been in the NHL(assistant for New York Rangers, Anaheim Ducks) for a couple of years; they helped me a lot adjusting to the game and with strength conditioning; I learned a lot my first year.

Center Ice: Did having Michael Leighton play for the team the second half of the year help you?
Erik Gustafsson:  We had great goaltending with Johan Backlund but Leighton really talked to us and it helps your confidence when a goalie is able to bail you out sometimes; he really helped us young defensemen.

Center Ice: You were able to play a couple games with the Flyers what did you see as the biggest difference in play?
Erik Gustafsson:  The biggest thing is that the game is a lot quicker, passing on the tape every time and you always have to be ready; you have to be real smart and quick.

Center Ice: You and defenseman Danny Syvret are about the same size, do you watch him to see how he plays?
Erik Gustafsson: Yeah for sure I try to watch all of the other Flyers especially the smaller sized defenseman like Kimmo Timonen and Matt Carle to see how they are playing and where they are positioned on the ice in different situations; I think it really helps me watching and learning.

Center Ice: What parts of the game are you looking to improve on to make the next step?
Erik Gustafsson: Oh I think just finding a way to play in this league; all aspects have to improve at this level; moving the puck faster, get it up the ice faster, play better defense and try to not make many mistakes.

Center Ice: Growing up as a young hockey player in Sweden who did you follow?
Erik Gustafsson: I followed Niklas Lidstrom; I don’t know how he does it, he is amazing. I have been watching him all my life.

Erik Gustafsson

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