Signed to a PTO, Erik Gustafsson is going to try his best to make the New York Islanders squad for the 2021-22 season. The former 60 point player could be a perfect fit for the Isles who are looking for a Nick Leddy replacement.
And while Gustafsson still has to prove he’s that 60 point player from 2018-19, the Islanders are clearly giving him a big stage to show he’s still got it.
New York Islanders setting up Erik Gustafsson to make team
So far through the pre-season, Gustafsson is being given a huge opportunity to show the Isles he can perform the way they hope he can. In Game 1, the left-shot D-man got a team-high 23:30 worth of ice-time in all situations.
When it came to the power play (where Gustafsson typically shines), he played – again a team-high – 5:48 of ice time. No defenseman even came close (Pulock was second in PP ice-time with 3:52). Gustafsson will also start Game 2 of the pre-season next to Ryan Pulock, so again top pair minutes for the lefty.
The Islanders are giving Gustafsson every opportunity to show them he can gel and fill the void they need on the roster. Which is exactly what the pre-season is designed for. And so far he looks good.
In Game 1 of the pre-season, Gustafsson picked up two secondary helpers and held a 2.62 Game Score on the day (third highest in the game). That game score is obviously buoyed by his two helpers, but his 61.9% xGF was very strong and helped push that score up further.
His offensive abilities were never really in doubt. It’s his D-game that is going to make or break his chance to make this team. Gustafsson’s D-game was “OK” at best in that first outing, He made a particularly nice play to break up a play in the Isles D-zone but otherwise was fine in his own end.
But he’ll have to make more than a single strong D-zone play to get a spot on the roster.
The Islanders are giving Gustafsson every opportunity to make the roster, it’s up to him to prove that he’s worthy of making the team.