The last time we saw David Gustafsson in person was following the last Moose game of the cancelled 2019-20 season back on March 8th when we spoke after a night he scored his first goal (shorthanded) in Winnipeg. Later that week the Jets 2018 2nd rounder was set to depart Manitoba with his AHL teammates for Milwaukee to begin a six-game road trip. Instead the AHL hit the pause button on the season on March 12th and two months later they would ultimately decide to cancel the season.
In my conversation with David last week he spoke about the uncertainty following the cancellation of the AHL regular season and trying to stay ready:
“It was kinda hard. I didn’t really know what it was like to practice on. Should I stay on the ice? Should I stay off the ice? My decision was to stay on the ice all the time and try to keep the momentum going of being on the ice. Otherwise just practicing and training and trying to get ready for camp. The hard thing was I didn’t know when the camp was going to start. Was it going to start in the middle of June or middle of October or middle of January? It was kinda hard.”
What it mean to him to be invited to the Jets bubble ahead of the playoffs:
“It meant a lot. Every time I’m with those guys I learn something new. By just watching how those guys prepare for games and how they train after games, it mean a lot.”
Gustafsson returned home to Sweden once the Jets season was ended in the bubble on August 7th. He would eventually sign with his hometown club of Tingsryd and and be loaned by the Jets to them on August 29th. What did it mean to him to put on the Tingsryd jersey?
“Ever since I was a kid it was a dream to play for this team. I think that is the thing that many European NHL guys want to do someday is come back home and play for their hometown team and I got to do it a lot sooner than most.”
What does it mean to him to be home playing hockey in front of friends and family? (even if they are not in Nelson Garden Arena watching games live)
“It’s nice. It’s nice to come home sometimes and mom will be cooking dinner. It’s nice to have family so close when you are playing. It’s easier on them too as they don’t have to get up in the middle of the night to watch my games so I think mom and dad have a lot more sleep now then they used to have.”
Gustafsson has seven goals and 10 assists in 16 games playing on the top line for Tingsryd. He is known for being a defensively responsible centre but does he feel he is getting a chance to show off his offensive abilities?
“I think this is a really good chance for me to really develop my offensive game and to show everyone that I can play an offensive game too. When I was up with the Jets I kinda got more of a defensive role and I understand that too, I mean that’s how I got to start. I had that role in HV71 too so that’s how many identify me but I feel like I can really get a chance to show a lot of people that I can play an offensive game too.”
Looking back at his assignment to the Moose of the AHL, what did it mean to play big minutes and an important role on the team?
“It meant a lot to me. When I heard I was going down to the Moose I wasn’t like sad about it. I knew this was a thing that was good for me. I would really have an opportunity to train on those things that I need to do to become an NHL player. I felt like Pascal (Vincent) gave me a good role and I think I took it and made the best of it. I really enjoyed playing there. I maybe had a couple of tough games to start but I really feel like I developed during that time.”
On the role he sees for himself in the NHL
“I see myself as an all around centreman. I want to play the 200-foot game that’s what I see myself as. I see myself as the guy that wants to be on the ice during the tough situations. The guy who want to play the last play when there is little time left on the clock, the guy who wants to take the last faceoff.”
On the mentality he has coming into training camp:
“Right now I don’t care if I play on the third line or the fourth line or the wing or centre. Right now my goal is to just play in the NHL. That’s what I want to do.”
What did he learn about Winnipeg in his first season here?
“I learned that there are a lot of hockey fans. It’s crazy. So many fans and so many people like when you walk around being so polite, always ask how it is with the team and everything, and cheers you on. I have never heard anything negative from the fans too. When you walk around town it is just positive which is really nice. I also learned that it is cold, I learned that the hard way.”
Lastly I asked David about his first goal puck and whether he is the type of player who likes to keep memorabilia?
“I haven’t got the puck yet ’cause I was going to get it after the season but the season ended in such a hurry so we just went home. When I get back to Winnipeg for next season I will get it and take it home and when I take it home it is going up on the wall. I also have a couple of jerseys as well. The one from my first game and also the Heritage Classic game jersey and so they are probably going up on the wall too. I like to keep those things and have them on the wall and look at it. Gets your mind focused on why you go through that hard summer practice sometimes.”