The Minnesota Wild and 2010 sixth-round pick Johan Gustafsson cut it close with a contract but the Swedish goalie will be a member of the State of Hockey. It is, in his own words, a "done deal."
Minnesota has signed Gustafsson to a three-year, entry-level contract. The deadline to sign Gustafsson was Friday, otherwise he would’ve been eligible to re-enter the NHL Entry Draft June 22-23 in Pittsburgh.Gustafsson's situation mirrored fellow Wild goalie prospect Darcy Kuemper last year when the WHL MVP leveraged a better deal in spite of the position being one of depth for Minnesota. Like Kuemper, the 6'1", 187 lb Johan has played above his level as a sixth-round draft pick. In addition to winning a gold medal, the 20 year-old spent the entire season in the Swedish Elite League where he had a 1.74 GAA and .929 save percentage in 29 regular season games for Lulea. That performance was good enough to be nominated for the Swedish Rookie of the Year but he lost out to another Minnesota prospect - forward Johan Larsson.
The Koping, Sweden native has a penchant for last minute heroics. He led Team Sweden to a World Junior Championship earlier this year. In his WJC debut, Gustafsson stopped all 17 shots faced in the gold medal game for a 1-0 shutout over Russia.
Despite being signed to a three-year deal, it is expected that the 20 year-old will spend another season in Europe before heading over to North America. Minnesota has a plethora of goalies in their system between Kuemper, Matt Hackett and whoever backs up Niklas Backstrom so playing in Europe with Lulea gives Gustafsson a chance to play instead of riding on the pine. He will, however, likely be participating in the Wild's prospect development camp once again this July.
With Gustafsson signing his entry-level contract, Minnesota signed 5 of their 6 2010 Draft picks with all five being in their personal top 50. The only exception is Dylan McKinlay, a 7th rounder who was released this time last year.
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