Just as Erik Gustafsson seemed to be NHL ready, the kid injures his wrist and will now miss the next six weeks after surgery.
When Chris Pronger went down after taking a stick blade to his right eye, it was the 5'10" Swedish defenseman called up from Adirondack to fill a void on the blue line. In five games played this season, Gussy is a plus-6 rating, and has collected a point on an assist in the Flyers 9 - 2 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets.
In his first match against Winnipeg back in October, Erik saw only 21-shifts on the ice. That number progressively grew to 30-shifts in his last two competitions versus New Jersey and Columbus. And rightfully so.
Though the 22-year old did not burn any barns in the points department, it was blatantly clear that he had NHL readiness. Scouts compare his skillset to seasoned vet Kimmo Timonen, which has much more to do with than just the similarity in size.
Like I mentioned in my article on some of the rookies and the potential moves the Flyers would have to make once players came back from injury, I believe Gustafsson should nab that sixth d-man spot while Lilja takes a seat on the scratch list. But now that Erik faces the next month and a half nursing a surgically repaired wrist, Lilja's a definite start and this couldn't be worse timing for Gus.
“Certainly we’ll miss him,” said Peter Laviolette. “Anytime you remove pieces from your lineup, it takes important positional players out of what they do and what they contribute. It’s tough timing for him because he was playing so well for us at the time of the injury."
Dave Isaac from Philly Sports Daily reports the surgery was performed by Randall W. Culp, M.D. this Thursday morning at Methodist Hospital.
To give you some background on Dr. Culp, he specializes in the hand, wrist, elbow and arm surgeries. He's even had some breakthrough research which he's published and presented over the span of nineteen years.
"He has held positions in Orthopedic Surgery, Hand Surgery and Microsurgery at the Naval Hospital in Oakland, CA and in Hand Surgery at Letterman Army Medical Center in San Francisco, CA. Dr. Culp is a Professor of Orthopedic, Hand and Microsurgery at Thomas Jefferson University and a board member of the Hand Rehabilitation Foundation."
That's a sizable resume. I assume it's safe to say this doctor knows what he's doing when it comes to performing the surgery and advising his patients on proper rehabilitation.
Hopefully Gus is one to bounce back from rehab 100%, and quicker than expected. His hockey smarts were promised, expected and delivered in his five game window, but it was his surprising physical play that added the cherry on top of my mountain of excitement for the young defender.
Defensemen like Kimmo Timonen don't just come around whenever a team's looking for one, so it was refreshing to read the scouting reports on Erik Gustafsson and the game he plays.
And I don't think I need to remind everyone of how much I'm disappointed (to put it lightly) with Andreas Lilja guarding the blue line.
Hurry back, Gus!