On October 12, 2020 the Philadelphia Flyers signed defenseman Erik Gustafsson to a contract. But alas, this was not the same Erik Gustafson that was with the Flyers organization from 2009 to 2014. So while there is an imposter on the current roster, what has the OG-ustafsson been up to since his days with the Flyers?
For those that need a refersher, Erik Gustafsson was an undrafted free agent signing by the Flyers after a decent college career with the Northern Michigan Wildcats of the Central Colligate Hockey Association. He made his professional debut with the Phantoms during the 2009-10 season where he put up seven points in his first five games.
Gustafsson’s NHL debut came on February 26, 2011 and played two more games before being sent back to the Phantoms where he managed to score five goals and 49 points in 72 games. He split the 2011-12 season between the Flyers and Phantoms, though ultimately finished the season with the big club and played in seven of the team’s playoff games. After one more season bouncing back and fourth between the AHL and NHL, he finally made the team on a full-time basis during the 2013-14 season, though often found himself as the seventh defenseman, only suiting up for 31 regular season games.
After the season ended he opted to not re-sign with the Flyers, despite the fact they sent him a qualifying offer to retain his services incase of a future NHL return. He spent his first season outside North America in the KHL playing for Avangard Omsk and helped them secure a playoff spot for the first time in two years.
The following season in 2015-16 he made the jump to the Swiss National League A and played for the Kloten Flyers after turning down interest from the Philadelphia Flyers for a potential return. He only spent one season in Switzerland before returning to Avangard for two more seasons.
Midway through the 2017-18 KHL season he was dealt from Avangard to Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk where he played the last 25 games of the season. During the summer of 2018 he left the KHL and returned to his native Sweden and signed a deal with Lulea HF of the SHL where he was named captain. He has been their top defenseman since his arrival, even winning the Salming Trophy as the SHL’s top defenseman in 2018.
Now 31 years old, he has nine points in 10 games so far during the 2020-21 season. Given his age and the rank he holds with his native Swedish team, there’s almost no chance he returns to the NHL anymore. That means the Flyers are stuck with the imposter Erik Gustafsson for at least next season. But at least we can all look back at some of the real Erik Gustafsson’s highlights and marvel, like the snipe during the Flyers/Penguins 2012 series, or most famously a breakaway goal against the Rangers during the 2014 playoffs after his penalty expired.
So long, real Erik Gustafsson, we’ll remember you fondly. As for the imposter Erik Gustafsson, you have big shoes to fill.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: bleacherreport.com