Gustav Olofsson’s acquisition around the same time as Brett Kulak has largely been forgotten. Injuries limited him considerably in 2018-19 but should the Habs still qualify him later this month?
Injuries were the name of the game for Olofsson this past season, much like they have been in his career. He suffered a shoulder injury in his first preseason game of the season with Minnesota. He got the green light to return a few weeks later and was immediately placed on waivers. Hours after clearing, the Habs flipped prospect Will Bitten for him, hoping that Olofsson would serve as an impact player for Laval and if all went well, he’d be a recall with a bit of upside down the road for the big club, much like Kulak was.
It took a couple of weeks for Olofsson to get the green light to actually play. He made an impact in his first game but in his second, he suffered yet another shoulder injury, one that required season-ending surgery to repair. Had Laval reached the postseason, he may have been able to return but as we all know, the Rocket came up short of the playoffs once again. Between the preseason and his time in Laval, Olofsson basically played in two games which means there isn’t much to glean from his performance on the season.
2 GP, 0 goals, 1 assist, 1 point, even rating, 0 PIMS, 1 shot
Argument To Qualify
Olofsson is only a year removed from playing 41 games with Minnesota so there is clearly some talent there. He’s a good skater and that’s an element that the Habs are trying to incorporate more and more into their back end. He’s also a left-shot defender and given the dearth of capable lefties in the system, it’d be hard to part with one that they believed still had some upside.
The fact that he cleared waivers could seem like a deterrent to qualifying him but I think it actually could help his case. Considering no one claimed him in October and he basically missed the entire season, there’s a good chance he’ll clear again. That means that GM Marc Bergevin shouldn’t have to move a prospect to add an Olofsson-type player late in training camp as they would be able to get him through waivers themselves. Even better, he wouldn’t count against the veteran limit in Laval.
Argument To Cut
Olofsson will turn 25 in early December and has yet to establish himself as more than a depth player. The Habs just let a pair of prospects go, likely in part due to a lack of space on the 50 contract limit. They’re at 39 already and that will go up with a few players that are basically locks to receive qualifying offers. Can they afford to use another spot on someone that’s essentially guaranteed to be a minor leaguer?
It’s also fair to question if there’s going to be room for him to really develop a lot in Laval. On the left side in the farm will be Karl Alzner after he clears waivers, Xavier Ouellet who will probably clear waivers, the recently-signed Otto Leskinen, and second-year Rocket David Sklenicka. Olofsson could leapfrog the two youngsters but then he’s taking away ice time from actual prospects.
While the frequent shoulder injuries and Olofsson’s overall injury history is certainly concerning, I think they genuinely believed he had NHL upside when they acquired him. As a result, I don’t think they’ll be inclined to give up on him this quickly. They should be able to get him through to Laval and give themselves some extra depth down there and we all know how important depth is to Bergevin. As their depth will be on the left side in Laval, it wouldn’t surprise me to see them ask Olofsson to try playing his offside at some point as well.
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