Wild D Oloffson turned pro with designs on NHL job
JUL 09, 2014 8:08p ET
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- A whirlwind year left Gustav Olofsson with a big decision in March. For the 19 year-old, everything was falling into place.
Olofsson had finished a successful run in the World Junior Championships for his native Sweden and capped his freshman season at Colorado College, all part of a big year for the defenseman which started when the Minnesota Wild made him a second-round draft pick last summer.
Buoyed by his experience with Sweden, Olofsson felt the time was right to join the professional ranks and he signed a three-year, entry-level contract with Minnesota in March.
The decision wasn't easy for Olofsson, who consulted with his family. In the end, one objective was clear -- making his way to the NHL.
"Hockey was the main priority and that's kind of what drove the decision," Olofsson said Wednesday at the Wild's development camp.
Olofsson added: "Taking that step, it was the right time to do it then."
His big year ended with a few games in the American Hockey League, playing for the Wild's affiliate in Iowa. About to enter the first year of his entry-level deal, Olofsson hopes he doesn't return to Iowa.
His focus is on Minnesota and the NHL.
"That's the goal for me, and that's what it's been ever since I signed the contract, was to play in the NHL first over Iowa," Olofsson said. "So, we'll see what happens after (training) camp. I've tried to aim pretty high and we'll see where I land."
That Olofsson is talking about the NHL is a testament to how far he's come and the season he just finished.
When Minnesota drafted Olofsson in the second round, 46th overall, it was a bit of a surprise. He was ranked as the 51st North American skater by the Central Scouting Service heading into the draft in 2013, coming off a final season with the Green Bay Gamblers of the United States Hockey League with two goals, 21 assists, a plus-11 rating and 59 penalty minutes in 63 games.
Without a first-round pick, the Wild saw the potential in Olofsson and made him the team's first selection in the draft. Olofsson is 6-foot-4 but had to mature physically and mentally.
Olofsson followed through on his plans to attend Colorado College. Set back by injury early, he ended up with four goals and four assists in 30 games for the Tigers.
Getting the chance to play for his native Sweden in the World Junior Championships provided the biggest exposure for Oloffson's game. In helping Sweden, the host country, to the silver medal, Olofsson had one goal and four assists in seven games.
"I hadn't played with a national team before, so it was a real honor to go back home and play for them," Olofsson said. "Everything was kind of falling into place then. It was easy to play with guys like that who are always in position, and the talent level there. It was a good measuring stick for where I was at in my career, and for my confidence."
Everything falling into place led Olofsson to Iowa. After signing his pro contract, he had the chance to play in eight games and he scored one goal.
"I was very impressed," said Iowa coach Kurt Kleinendorst, who's coaching during the development camp. "When you see him, he's so slight. But when you watch him play you would never know it because he's a strong body. He's a very intelligent kid. He's going to be fine."
Olofsson is back for his second time at the Wild's development camp and said he feels stronger and more comfortable this time around. He uses the experience to bond with future teammates but also to judge himself against the team's other prospects.
"I can't see anyone who doesn't, when you're around the same kind of guys with the same goals" he said of using the week as a measuring stick against the other prospects. "For me, it's just a way to get ready for September."
Olofsson is a smooth skater and sound in his own end with his defensive responsibilities. But at 191 pounds, getting stronger might be one of the most important factors for his development.
When Kleinendorst saw Olofsson this week, he saw a difference even from when the two were together in April, believing Olofsson might have added as much as 15 pounds to his frame. Olofsson believed during his nomadic 12 months that things were falling into place; Kleinendorst agrees the young defender can simply trust his talent and progression.
"I can't sit here and say he's going to be in the NHL tomorrow," Kleinendorst said. "But he's the kind of kid that if he just allows things to kind of fall into place, he's such a special player that he's going to get here at some point, without a doubt. He's one of those guys. He's a special player, he really is. I didn't have a lot of time with him. But I had enough time with him to know that he's going to be a good player."
Almond returns to Wild: After two seasons away from Minnesota, center Cody Almond has returned to the team which made him a fifth-round NHL Draft pick back in 2007.
Almond, 24, signed a one-year contract with the Wild, the team announced Wednesday. Almond has spent the past two seasons playing with Geneve-Servette in the Swiss league.
Last season, Almond notched 18 goals, 16 assists, a plus-12 rating and 75 penalty minutes in 44 games. He was tied for second on the team in goals and fourth in scoring. He had eight goals and 22 assists in 39 games the previous season.
Almond played in 25 NHL games for Minnesota in parts of three seasons between 2009 and 2012, scoring two goals. He had 29 goals, 38 assists and 292 penalty minutes in 159 games for the team's AHL affiliate in Houston from 2009-12.
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