Here’s Why Capitals’ Erik Gustafsson Deserves All-Star Consideration
Washington Capitals defenseman Erik Gustafsson has been one of the biggest steals of the offseason and biggest assets for D.C. He’s easily earned All-Star consideration.
ARLINGTON, V.A. — In a span of under 20 games, Washington Capitals defenseman Erik Gustafsson has gone from a low-cost, low-risk offseason addition to a top-pairing offensive defenseman and one of the summer's biggest steals.
That alone should earn him All-Star consideration.
Fan voting is open for the 2023 NHL All-Star Game, and while names like Dylan Strome, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Darcy Kuemper are being thrown out there to join Alex Ovechkin, Gustafsson should be on the ballot, too.
Through 43 games this season, Gustafsson has seven goals and 18 assists for 25 points in 43 games, and all of those goals have come since he scored his first career hat trick on Dec. 17 against the Toronto Maple Leafs. The 30-year-old leads the blue line in scoring and has helped fill the major void on offense with John Carlson out indefinitely after being hit in the head with a slap shot on Dec. 23.
The advanced stats also show just how good No. 56 has been this season. Gustafsson's goals-for percentage (62.92), expected goals-for percentage (57.61) and scoring chances-for percentage (57.81) also lead all Washington d-men. Ultimately, he is on pace for 48 points this season, which would be the second time in his career he hit the 40-point mark and the first time since 2018-19.
"I don't know how he's seen by everyone else, but we know what he can do," Trevor van Riemsdyk said. "He's extremely smart, he can do everything with the puck. In the O-zone, he's extremely gifted and talented, and in the D-zone, he's got a great stick and breaks the puck out really well."
Not only has Gustafsson been solid with his breakouts, mobility and joining the rush, but he reads the ice well at both ends and can make plays in the offensive zone. He leads all blueliners with 101 shots on goal this season. The Swede also battles hard for the puck and plays solid in his own end, as he has a +/- of plus-9 and leads the team with a 56.75 Corsi-for percentage.
"He's been unbelievable," Matt Irwin added. "You know… overall offensively, he's been dynamite. His first pass out of the D-zone is excellent. Finding that low center, just having that extra second of patience with the puck to find an open guy, he's been tremendous."
Not only that, but statistically, Gustafsson has quietly proven to be among the top steals of the offseason. He costs just $946 per minute, the least among all standard-contract players and the only skater who costs under $1,000 in that category, and he costs just $32,000 per shot, which ranks fourth lowest.
At the end of the day, flashiness and big-time points can lead to players like Gustafsson going under the radar. However, with his 200-foot game and surge in scoring since mid-December, the 2021 Stanley Cup Finalist has more than earned All-Star consideration, and he's making the case to be voted in.
"Oh God, that guy's a stud," goaltender Charlie Lindgren said. "Me and Gussy, we go back a couple years and just pumped for him. He's a heck of a hockey player, even better guy, and for him to [have a hat trick this season], that's pretty freaking cool. So extremely happy for him."