QUOTES FROM THE DRAFT
Here is some of what was said here in the other capital city last night. There is a lot here to digest:
HOW MUCH HAS YOUR DAD TOLD YOU ABOUT WASHINGTON?
He hasn’t told me anything yet, but he will probably do so. It is kind of special because he played here. I think a lot of guys want me to be as good as him, but it is pretty hard. I will try to do my best.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOURSELF?
A two-way center, hard-working and pretty good hockey sense.
HOW WELL DO YOU KNOW NICK BACKSTROM?
I don’t know him personally, but I’ve seen him play a lot. He is a real good player. It is fun to see him do so well at such a young age.
GROWING UP, WHO WERE THE PLAYERS YOU ADMIRED?
I would say Daniel Alfredsson. He was a guy I always looked up to. He’s a real good player. [NOTE: Gustafsson actually got to meet Alfredsson after he was draft Friday because the Senators captain was in the building to announce his team’s first-round selection.]
WHAT WERE THE INJURIES THIS YEAR?
I almost had a herniated disc in my lower back and I couldn’t play in the playoffs in Sweden. Right now I’ve done some rehab and stuff. I am fit now and I will play as good as I can.
YOUR REACTION TO BEING DRAFTED?
It is just really good. I can’t find the words basically. It is wonderful. It is great.
WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT THE TEAM?
To play with [Alex] Ovechkin, I would be really happy. It is a young team that the future is coming. They’re going to be really good and in a few years I could be playing for the Capitals. I am coming at the right time.
HOW DOES IT FEEL TO HAVE YOUR SON DRAFTED BY WASHINGTON?
We are just enjoying the moment. It is great for the whole family. We have followed him for many years now and he’s gotten better and better. Just being here at the draft and have the chance for him to go in the top two rounds was exciting. And by the way, of course what actually happened makes everybody very, very excited.
If he makes it over here and comes over to play in a couple of years, it will be close for us and easy to go. The scary moment was if he got drafted by a west coast team and then we’d have to travel another six hours to get there.
It is a real dream. For a while there I think he was hoping and following Washington. To see how this team is developing now with a lot of young players and it could be a good hockey team for a lot of years. For him to have a chance to be a part of it is pretty exciting. I know he’s very excited about it.
WITH HIM HAVING THE INJURY, DID YOU TALK TO WASHINGTON ABOUT IT?
We got a good medical report on him and I sent it out to all the agents and all the teams — all the x-rays and all that. We had a couple of experts say what they think about the situation and everything looks bright right now. He will step on the ice in August and everything should be ready to go to work.
WHEN YOU WATCH ANTON PLAY, DO YOU HAVE A HARD TIME SEPERATING THE COACH IN YOU FROM THE FATHER IN YOU?
Sometimes you always have the, ‘I wish he did this or I wish he did that instead,’ but I’ve never really had to force him or talk to him about doing different things. I always believed since I am his father I need to do everything I can to help him in that situation, but I always said, ‘You’ve got coaches. They take care of you and that’s your business. I’m not going to be too involved in this.
AT WHAT POINT DURING HIS DEVELOPMENT DO YOU REALIZE HE MIGHT BE GOOD ENOUGH FOR THIS DAY TO COME?
I think it was the last two years. Throughout his career, he’s always been skilled and one of the better guys on the ice. As a kid, he’s always been a good skater with good hands. He always had a stop on everybody through his whole career, but those days you were thinking maybe it was because of his size because he was always bigger than everybody else. But the past couple years he’s been playing with equal-skill guys and he still does a really good job so then we started thinking, ‘Well, maybe something is going to happen.’
Right now, what can you say? Hopefully, he can play, in my mind two more years in Sweden playing senior hockey and I think it will make him mature even more and be ready for the next step.
IS HE SIMILAR TO YOU?
The thing is, you look at him and he’s playing junior hockey, but he’s really playing senior hockey with the way he plays all the time. I talked to a lot of scouts over the past couple of years and they all see the same thing. It is two different kinds of games. You see a lot of young kids who skate around and just want to score, but he takes a different role in the game. He takes a lot more responsibility. That is very similar to how I played, but he’s a lot more physical.
CAN YOU THINK BACK TO YOUR OWN THOUGHTS FROM WHEN YOU WERE DRAFTED?
The thing is I didn’t even know it happened. It was a different story. I think maybe something like five months later somebody said, ‘You know you got drafted.’ You didn’t even know about it. In those days I had a pretty good junior world championship in Montreal and that’s why they drafted me, I guess. Scouting back then was totally different too.
The NHL for me was so far away. It would have just been a bonus. I had no thoughts or no drive to play in the NHL. In my days, it was just to try and make it to the national team and play for Sweden. That was the goal as a player.
HAVE YOU THOUGHT ABOUT WHAT IT MIGHT LIKE TO COACH ANTON ON THE NATIONAL TEAM?
I could do that to because I pick the team [laughter ensues]. I could do whatever I want, but I don’t think I should put him in that position. You never know. Things happen fast. This next year of his development – he’s going to be playing senior hockey and that’s a big step for him. Then the next year he will play for Frolunda with the Elite League.
He made that decision himself. They wanted him to play Elite League this year, but if he plays with Frolunda on the fourth line, he won’t get any ice time. It is better to play in the second league and get ice time and have a bigger role on the team. That’s the way it looks right now, but you never know what happens.
ANY IDEA THE CAPS WOULD DRAFT YOU?
Well, I don’t know — not really. I’m glad to be there. They have a whole bunch of great players there and it is good city. Plus it is close to home so I am looking for to it.
HOW MUCH DID YOUR TIME IN THE USHL LAST YEAR HELP YOUR DEVELOPMENT?
I think that was a big step for me coming from playing hockey in New Jersey. I played over in Slovakia in the summer [in the U-18 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament] and I think that was a good stepping stone. It helped to get ready for the USHL and I had a great year.
HOW TOUGH OF A DECISION WAS IT TO CHOOSE JUNIORS INSTEAD OF COLLEGE?
It was a tough decision for me and my family. I think I was planning on going to UMass for a while now, but at the end of the day I want to be playing in the National Hockey League one day and I think the London Knights can help do that. The coaching staff and the atmosphere in the Ontario Hockey League is second to none. That’s why I picked it.
It was tough. I called all of the assistant coaches that had recruited me. I really felt bad. They are great people and it was nothing against them. I just thought this was best for me.
Definitely — I mean, you can dream to be one of them. I’m not even close to what they are. It is great to be in that organization with hundreds of NHL pros now. I’m looking forward to getting up there.
WHAT DO YOU NEED TO WORK ON?
I think I need to strengthen up defensively with my positioning and just work on all my tools a little bit more. I know I have a long way to go but I am willing to work. This is my goal and I’ll do anything to get there.
WHO WERE THE PLAYERS YOU ADMIRED GROWING UP?
I didn’t really get to watch Bobby Orr play but he was all over my house because I was born in Massachusetts and my dad was probably his biggest fan. Once I moved to New Jersey I think guys like Ken Danekyo and Scott Stevens stick out more. Actually one of my favorite players from New Jersey is John Madden. When he started out in the NHL he was just a penalty kill guy, but he just worked his butt off and made himself into a name now.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOURSELF AS A PLAYER?
I think I am a two-way player, but I like to pride myself on my offense a little more than my defense. I like to play on the power play and the penalty kill. I think that is a big part of my game.
YOUR COACH IS OBVIOUSLY A BIG PART OF WASHINGTON CAPITALS HISTORY
Absolutely — I am sure he’s happy for me. I am just looking forward to seeing him and getting ready for training camp and having a great year there.
He wasn’t. He really wasn’t [very good] because he was hurt when I saw him play. He didn’t play very well. But our scouts saw him when he was healthy and they said he was the guy we wanted to get.
I talked to his father a while ago. I think it was at the world championships or something. We talked about him briefly, but I didn’t give him any indication we would make that pick.
Our doctors went over the MRI and everything else and there was no concern.
When we talked to him at the combine, he said he’d probably have to take it easy until August.
He seems to be a real competitive kid. He seems to like to hit people more than score goals, but we think he’s got the ability to generate more offense. Our guys really liked him.
TWO MORE YEARS IN SWEDEN?
Probably – we’ll see how it goes. We’ll bring him over when he’s ready.
ON THE STEVE EMINGER DEAL
We went with eight defensemen last year and it was hard on them and hard on Steve. It is hard on the coaches too to have eight defensemen because someone is sitting out every night. We didn’t want to do that again this year and we had a chance to get a first-round pick for Steve. It was a good deal, so he’ll get some ice time in Philadelphia and we took a right-handed defenseman that could be ready in a couple of years.
Philadelphia has had some interest in Steve for a couple of months now. For about a month probably we’ve talked about it and just weren’t sure what to do. But again, it was an opportunity to get a first-round pick and it made sense.
DID HIS PERFORMANCE IN THE PLAYOFFS OPEN THEIR EYES A BIT?
Yeah, he played well in the playoffs. We just had a good conversation with him. He was very professional and thanked us for drafting him and giving him the opportunity. He said last year was tough but he learned a lot. I told him thanks a lot for toughing it out last year and being a pro.
ON JOHN CARLSON
He’s got very good hockey sense. He’s skilled. He’s got good hands and some powerful legs. We have to teach him how to train and get him in shape. What appealed to us is he’s going to play for Dale Hunter. Dale will whip him into shape and teach him how to play.
DOES HIM GOING TO LONDON MAYBE MOVE HIS TIMETABLE UP?
It could. He’s going to be playing twice as many games as he would in a college season, and he’s playing sort of a professional style. If you want to play a pro style, that’s the league to play in. And he’s going to one heck of a coach.
ANY DISCUSSIONS TO GET UP IN THE TOP 10-15 PICKS?
We had some discussions to get up close to that with a couple teams, but we were a little too far back. At least one of them move back, but it wasn’t to where we were. There really wasn’t anyone who wanted to move back to where we were to move into that first cluster of players. We thought the drop-off – we thought those first 14 players was where everyone wanted to be at.
WHY THE INCREASED AMOUNT OF TRADING?
It doesn’t surprise me. With this new CBA, you almost have to put together a team for each year. Teams are making moves to sort of build their team up each year and see how it goes.