A New Era of Gustafsson Starts in Washington

Oh to be a hockey-indifferent girl in the Gustafsson household. Dad Bengt of course is a hockey legend, both as an NHL player and international coach. Son Anton is a first-round NHL draft pick, and following in father’s footsteps pursuing an NHL career with the Washington Capitals.
Father and son, as you might imagine, talk a lot of hockey together in their home in Sweden.
“My younger sister, always, after the dinner, stands up and throws the little food that she has [left] and says, ‘All the thing you can talk about is hockey’ . . . [she’s] so pissed off,” older brother Anton told media at Kettler Capitals Sunday afternoon, a couple of hours after his first-ever workout in a Caps’ sweater.
“Mom’s pretty pissed off, too,” he added, smiling. “She talks [hockey] a little bit, but it’s pretty much our [guys’] talk,” he added.
Caps’ fans of both genders have been talking about the Gustafssons a lot this summer. Nearly three months since the Caps selected Anton in the first round of the draft in Ottawa, the son’s arriving in Washington to wear a Capitals’ sweater remains a striking novelty. We haven’t experienced this before; it isn’t just any Washington Capital alumnus name that’s been stirred by the draft selection but a truly legendary one — one of the all-time best ever to wear a Caps’ sweater. Anton’s being a first-round talent has whetted the appetite of Caps’ fans wondering if the son can possibly approach the achievements of father. That’s unfair but understandable.
The name Gustafsson, Bruce Boudreau said Sunday, “is synonymous with Capitals.”
Anton was late getting out to meet the media Sunday after enduring an especially hard two-hour skate with his fellow Rookie Camp campers, and then being introduced to the rigors of NHL fitness. Head Coach Bruce Boudreau concluded the skate with a solid 10-plus minutes of Herbies, a session torturous even for spectators to watch. The ill effects of the conditioning drill were most noticeable on European prospects Gustafsson and Dmitry Kugryshev. Both fell to their knees at one end of the Kettler sheet, gasping for breath. After 10 minutes of Herbies, Anton was crumpled in a corner, annihilated with fatigue. Mathieu Perreault, Boudreau admitted afterward, became light-headed and nearly feinted from the duress.
Gustafsson suffered a herniated disc in his lower back this past April, which obviously influenced his being available for the Caps at the 21st spot in the June draft. While he’s “90 percent” fit these days, he admitted that the flight over from Sweden Friday and its jet-lag, and Sunday morning’s arduous skate, had him seeking out extra and prolonged assistance in the trainer’s room. Doctors have told him that he shouldn’t expect to be fully healed for two years, but that time and training will do the trick. He missed July’s Development Camp because of his injury, but two months later he’s made good progress, and out on the sheet Sunday he showcased a strong stride . . . if not quite NHL stamina.
He will return to his Swedish team in Sweden’s second league, a level Gustafsson described as akin to the AHL in talent. His rights belong to the Frolunda organization, and Sweden’s pro hockey leagues have already begun regular season play. He will return home this coming Friday. Sunday afternoon he discussed how his team’s management, while supportive of his coming over to Washington this week, nonetheless wasn’t thrilled with losing an important player in-season. He plans to play one season more with his current team and then, in 2009-10, make the leap up to the Swedish Elite League, with Frolunda.
Anton was asked Sunday about skating in his father’s shadow.
“It’s always hard. Many expect me to be as good as [Dad.] I hope I will make it.”
“Many, many say, ‘There is Bengt’s son,’ and I want to be known as Anton. When they see my father they will say that is Anton’s dad. That’s what I want.”
Son has never watched a single tape of his father play as a Washington Capital. There are no such tapes in the Gustafsson home. Just as well — the father’s presence, for the son, looms large enough as it is.

This entry was posted in Anton Gustafsson, Bengt Gustafsson, Bruce Boudreau, Dmitry Kugryshev, Former Coaches & Players, Kettler Capitals Iceplex, Mathieu Perreault, Prospects, Washington Capitals. Bookmark the permalink.

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