Rangers’ Erik Gustafsson looking like an elite addition

New York Rangers defenseman Erik Gustafsson (56) plays the puck behind the goal during the third period against the Seattle Kraken at Climate Pledge Arena

The New York Rangers have had a solid start to the 2023-24 season. The Blueshirts are currently 4-2-0 through six games played, and they are atop the Metropolitan Division for the time being. Through these initial few games to begin the year, the Rangers have had time to analyze their roster- figure out what works and what doesn’t.

There are a handful of players who are playing in New York for the first time this season. The summer brought along many fresh faces who are with the Rangers to help improve their odds of winning the Stanley Cup. One new addition is defenseman Erik Gustafsson, as he has found himself slotted next to Braden Schneider.

Gustafsson provides extra offensive power in the defensive corps

The Blueshirts are not unfamiliar with having elite offensive potential located in their defense. Adam Fox and K’Andre Miller have been producing points from the blue line for many seasons, and Gustafsson appears to be joining that group of offensive defensemen this season.

Gustafsson currently ranks sixth on the Rangers in points, with four points in six games (2g, 2a). His most recent goal came last night in the Rangers’ 3-1 win over Calgary, where he notched the Blueshirts’ third goal to seal the deal on the victory.

“The 31-year-old set up Alexis Lafreniere’s goal to tie the game at 1-1, and then poked in a shot from Filip Chytil that leaked past Jacob Markstrom in the Flames’ crease. Gustafsson has a pair of two-point games to go with four scoreless outings this season, giving him two goals and four assists. He’s also produced 10 shots on net, seven blocked shots and a plus-5 rating while working on the third pairing.”

via CBS Sports

Laviolette’s system is helping Gustafsson find his game

Gustafsson and Rangers’ head coach Peter Laviolette are no strangers to each other. The two had worked together in the past, which is a major reason why GM Chris Drury decided to make an offer to Gustafsson this past offseason. Gustafsson appeared to fit very well in Laviolette’s system, which made him an easy choice to join the Blueshirts.

With Laviolette ushering in a major change from previous coach Gerard Gallant, many of the Rangers’ players are having to adjust their style of play. Some players are having more difficulty making this transition, but players like Gustafsson and superstar Artemi Panarin are reaping the benefits of this new system.

Is Gustafsson the type of defenseman the Rangers needed?

Some critics will argue that Gustafsson is just a glorified forward who found himself on the back end. He contributes offensive production on a consistent basis but fails to find much success defensively. This has certainly rubbed off on Braden Schneider, who is having one of his worst seasons while playing alongside Gustafsson.

While the Rangers may have desired someone more defensive-minded to play alongside Schneider, it’s hard to deny what Gustafsson contributes offensively. His current point total is higher than many big-name offensive Rangers players such as Alexis Lafreniere, Kaapo Kakko, and Vincent Trocheck.

Gustafsson may not have been what the Rangers needed, but he’s a welcomed addition to the defense. He may not be the permanent solution to help Schneider develop, but, his contributions will outweigh any negative takeaways from his game.

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