The Vegas Golden Knights moved up in the third round of the 2022 NHL Entry Draft, trading a third-round pick (No. 95) and fifth-round pick (No. 135) to Toronto in exchange for pick No. 79. Vegas used that draft pick to select center Jordan Gustafson.
Gustafson scored 23 goals and 52 points in 58 games with the Seattle Thunderbirds of the WHL this past season, adding four goals and 16 points in 25 playoff contests. It was a nice jump from an 11-point performance in 23 games with Seattle in 2020-21.
Gustafson’s greatest strength is his skating, which powers his game. He uses it to draw penalties and makes quick, decisive plays.
The 5-foot-11, 179-pound forward is a good shooter with a strong release who played in all situations for a loaded Thunderbirds squad.
Gustafson can play the bumper spot on the power play and has the potential to be a strong special-teams performer.
Dobber Prospects described Gustafson as speedy and skilled but listed a few concerns about his size and strength.
“An underrated part of his game is his vision and passing ability, which he shows off in tight spaces, finding his teammates for scoring chances. He has a good blend of speed and skill to build on in the future, but his physical build and strength, as well as his tendency to overhandle pucks at times, rank him a bit lower than some of the other top draft-eligibles in the WHL.”
That being said, Gustafson still manages to play a physical game.
Though productive, Gustafson was streaky this past season, often going several games without finding the scoresheet. Even so, he finished in the top 20 in points and 12th overall in points-per-game among WHL regulars.
His postseason play improved his draft stock, which explains why Vegas moved up 16 spots to grab him.
Scott Wheeler of The Athletic had Gustafson ranked 43rd overall.
“Gustafson is a versatile, all-purpose forward who has impressed me this year with his defensive aptitude on the penalty kill and at even strength, where he’s always above the puck and breaks up a lot of passes with his ability to read and anticipate the play. He was a top offensive player in minor hockey and those skills are still evident in his heads-up passing game and his extremely soft hands, as well as his sneaky ability to protect the puck below the goal line and work off the cycle for a player his size. The combination of his work ethic, his skill, his pace of play (he’s usually one of the faster and quicker players on the sheet but he also plays like it), and his attention to detail should help him maximize his ceiling.”
The Athletic’s Corey Pronman considers Gustafson a “well-rounded forward” with “strong speed and puck skills to make him an asset off the rush.” However, Pronman also said, “I wouldn’t call his play at either end truly great, though, so I’m unsure as a 5-foot-11 player what his spot in an NHL lineup would be.”
There is a lot to like about Gustafson’s game, and he should continue to develop in a larger role with the Thunderbirds this season.