The Florida Panthers have been the talk of the town, whether it is on the ice regarding their dominating performance, the chemistry within the locker room, or the rookie sensations. Or off the ice with their need for a new head coach and the questionable decisions by their former coach. Nonetheless, the Florida Panthers are a force to reckon with. While their all-stars receive all the praise and glory. It is guys like Gustav Forsling and Radko Gudas that keep the boat afloat.
Gustav Forsling And Radko Gudas Holding It Down
Another player that had a rough few years before finding his footing is Gustav Forsling—drafted in the fifth round of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. It took Forsling a couple of years before he was able to crack an NHL lineup. Yet, nothing special came out of it, after a few lacklustre years with the Chicago Blackhawks and a couple of waiver dumps by the Carolina Hurricanes. Forsling finally found a home in Sunrise, Florida.
While with the Blackhawks, Forsling was in an odd predicament. Forsling was a rookie in the NHL behind Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Brian Campbell, and a few more. To qualify for a roster spot is quite the hill to climb for any NHL rookie, much less a fifth-rounder. Yet, Forsling rises to the test and makes the most of his situation. But there is still something missing.
Forsling has played in over 150 NHL games as of today, playing his best with the Florida Panthers. During his tenure with Chicago, Forsling played in 122 games. In that time, he recorded eight goals and 19 assists for 27 points. On top of that, he added 42 minutes in penalties, a 4.3 shooting percentage and a subpar Corsi For percentage of 47.3 percent. Not bad for a bottom pair defensive defenceman. But for a player like Gustav Forsling, this was nowhere near his potential.
Being waived and unclaimed will get to any NHL player. They feel unwanted and as if you have nothing to contribute to the team. Forsling had to go through this twice with Carolina. Luckily the second time around was the last one. Bill Zito and the Panthers picked him up. Forsling has grown into his own down in South Florida. In 51 games played with the Panthers, he has scored five goals and 24 points. Three fewer points in almost a third amount of the games? Gustav Forsling has blossomed into the high-quality, offensive defenceman he was always meant to be.
Joining the Panthers around the same time as Forsling. Radko Gudas was brought on board to get some much-needed grit and physicality. For the longest time, the Panthers were a straightforward team to play against. The only thing stopping teams from beating them was that they needed to outscore them. And with how the Panthers’ goaltending has been for the past few years, that was not hard to do. Yet, Gudas helped in shifting that narrative away from this team.
Looking back to last season, Gudas led the entire NHL in hits with 250. While not many fans or analysts look at that aspect, it is a significant one. No matter how much the NHL is trying to change the game, there will always be an aspect of physicality and dominance that is needed to be successful. This goes for all sports, but it is especially true when 90 percent of your job is to win puck battles and clear the front of the net.
So far this season, Gudas has continued to bring a forceful presence. With 40 total hits through the first nine games. Gudas averages 14.2 hits Per 60 Minutes. On top of that, Gudas is reliable in the defensive zone. With a 54.7 Defensive Zone Start percentage, which leads all defensemen on the team. And a Short Handed Goals Above Replacement of 0.5, tied for second on the team. Gudas is someone every forward and netminder will love to play with but dread to play against.
While Gudas is known for his defensive skills, he brings a lot to the table offensively. Currently seventh on the team in Goals For Per 60 at 4.5, and fifth in Goals Against Per 60 with 1.8, Gudas plays well at both ends of the ice. He does not produce as much on the goals and assists factor, but he does create offensive opportunities for the guys in front of him. Sixth in shots at 20 and 0.71 Assist Per 60 Minutes, Gudas quietly provides an offensive game overshadowed by his defensive play.
The Eyes vs. The Analytics
Moving along, when you combine these two, they play exceptionally well as a pair. But the advanced stats may not be matched up with what your eyes are telling you. As a duo, Gudas and Forsling combine for 2.52 Expected Goals For Per 60, which is higher than MacKenzie Weegarand Aaron Ekblad. At the same time, some of their expected numbers are below average or worse. In general, the two of them are straight-up playing good hockey. Both players are in the top ten for shots and average out half a game of ice time together. Overall, Gudas and Forsling are an intricate part of a defensive group that has shocked the NHL world.