December 5, 2013 Updated: December 6, 2013 at 5:36 am
Freshman defenseman Gustav Olofsson continues to make a good impression on his Colorado College teammates.
Now, he has an opportunity to impress the rest of the world.
The 2013 Minnesota Wild second-round draft pick (46th overall) will play for Sweden in the IIHF World Junior Championship in Malmo, Sweden, Dec. 26-Jan. 5. He will likely miss part or all of next weekend's road series at No. 17 Wisconsin for travel and pretournament practices.
He tried to impress Swedish coaches when he heard they were at the Nov. 22 game at No. 2 St. Cloud State. He responded with arguably his best performance.
"I was a little overlooked living here so I never got a chance to play for the U17 and U18 teams," he said. "This is my last chance to play for my country as an amateur and that makes this a little extra special. Having it in my home country makes it even bigger for me personally."
"He's come a long way in just a year, basically going from midget hockey to a strong second half in the USHL last year (with Green Bay) to pretty good success already as a college player," Wild assistant GM Brent Flahr told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune recently.
Olofsson is quick to credit teammates, including longtime friend Jaccob Slavin, for their help.
"The upperclassmen have been very accepting and we have a good group of freshmen that works hard and supports each other," Olofsson said. "Playing with Jaccob has helped because we really push each other."
Olofsson, who recently turned 19, has considerable experience and poise. His family, who now reside in Broomfield, has lived in Sweden and California where he learned the North American and European playing styles and the different training approaches.
"He really doesn't play like he is 19," said defensive partner and junior Peter Stoykewych. "I see aspects of his game I want to emulate. His ability to move the puck can really alter a game."
"He looks like an elite skater to me with very good puck poise and good natural instincts for the game," Flahr said.
His performance so far is impressive considering he had offseason hand surgery and missed three games due to a shoulder injury.
"It's just being confident with your teammates and not being afraid about making mistakes," he said. "The game slowed down for me pretty quickly."
Olofsson said he needs to get stronger and play more physical.
Like most freshmen, the 6-foot-3, 190-pounder also is learning to balance his time between hockey and class. But his production (three points, two goals), smooth skating and upside make him unlike most rookies for the Tigers (1-10-2, 1-5-2 NCHC).
"He makes very good decisions with the puck," Tigers coach Scott Owens said. "He's also shown good offensive instincts. We use him in all situations. While it is still early, it appears he was a very good draft selection by the Minnesota Wild. The exciting part is he will keep getting better."