Top defenseman prospect Gustav Forsling will likely return to Sweden for the 2016-17 season if he doesn't make the Chicago Blackhawks' opening day roster, reports The Athletic's Scott Powers. The 20-year-old signed a three-year entry level contract with Chicago in May.
Forsling's contract requires that the Blackhawks offer him back to Linköping HC -- his team in the Swedish Hockey League -- if he fails to make Chicago's NHL roster out of training camp. "The only way he doesn’t return is if his team doesn’t want him," Gerry Johannson, Forsling's agent, said. "That’s unlikely."
So the odds of Forsling suiting up for the Rockford IceHogs in the AHL next season appear quite low. Either he'll make the Blackhawks out of training camp or he'll return to Sweden for one more year. The only thing that could alter this scenario is the unlikely possibility that Linköping doesn't want him back for whatever reason.
It's important to note that the Hawks WILL NOT burn a year of Forsling's contract should he return to Europe, according to his agent. If Forsling goes back to Sweden for another year, his entry-level contract will "slide," or it will effectively be moved back a year and start with the 2017-18 season. That goes against what you'd expect given that he'll be 20 years old on Sept. 15 of this year, but unless his agent is mistaken, that's the case. Powers has said he'll try to confirm that information.
So while it would be somewhat disappointing not to be able to watch Forsling in the AHL and have him working with coaches in the organization, this doesn't affect how long Chicago controls his rights.
And while it's unlikely that Forsling makes the Hawks in the fall, his agent isn't dismissing the possibility. The Hawks already have Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Brian Campbell, Trevor van Riemsdyk, Michal Kempny, Ville Pokka, Viktor Svedberg, Erik Gustafsson and Michal Rozsival under contract, though, so it would be a surprise if he was in their plans for next season.
"I think like every team they don’t plan on it," Johansson said. "That would be silly to plan on. They’re not going to say Forsling is going to make the team. If he comes in and bumps a guy, they’ll deal with it. That’s a good problem for Stan [Bowman] to have."
Indeed, Forsling's situation is a good one for the Hawks. Either he'll blow the team away in training camp and be in the NHL at age 20, or he'll push back his ELC a year while getting in extra development in Sweden. Sooner or later, Forsling is going to get his shot in North America.