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Blackhawks Top 25 Under 25 for 2018: Gustav Forsling at No. 6

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The Swedish defenseman looks like he could be ready to be a full-time NHL player.

NHL: Los Angeles Kings at Chicago Blackhawks Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Blackhawks have faith in Gustav Forsling as the Swedish defenseman made the team’s roster to start the season for a second straight year. He played in 41 games before he was assigned to the AHL in January after a stretch of games with costly turnovers. Forsling won’t make the Hawks’ lineup out of training camp as he is recovering from a July 31 surgery on his right wrist with a 14-week timetable. Once he returns, Forsling should push for an NHL spot.

Position: Left-handed defenseman

Birth date: June 12, 1996 (22 years old)

Acquired via: Trade with Vancouver (2015)

Most recent stop: Rockford IceHogs — AHL

Size: 6’0, 185 pounds

Contract: 1 year — $872.5K salary cap hit

Last year’s ranking: No. 6

Breakdown

Forsling wasn’t expected to make Chicago’s starting lineup in 2016, but last year was different. He was. And he delivered right away. He started the season with a three-game point streak in his first three games.

Forsling continued to show some promise in his second season. He averaged 19:09 total ice time, up from just under 15 minutes the season before, and posted a 49.1 even strength Corsi while on the third line with Jan Rutta. Forsling scored three goals and 13 points. His numbers don’t jump off the page, but it shows improvement for Forsling, who looks like he could be ready to be a full-time NHL player.

The highlight of Forsling’s season came when he scored a game-winning goal with 4.9 seconds left in overtime against Buffalo at home to punctuate a career-high three-point night.

Forsling posted five points (two goals, three assists) in 18 regular-season games for Rockford and added a goal and five points in 13 Calder Cup playoff contests. But he did miss more than a month with an injury.

Rockford head coach Jeremy Colliton told The Daily Herald in May that Forslng has “dynamic mobility” and “he’s excellent at defending the rush.”

Chicago general manager Stan Bowman added that Forsling has all the tools for an NHL defenseman, including quick feet, hands and a good shot, but the Swede needs to put it all together. If Forsling does that he’ll be a top-four caliber blueliner at the NHL level.

What’s next in 2018-19?

Forsling’s 14-week timetable puts his return at Oct. 30, meaning he will miss the entire preseason and at least 12 regular-season games. Chicago opens the regular season Oct. 4 at Ottawa.

When Forsling returns he’ll have to beat out Erik Gustafsson and free-agent acquisition Brandon Manning for playing time. Manning, 28, who signed a two-year deal with Chicago in July, scored 19 points with Philadelphia last season, and hasn’t played in the AHL since 2015. Gustafsson, 26, tallied 17 points in 25 games with Chicago last season, and also inked a two-year deal this past season.

It’s a big season for Forsling as he’s set to become a restricted free agent next summer. If he doesn’t continue his rise it wouldn’t be surprising to hear him floated around as a potential trade candidate given Chicago’s defensive depth in its system.