Saturday night marked the professional debut of forward Hampus Gustafsson for the Hershey Bears. Stemming from the D1 Hockey-East school of Merrimack, he was recently signed by the Bears to an Amateur Tryout contract (ATO) on March 9.
In college, Gustafsson recorded 38 goals and 49 assists, for 87 points in 146 games for his school. He only ever got to the second round of the Hockey-East tournament over his 4-year playing career.
Before Merrimack, he played for the Amarillo Bulls of the NAHL, the second-best junior league in the United States. With Amarillo, he recorded 10 goals and 17 assists for 27 points in 35 games.
After his professional debut against Hartford, I was able to talk to him and ask him a few questions.
Dylan Coyle: First of all, congrats on your first game, Hampus. I’m sure you are exhilarated. How are you feeling?
Hampus Gustafsson: I feel good. That was a lot of fun. Playing in front of that many people and making my pro debut… It couldn’t be better than that. Nice win.
DC: Now, you were recently playing D1 hockey with Merrimack. What are some of the biggest differences that you noticed right off the bat from D1 NCAA hockey to the AHL?
HG: Hockey-East, where I played, was a fast league, but I feel like here, people just take care of the puck a lot more and just make plays… I feel like taking care of the puck and don’t throw it away is a big thing. There are a lot more systems to this, I feel like it’s a little more complicated so it takes some time to learn everything, but I’m very excited.
DC: Personally, you did have a lot of success with Merrimack. What would you say are some of your best memories playing with the hockey team?
HG: It’s just when you play for a school, you’re just taking pride… I mean, you’re so close to your teammates and your classmates, and you want to make them proud. So I feel like that’s a little bit different because you are all so tight. Obviously, you’re tight here too, but you’re playing with the same team for 4 years; you know that going into it. So that was a lot of fun.
DC: How do you think your time in the NAHL helped prepare you for college and beyond?
HG: I feel like that helped me a lot. I mean, coming from Sweden, it’s a different type of game. I’m happy that I played a year of junior hockey, because that kind of helped me get used to the American way to play hockey on the smaller rink. It was easier to transition into college, and my 4 years there is probably helping me transition into pro hockey.
DC: What can Hershey Bears fans expect from you this season?
HG: Uh, I’m just gonna try to keep it simple by keep winning faceoffs and just try to take care of the puck and make some plays.
Hampus Gustafsson definitely seems like a good, hardworking kid in the world of hockey. As evident by his interview, he seems to be a humble player who is absolutely excited to play with the Hershey Bears in the Capitals’ organization.
Dylan Coyle is a writer and the founder of Good Night, Good Hockey. He is also a Hershey Bears and Reading Royals reporter. You can follow him on Twitter @DylanRCoyle.