As Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook continue their decline, a new defenseman has risen from the pack of 3rd pairing slackers to act as somewhat of a stopgap. Erik Gustafsson has gone from being a healthy scratch to now putting the team on his back regularly. It has been quite an impressive transformation.

The Blackhawks are currently on a 5 game winning streak and that can be largely attributed to Gustafsson. On Tuesday against his former team, the Edmonton Oilers, he scored his 11th goal of the season — a career high.

A Recurring Theme

Career highs — I like it, I love it, I want some more of it.

This season has been Erik Gustafsson’s best by far and he has been one of few bright spots for this team. Gustafsson is currently sitting at a career-high 34 points (11G, 23A) through 51 games. Amongst all NHL defensemen, Gustafsson is holding his own, as he is 16th in points and 4th in goals scored.

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Although his defense isn’t much to write home about, there is no questioning Erik Gustafsson’s offensive prowess. The boost he provides on offense has been outweighing his shortcomings on defense — for now. As long as he is able to produce at this pace, I believe Gustafsson’s value to the team will only continue to rise. I am sure StanBo has received quite a few inquiries about Gus lately, and with good reason.

How Has Erik Gustafsson Gotten It Done This Season?

Two words — power play. Jeremy Colliton has finally found a winning formula on the power play. Erik Gustafsson has done his part to put the SPECIAL back in Special Teams. Since becoming a mainstay on the PP1 unit, Gustafsson has played the role of power play quarterback to perfection.

As of right now, Erik Gustafsson is on pace to score 55 points this season. No Blackhawks defensemen have come close to this amount of production since Duncan Keith did back in 2016-17 when he netted 53 points (6G, 47A). If Gustafsson reaches the 15 goal plateau, he can find himself in some more impressive company too.

Is Erik Gustafsson In the Blackhawks’ Long Term Plans?

As the NHL trade deadline approaches, we should all look at the next few weeks as an evaluation period. StanBo & Co. are in the process of deciding which players are worth keeping and which players are worth trading for future assets. Right now, Erik Gustafsson is a part of the future and his value is at an all-time high.

However, Gustafsson could end up being moved if the Blackhawks fade down the stretch. It would be easy to find a taker since he is on a very team friendly contract.

The Blackhawks are 1 of 9 teams still alive in the Western Conference wild card race. It will be an extremely tough task to make the playoffs. There are 5 teams standing in the Blackhawks’ way and just 9 points separate the 9 teams in contention.

A few weeks ago, none of us could have guessed that the Blackhawks would go on a nice little run and fight back to become a team on the bubble. The Blackhawks have until Monday, February 25th to figure out whether they are a contender or a pretender.

Until then, let’s just sit back and try to digest this emotional rollercoaster of a season. Win or lose, at least our Blackhawks are keeping things interesting for us on a down year.

For more Blackhawks news and updates, follow the author @Certified_TonyG on Twitter.