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Jr. Sharks, ‘Hawks grad Olofsson gets taste of NHL


<> during the second period at TD Garden on November 19, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts.

Gustav Olofsson and his family haven’t lived in California for nearly a decade, but his experiences playing hockey in the Bay Area for four years remain fresh in his mind.

“I have tons of memories,” said Olofsson, who made his NHL debut with the Minnesota Wild on Nov. 19. “I had such amazing coaches growing up playing for the Santa Clara Blackhawks and the San Jose Jr. Sharks; the help me and my brother (Freddy) got from our youth coaches was tremendous.”

Olofsson, a 1994-born, began as Mite and Squirt with the Blackhawks, coached by Vic Marconcini and then Martin Denis. He played one year of Pee Wee for the Jr. Sharks under coach Andy Buchanan.

“A few guys are still playing college hockey and have made it further,” Olofsson said. “It’s always fun to keep tabs on guys you played with.”

The 6-foot-3 defenseman known as “Goose” began his hockey odyssey in California before returning to his native Sweden for three years, then to Colorado for three more years of youth hockey.

From there, he played one season of junior for the Green Bay Gamblers of the United States Hockey League where he was named to the league’s all-rookie team in 2013. The Wild then selected him in the second round of the NHL Entry Draft (46th overall).

Olofsson went on to play a year at Colorado College and played on Team Sweden at the World Junior Championship before turning pro in 2014. His season ended after one game a year ago due to injury.

The Wild called him up from the Iowa Wild of the American Hockey League and played him in two games – the second of which (on Nov. 28) brought an added bonus.

“My dad and grandpa (who was visiting from Sweden) got to see the second game in St. Paul (Minn.),” he said. “They were five hours away in Omaha watching my brother (Freddy, a freshman at the University of Nebraska-Omaha) play and they just decided to drive up because it wasn’t far away.

“I rarely see (my grandpa) during the year so for him to get to see that, it was pretty special.”

– Chris Bayee