Florida Panthers Summer Sweater Series: #4 Per Gustafsson
"By The Numbers" rolls on with a look back at Pelle G's brief stint with the Cats
Only eight players, again all defensemen, have sported the #4 in Florida Panthers history. And while there are definitely a few candidates better suited for this type of article (one of whom I simply refuse to write about), I decided to go a bit off the beaten path again with my selection.
Per Gustafsson was selected by the Panthers in the 11th round (261st overall) in the 1994 NHL Entry Draft. At the time, Gustafsson was 24-years-old and already had six seasons of professional experience with HV71 of the Swedish Elite League under his belt.
After two more years with HV71 in Sweden, including a league title in 1994-95, the experienced blueliner joined the Cats for the 1996-97 campaign.
After sitting out the first three games of the season, Gustafsson made his NHL debut on October 12, in a 6-0 win against the Hartford Whalers. He scored a goal, added an assist, and went +3 to make his first NHL game an extremely memorable one.
Gustafsson went on to play 57 more games with the Cats that season. He totaled 7 goals and 22 assists to finish second, behind Robert Shevla, in scoring among the team's defensemen. Pretty impressive, considering he wasn't a full-timer. In addition to chipping in offensively, he finished his one year in Florida with a +11 rating.
Coach Doug MacLean choose not to have Gustafsson suit up for any of Florida's five postseason games against the New York Rangers. His last outing as #4 in a Panthers uniform came in a 4-2 loss to the Boston Bruins on April 5, a game in which he scored his last goal for the franchise.
On June 12, 1997 Gustafsson was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs for prospect Mike Lankshear, who never even made it to the AHL, much less the NHL.
Gustafsson played 22 games for the Leafs, and 25 for their farm club in St. John's, before he was traded again to the Ottawa Senators (for an 8th round pick), where he played the last 9 games of his NHL career.
Per returned to his native Sweden, where is known among fans as Pelle G, and rejoined HV71. He played 11 more seasons in the Swedish Elite League, winning two more league titles and a silver medal at the 2003 IIHF World Championship, before he retired after the 2008-09 campaign, setting many club records along the way.
Other Panther players to wear the #4: Keith Brown, John Jakopin, Bret Hedican, Jay Bouwmeester, Dennis Seidenberg, Keaton Ellerby, Dylan Olsen
Who is your favorite #4 in Panthers history?