Bengt Gustafsson played nine seasons in Washington and was considered among the best Swedish players to put on a Caps uniform. - Washington Times, July 20, 2011
The line above was in Steve Whyno's recent piece detailing the break-up between the Caps and 2008 first-round pick (and son of Caps legend Bengt) Anton Gustafsson. But with appropriate focus having been paid to that substance, the word "among" in that sentence is the subject of this post - if Bengt Gustafsson was among the best Swedish players to put on a Caps uniform, who else is in the discussion?
HockeyReference.com lists 15 players who were born in Sweden and have laced 'em up for the Caps in at least one regular season game (curiously, the site doesn't list Marcus Johansson, so make that 16, with a 17th likely coming soon in the person of Mattias Sjogren). And while we all expect Nicklas Backstrom to make this entire question a no-brainer some day, he's not there yet. What we're left with (with due respect to Ulf Dahlen and others) is a two-man race between Bengt Gustafsson and Calle Johansson - a pair of crafty, efficient, cerebral Swedes playing different positions. (The two actually overlapped for ten regular season games and four post-season tilts back in 1989, with Johansson even getting the primary assist on Gustafsson's last NHL goal.)
Gustafsson is currently sixth in franchise history in points, fifth in goals and assists, sixth in shorthanded goals and fourth in game-winners. He also scored five goals in a game against the Flyers in Philly, so there's that.
Johansson is the team's all-time leader in games played and had more points as a Caps blueliner than anyone. Five times he played a full season without missing a game.
A quick look at each man's career stats as a Cap:
Might we have hoped that we could have looked back on the Gustafsson vs. Johansson debate in a dozen years and be discussing Anton and Marcus? Sure. But that wasn't to be, and the choice is between Bengt and Calle - who's the best Swede in Caps' history?