The line has ended for Linus Lindstrom, the Flames’ fourth round pick in this most recent draft. Over in Sweden, he was a contributor to Skelleftea AIK, who start their playoffs on Sunday. There’s not a lot known about Lindstrom, and there certainly isn’t a lot of hype surrounding him, but he should definitely be on your radar.
A brief history
Linus has always been a bit of a line skipper. With his hometown club Skelleftea AIK, he cracked the U16s at 14, the U18s at 15, and the U20s at 16. In his draft year, he finished seventh in the Superelit (Sweden’s CHL, essentially) for scoring, and lead his team with 44 points in 40 games. That was enough for the Flames to spend the 96th overall pick on him.
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On first glance, those are not great numbers. Lindstrom, even with about 11 minutes per game, rarely found the scoresheet. He also averaged under a shot per game, which is not great. From Dec. 21 to the end of the season, he didn’t score a single point.
But we should contextualize Lindstrom’s performance. He was playing in a men’s league as an 18-year-old (turned 19 in January), and he played 50 games out of 52, the final two being at the end of the season. That’s pretty impressive.
What’s more impressive is that Skelleftea had many non-SHL options for Lindstrom and chose not to use them. He could’ve joined the U20 team (he did play for them, but only during the preseason and during the SHL’s bye week. As in, he played there when he couldn’t play for the big team), he could’ve been loaned to an Allsvenskan team, but he was not. Of all U20 players in the SHL, Lindstrom played the most. Skelleftea is a pretty good team too, so it’s not like they really needed him to play. He was in the SHL purely on merit.
Since it’s hard to watch SHL games in Canada, we turned to Skelleftea assistant coach Bert Robertsson for an in-depth look at Lindstrom (edited for clarity and brevity, and reconstructed from a corrupted audio file).
First, we asked about Lindstrom’s strengths, and how he improved from his time in the U20 league:
It was surprising how useful Linus was. We used him on the powerplay, the penalty kill, in all scenarios. Lindstrom matured a lot from junior. He has always had skills in the offensive zone, but his defensive skills were a big surprise. He still needs to work on his size, but his overall abilities are very promising.
About that promise: how did the team see him developing over the next year?
We want to use him as a top nine centreman who can build on his success and contribute all around. We want him to see more PP and PK time and continue to be an all-around useful player. He should be able to contribute more on offence, and he can add more confidence. Lindstrom made a big step from last year to this year, and we want to see him make another big step.
Since he earned comparisons to Mikael Backlund (and since we’re Flamesnation dot ca), we couldn’t help but ask if Robertsson saw similarities between the two
It is still very early to make a comparison, [Lindstrom] is still very young, but there are a lot of similarities. Backlund has been a contributor internationally and in the leagues, and he has the ability to make the team better every game. He is a very skilled player. The potential is definitely there. Linus shares the hockey sense but needs to work hard to become as skilled.
Lindstrom’s year was filled with some struggles, but that’s normal to expect from a teenager in a professional league. What we should be taking away is that he was a teenager in a professional league.
From my conversation with Robertsson, I was impressed with the way the organization views Lindstrom. It is no fluke that he played that much in the SHL, and he definitely has the potential to grow into a player that can contribute to the NHL team. Don’t sleep on him.