The Flames’ 2016 draft could potentially be fuelling the franchise for years to come. The class features an established NHLer in Matthew Tkachuk, two of the WHL’s best in Dillon Dube and Matthew Phillips, college hockey superstar Adam Fox, up-and-coming (yet snakebitten) goaltender Tyler Parsons, and intriguing Europeans in Eetu Tuulola and Linus Lindstrom.
Lindstrom is the focus for this wrap-up. He made waves last year as one of the only teenagers to play full time for an SHL team, a rarity given the development options the Swedish hockey system offers its clubs. The pivot was given heavy defensive workloads on a team that didn’t really need him to do that and succeeded enough to stick around.
Lindstrom has always been tabbed as one to watch in Sweden’s development system. He was already over a point-per-game in the U18 at age 15. By age 16, he was just under that mark in Sweden’s U20 league. He consistently finished in the top 10 in scoring during his days in Sweden’s developmental leagues, which led the Flames to pick him 96th overall in the 2016 draft.
As already detailed, his draft +1 year wasn’t impressive in the same way previous years were. Although he did not light up the scoresheet, he found a permanent spot in a Swedish league that is difficult to crack as an 18-year-old. As a fourth line centre who saw occasional special teams time, he held his head above water and looked poised for a strong second year.
Lindstrom’s season was pretty predictable. He was going to stick around with Skelleftea, learn the ropes of pro hockey, and play in the World Juniors on a deep Sweden squad. To that end, he did all of that.
Now about how successful he was. It’s kind of hard to place expectations on a 19-year-old playing hockey in a league where 19-year-olds don’t often play, but it seemed that Lindstrom didn’t really go any direction besides sideways. He started as a fourth liner at age 18, and remained a fourth liner at age 19. He scored six points in 2016-17, scored four in 2017-18.
The World Juniors tournament was probably a bit more reflective of Lindstrom’s talents. Despite being on a Swedish team with lots of offensive weapons, Lindstrom consistently finished at the top of the pack in ice time. The coaches trusted him to play smart, shutdown hockey and were rewarded with just that. To demonstrate, here’s his assist on Sweden’s shorthanded goal in the gold medal game.
Another shorthanded goal for Sweden, this time it’s Tim Soderlund. 1-1 pic.twitter.com/NPkziLnJiX
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) January 6, 2018
|GP||G||A||P||Primary points||5v5 points||5v5 primary points||NHLe|
There’s not much to talk about here.
For the most part, Lindstrom didn’t see much of an uptick in offence, and actually went back a bit. His per 60, per game, and percent of team offence stats all went down by slight amounts, both in all situations and at 5v5. The only number that really went up was his shots per game, which jumped from 0.84 (42 in 50 games) to 1.00 (41 in 41).
But the circumstances didn’t change much either. His ice time this year only jumped up 40 seconds on a per game basis, and he pretty much exclusively played on the fourth line. His flashes of offence were rare, but being a defensive fourth line centre will limit those. Perhaps circumstances will change with age, but for now, his highlights will be limited to the occasional clip:
— Dennis Schellenberg (@ScoutingFactory) October 5, 2017
Lindstrom didn’t really move the needle one way or the other for Skelleftea. Understandable, as he’s currently a teenage 3/4C still learning the pro game. The deadly offence that he showed in his U20 days should come eventually, but the greatest strides taken have been with his defensive game. His performances at the World Juniors highlighted his defensive dependability. Coaches trusted him with plenty of ice time and defensive starts, and he rewarded them with reliable play.
Lindstrom has an opportunity to become a North American pro next year. The Flames will have few of their own true centres playing centre in the AHL (Brett Pollock is the only one there right now, and he’s a converted winger. Dube and Phillips can also play centre, but will likely be wingers. Glenn Gawdin will likely be a centre), so there’s a spot for him.
Will he come over? That’s yet to be determined. The Flames hold his rights until 2020 so there’s nothing immediately forcing their hands. Lindstrom is already getting good minutes in a pro league, so why not just leave him there? It’s a free year of development at a high level. Let someone else do the work for you.
However, I said the same thing about Adam Ollas Mattson last year and he found his way to Stockton for the final few games of their season. Lindstrom’s playoffs can end as early as March 25, so I supposed we’ll find out then.