It’s reasonable to return to a place you’ve had success, and the same holds true for National Hockey League clubs and drafting. The Calgary Flames have had a lot of historical success drafting Swedes – from Kent Nilsson all the way to Mikael Backlund – so it makes a lot of sense that they’ve kept drafting them.
Cerebral two-way center Linus Lindstrom is their latest Tre Kronor investment and his international success to date suggests that he might have been a strong value pickup.
A product of Skelleftea, Sweden – the same town and team that produced 2009 Flames draft pick Tim Erixon – Lindstrom grew up playing for his hometown team and has worked his way up through the ranks. For much of his hockey life, he’s been playing with bigger, older players.
- He broke into Sweden’s U18 league when he was 15.
- He spent his 16-year-old season split between the U18 and U20 leagues.
- He was a U20 regular and made his pro debut when he was 17.
He turned 20 in January and already has two full SHL seasons (and 97 pro games) under his belt. Referred to as Sweden’s “line-fixer” at the World Juniors by Flames general manager Brad Treliving, Lindstrom relished the opportunity to earn a ton of SHL ice time this season.
“I played more, had a pretty good season,” said Lindstrom at Flames development camp. “Had a pretty good World Juniors. I got good confidence. I played with men one year before, feel like I’m knowing what to do. They’re bigger, stronger, so you have to play faster, stuff like that.”
Compared to Europe, the North American game is a bit more physical and occasionally scrappy. But Lindstrom’s played most of his high-end hockey career against older, bigger players, and feels that will help him when he transitions to North America.
“All the guys in Europe in the men’s [league] are pretty strong, big, so they play pretty hard,” said Lindstrom. “So it’s like here. You’re used to it.”
Lindstrom’s risen in profile a bit since being drafted due to his silver medal-winning performance for Sweden at last year’s World Juniors. He has one year left on his SHL contract with Skelleftea AIK and has his eye on coming to North America sooner rather than later.
“I want to play as soon as possible, but I need to get bigger and stronger, gain some weight before I can come here and play,” said Lindstrom. “I have one more year. After that we’ll see. I want to come over and play here. After next season, maybe.”
In the meantime, he wants to use his remaining time in Sweden increasing his offensive output – his career high is six points but his offensive success at lower levels suggests that he’s got talent – carving out a larger role for himself, and helping his team improve their overall performance.