It’s something about those Swedish centres.
When the Flames picked Linus Lindstrom in the fourth round of the 2016 draft, they brought in a long-term project. That’s not unusual for mid to late round European picks, but Lindstrom has been making positive strides faster than expected. The 6’0″, 165 lb. left-shooting Swede has made his name for his defensive abilities, honing his skill in the SHL where few teenagers see ice time. This is in addition to a strong silver medal appearance at the World Juniors, where he handled some of the tougher matchups for Team Sweden. His strong season means he has catapulted from honourable mention to #12 this year.
How did we get here?
Lindstrom has been somewhat of a teenage sensation over in Sweden, making his name known as an offensive dynamo in the Swedish junior leagues. At age 15, he hit just under a point per game in the U18 leagues. The next year, he was doing the same in the U20 leagues. At age 17, he put up 44 points in 40 Superelit (top Swedish junior league) games and got his first taste of the SHL, picking up a point in four games. A silver medal U18 WJC performance solidified his case as an interesting prospect, and he went 96th overall in the 2016 draft.
Post-draft, Lindstrom’s had two seasons that have been the toughest test of his young career. He’s spent his final two teenage years playing hockey for Skelleftea in the SHL, a rare feat for teenage players. Lindstrom has not necessarily been putting up numbers (he has 10 total points in 91 games) but has been making a name for himself as a defensive centre in Skelleftea’s bottom six. Despite the lack of offensive output, Lindstrom was selected to Sweden’s WJC team, taking a top six shutdown role with the national junior team.
Stats, numbers, and everything therein
There’s not much to look at for Lindstrom’s numbers. He picked up four points this year in 41 games, down from six points in 50 games last year. Given that he didn’t really move much from his fourth line role with Skelleftea, it was unlikely he was going to have an offensive breakout.
Lindstrom saw heavier usage in the World Juniors, but not necessarily more offensive ice. He was tasked with keeping the opposition off the scoresheet, not getting on it himself.
For a more in-depth read, revisit this writeup.
Those in the know
Flames director of development Ray Edwards gives an optimistic outlook for Lindstrom’s upcoming season:
Linus’ first couple of years in the Swedish elite league, he was a fourth line guy, got some PK time, really earned the coaches’ trust from a defensive standpoint playing without the puck. Linus has ability to produce and what we’re hoping for this year is now that he’s another year older, a little bit stronger, a little heavier, he’s going to get more opportunities in offensive situations…. The key for him this year is we’re hoping that he takes a step offensively, understanding that he’s going to be in a lot bigger role playing in a top six role versus a bottom six role, so we’re excited to see where this goes.
Future Consideration’s Sweden scout Christoffer Hedlund gives his summary on what type of player Lindstrom is:
After a rough start to the season, with very limited ice time, Lindström still had an alright season; he has established himself as a decent bottom six player in the SHL. While he had a very good playoffs for Skellefteå AIK, showing intriguing puck and passing skills, he sadly has not been able to take the next step offensively during the season. Defensively he played very well, his smarts, positional play and work rate makes him a good defensive player in the SHL. One thing I believe that Lindström needs to improve is his skating, he lacks top speed and acceleration – both which are crucial in today’s SHL if you aim to become a point producer.
Hedlund also goes to explain that he believes Lindstrom would benefit from time spent in lower divisions or developmental league so that his offensive skills can be rediscovered.
On the horizon
Lindstrom’s plan for this season is the same as it was last season and the season before that: play for Skelleftea all year, and maybe Sweden when he has a chance.
Where he’ll fit in on the roster will be of interest, as it’ll go a long way in determining how successful he is. As already mentioned, Lindstrom’s fourth line role didn’t lend to much scoring success. If he does get a boost up the lineup to the top six as Edwards suggests, it could be the spark that reignites his offensive potential. Conversely, if he stays as a fourth liner (Hedlund believes this is very likely) it probably says a lot more.
Although no longer eligible for the WJC, Lindstrom will probably see some stints with Sweden’s international team. Depending on when the SHL playoffs end and how successful Skelleftea is, Lindstrom could potentially join the Stockton Heat at the end of the year on an ATO.
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