Being stuck in neutral is arguably one of the worst things that can happen to a prospect post-draft. The ever-growing hockey talent pool and the yearly influx of newer and younger talents mean that they have a very short window to distinguish themselves from the up and coming. If a prospect isn’t going anywhere, it costs almost nothing to find a younger and potentially better player.
Linus Lindstrom, today’s subject, could be an unfortunate example of that. After breaking onto the Swedish pro scene at 18, one of the rare players to earn a full-time SHL job as a teenager, he hasn’t really moved past that level.
When we last checked in
Lindstrom’s 2017-18 was disappointingly so-so. It would be unfair to expect him to become a superstar at age 19, but with a year of SHL service under his belt, you could expect mild improvement.
None of that happened. He stayed in the same place as he did the year before and really didn’t grow. Part of that you can blame on the situation, part of that you can blame on the player. Lindstrom was a fourth liner in 2016-17, and remained one in 2017-18 with little hope of actually moving up the rotation – partially because of his performances, but also the performances of those ahead of him. He was a clear candidate for an Allsvenskan loan, but one never materialized. Lindstrom wasn’t given much to work with, but he didn’t have a case for a larger workload.
Lindstrom did have his highlights. Where he did shine was at the World Juniors, where he took a top line spot on Team Sweden, helping them reach the gold medal game. He also matched his regular season totals in the playoffs, becoming an unexpected yet helpful secondary scoring piece for Skelleftea, who reached the SHL finals before bowing out to Vaxjo.
It’s a lot of the same.
The year began with some promise. Lindstrom was in the top six, averaging 15-17 minutes a night for the opening few games of the season before slipping back into his 11-13 minute role he saw the previous two seasons at Skelleftea. He quickly fell on hard times, going 18 games without scoring a single point.
Things came to a head when Lindstrom just got stapled to the bench for his performances. He wasn’t healthy scratched, but he might as well have been. A four-game stretch in January saw him play a total of 14:35. Not average, total. After that, he was loaned to BIK Karlskoga of the Allsvenskan when their captain went down with an injury, but the loan only lasted five games. Sveningsson picked up two assists during his Allsvenskan stint.
He returned to the SHL and his fourth line role, averaging 11-13 minutes a night and not doing much.
Numbers & growth
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Unfortunately, there’s not much to say here. In aggregate, Lindstrom was better than he was last year, but only marginally. The only real difference between 2017-18 Lindstrom and 2018-19 Lindstrom was that 2018-19 Lindstrom had two more assists. He had the same amount of ice time, played in the same situations, shot just as frequently, and scored in similar fashions. He was really just the same player, but a year older.
If you look at how he compares to other U21 players, it’s not pretty. He’s far behind his age-group peers, which takes away from the argument that he’s only struggling because he’s playing in a men’s league. Same age or younger players are succeeding against the same players Lindstrom is facing.
Despite his rough season, there’s apparently a very strong chance Lindstrom could come over, according to Sweden’s HockeyNews.
Translated via Google.
Linus Lindström had an outgoing contract with Skellefteå and was moving away from the club.
Recently, he wrote for two new years, but now signals from Calgary will be NHL contracts after the playoffs.
Then, Calgary Flames, the NHL club who drafted him in the fourth round in the summer of 2016, indicated that it could be talked about writing NHL contracts already after this season’s end. Then they started to think about in Skellefteå.
According to HockeyNews.se, Calgary’s interest has grown ever stronger during this season.
– Calgary hopes and believes, and has done so every year, so the risk is that he will continue to do well … But you love him. That’s where you want to send them and not anywhere else. It is not impossible. They also see that things have happened and I am very happy for that, of course, says Mikael Lindgren (Skelleftea GM)
Just to be clear: the article just says the Flames are very interested in him, not that a signing is imminent.
All indications from the club are, for now, that Lindstrom will play in Sweden next season. It would be a bit strange for him to come over, as Lindstrom just extended his contract with Skelleftea for two years in late March. Perhaps the Flames don’t feel that’s the best path for his development and want to bring him over to the AHL, where they have greater control over his deployment and minutes.
The article states that it will take 2.2M Kronor, about $300,000 Canadian, to pry him out of his SHL contract. If the Flames want to pay that price, they really must believe in Lindstrom, who hasn’t honestly shown much to suggest that his AHL experience would go over any different than his SHL experience.
If Lindstrom wants to/does come over, he has to show something entirely different from the past three years. When he was drafted, his ceiling appeared to be around an NHL middle six centre, but now it seems that might be his ceiling in the SHL. Perhaps it really is circumstance burying him in Skelleftea, but for the entirety of his stint in the Swedish pros, he has been a non-factor.
Perhaps a switch is what Lindstrom needs, but it’s hard to be optimistic about a player who has been running in place for the past three seasons. Wherever he lands, hopefully he can be placed in a better situation and find the upside he showed in junior Swedish hockey.