BROSSARD - Charlie Lindgren came out of nowhere in 2016, and the young netminder, who recently celebrated his 23rd birthday, has progressed quickly over the last few months.
At the end of last season, with Carey Price out with an injury, Lindgren joined the Canadiens by signing a two-year, two-way contract as a free agent out of St. Cloud State University.
He had a brief taste of NHL life, suiting up for his first game in the big leagues on April 7, 2016, earning a 4-2 win against the Carolina Hurricanes to give him a perfect NHL record to date.
This year, another Price absence gave Lindgren a chance to stick with the Canadiens, when the rookie goaltender was brought in for reinforcements for the first week of the season with the Habs starter out with the flu. His time in Montreal may have been short, but it was also crucial for his development.
"With [Canadiens goaltending coach] Stephane Waite, you learn every day. I learned a lot of fundamentals with him. Then when I got to St. John's, I felt really comfortable with [IceCaps assistant goaltending coach] Marco Marciano right away. We have a great relationship. I feel like I've really improved since the start of the season and this has been great for me," said the 6-foot-2, 190-pound goalie.
The transition from university to pro hockey after spending three seasons with the St. Cloud State Huskies was a seamless one for Lindgren.
"I think playing at a high level in college over the last few years really helped me. And I love it in St. John's now. I love the city, we have a great team, and we have great chemistry," continued the Lakeville, MN native.
Overlooked, Extra Motivated
Lindgren was passed over at the NHL Draft. If he was offended to have been overlooked that day, the young goaltender admits now that it served him well as a source of motivation.
"That pushed me, there's no question. I remember being frustrated to have not been drafted, but in the end it was good for me because it just pushed me harder. Even now, when I play against goalies who were drafted in my draft year, I just want to beat them. I want to prove to all the other GMs that they made a mistake. That's part of my DNA; I want to be the best," stressed Lindgren.
He may have just one game of NHL experience under his belt, but he still managed to make an appearance in his first official Canadiens team photo this year, given the timing of his relief stint to kick off the campaign.
"That's really cool. The picture of me with all the goalies with Waite, Price, and Al Montoya, I love that one. That was a very cool experience," he admitted.
A New Family
For the first time in his life, Lindgren is miles away from his family and he's learning to live on his own in Newfoundland.
"I was lucky to have been able to play close to home in university, so I got to see my family all the time. Obviously this year, that's not the case. We talk on FaceTime every day. It's been a big change for me," he confessed.
He lives in St. John's with teammates Tom Parisi and Ryan Johnston. While they all have similar "skillsets" in the kitchen, Lindgren claims to have made some progress in that area of his development as well - although he admits he still has a long way to go.
"When I was in college, I had no idea what I was doing in the kitchen. The only thing I made were things you could microwave. My roommates back then made fun of me all the time. So I assume I have to have improved since then," joked Lindgren.
He has also found a new big brother figure with the IceCaps in Yann Danis. The 35-year-old former Canadiens netminder serves as a mentor to Lindgren, much to the delight of head coach Sylvain Lefebvre.
"Charlie has a good head on his shoulders and he's a guy who is in control of his emotions. He's a competitor; he wants to win and he wants to be in the net. Yann Danis shares his experience with him. He's a quiet guy who isn't a big talker, but I think he brings a calming presence," mentioned Lefebvre.
Lindgren couldn't agree more.
"He's really like an older brother and he's been really great for me. A few weeks ago, we had a few tough games in a row and he told me not to blame myself. He's great to talk to. He's an experienced, talented guy. I appreciate the things he's teaching me," concluded Lindgren, who also intends on finishing his degree in general studies in the next two to three years.