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BIG YEAR AHEAD

From teen sensation to exciting young pro, Linus Lindstrom is learning the ropes in Sweden's top league

by RYAN DITTRICK @ryandittrick / CalgaryFlames.com

At first, it felt like a punishment.

Three years a pro at the pinnacle in his homeland, and suddenly…

"I was loaned," Swedish prospect Linus Lindstrom recalled. "To the second league.

"Things… had gotten a bit rough.

"At the start of the season I was playing top-six. But then I was on the fourth line, lots of penalty-killing.

"I needed to get my confidence back."

Humbling, yes. Punitive? Hardly.

Lindstrom - the Flames' fourth-round pick, 96th overall in the 2016 Draft - had been a fixture with Skelleftea of the Swedish Hockey League for three seasons after first making his debut at only 17 years of age.

He never once played in HockeyAllsvenskan - Sweden's Tier 2 league - bypassing that route entirely to play at the country's top level, like countless other high-profile prospects destined for North America one day.

Until then, that is - midway through his third year and after fighting to find his game "consistently."

But soon, he returned, his ambition inspired.

Confidence, re-born.

Five games and a couple of points later with BIK Karlskroga, 6-foot, 165 lb. pivot was back in a groove with his hometown team, delivering on the promises he made to himself by taming the offensive portion of his heady, two-way game.

He finished with six points (3G, 3A) in 44 games, but felt a resurgence in the latter portion of the regular season and into the playoffs.

"I think I played really well," he said. "It was really good to go back there, hold onto the puck and make plays like I knew I could. It was a really good experience.

"I ended the season (in Skelleftea) playing well and playing a lot, too, but I was still on the fourth line, penalty-killing.

"But, I was winning faceoffs, doing the right thing again.

"A good end to the season, for sure."

Lindstrom, who's under contract in the SHL for one more season, is looking to take charge in more offensive capacity, beginning this fall.

 

 

While his game from a defensive standpoint is excellent, and his play without the puck is what helped him earn the coaches' trust at the pro level so early in his development, his offensive ability was the driving factor in him earning a reputation as a possible mid-round steal in his draft year.

In his best amateur season, he rattled off a tidy 44 points (14G, 30A) in only 40 games in the U20 SuperElit league, before getting his first taste of the SHL.

His vibrant talents go all the way back to when he was 15, tearing up the U18 leagues at a shade under a point-per-game pace against players much older.

Now, it's a matter of rediscovering that gift in the pros, against men.

"I know I have the skill defensively and that I have to play that way [to succeed at the pro level]," Lindstrom said. "But if I can play more and get a bigger role on my team, I can become more of an offensive (threat).

"I'm still young and have a lot of growing, a lot of learning to do.

"But I also feel like I'm ready to take the next step.

"Playing pro back home, it's been great. A lot of the guys I'm playing with are many years older than me - some, even, have already played in the NHL themselves.

"To be able to watch guys like that, learn from them, it's really (valuable)."

Lindstrom, like fellow Flames prospects Filip Sveningsson, Lucas Feuk and Carl-Johan Lerby, is eligible to join the organization in some capacity - be it Calgary, Stockton, or with the ECHL Mavericks - for the 2020-21 season. In the meantime, he has a couple of areas of emphasis to ensure he's ready when the time comes.

"I've had a good off-season, but I need to put on more weight and get stronger," he said. "That's the biggest thing.

"I've got to get stronger and faster, and get more time to make plays."

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