Written by: Callum Ng / @CallumNg
On Tuesday night at the Memorial Cup, Tobias Lindberg scored a goal he’s been working on for a long time.
The 19-year-old Senators’ prospect took a pass from linemate Sam Harding, and the two rushed up the ice to form a full-speed 2-on-1.
Crossing the blue line on left wing, Lindberg widened his stance and toe-dragged neatly around the flailing stick of sliding Kelowna Rockets' defenceman Cole Martin. Then, completing the all-in-one motion, Lindberg released a heavy wrist shot. The goal would count as the game winner, helping the Oshawa Generals into the Memorial Cup final.
“If you’re really wide-legged when you do the move, it’s easier because you have a whole bunch of room that he can’t get his stick into,” said Lindberg afterwards. He learned the deke from former teammate Oskar Andrén, “He used to be the best in that move so he taught me a little bit.”
The two were teammates with Djurgardens IF in Stockholm, Sweden, Lindberg’s hometown. Last season he was there, playing second-tier Swedish hockey, “I didn’t really know what the OHL was before this year, I really had no idea what level it was,” he says. “I had heard about some players like McDavid and Domi...so I knew it was a good league.”
As Ottawa’s 4th-round pick in 2013 (102nd overall) Lindberg says the team encouraged him to come to North America, to work with DJ Smith and the Oshawa Generals. “I’m so thankful that I got over here, I like the North American hockey, I think it fits me well,” says Lindberg. “I think I’ve developed a whole lot this year.”
Earlier in the season, it was easy to see how well the 6’2” left winger could skate, and be impressed with his ability to quickly shoot mid-stride. As the playoffs have progressed, Lindberg has shown willingness to be physical, while displaying his offensive talent. He had two hits to go along with his goal on Tuesday, and he has scored in all three round-robin games.
“That’s what Ottawa wants to see, that’s what I’m trying to do,” says Lindberg who communicates weekly with the Senators during the regular season. “To play there you have to be physical. It’s a big step to go from juniors to pro hockey. I’m just trying to get stronger and prove that I can play there one day.”
The benefits have passed both ways. While the Generals forward worked on his game in the 2014-15 regular season he scored 32 goal and added 46 assists, good for third on the team. He likes the narrower ice surface, saying it’s easier to shoot.
The space of a year has taken Lindberg from Stockholm to Quebec City, through Oshawa and 19 other OHL cities, “It was a long time ago that I got to Oshawa in August and a lot of things have changed but it’s been a real good journey,” comments Lindberg, which is true, but you can bet we haven’t seen the last of that inside toe-drag.