Exclusive: Rangers prospect Olof Lindbom eyeing new opportunities in the SHL and Liiga
It’s been two years since the Rangers shocked every fan by picking a goalie in the 2nd round, and was met with much criticism. Did we need a goalie? How good is Lindbom? Who else could we have picked? Lindbom has had two rough years battling several injuries but this summer he is back to full strength and looking for a new challenge. That challenge may not be in Sweden.
Forever Blueshirts continues its prospect series with the latest insightful interview that gave us more than we expected.
Injury-riddled season and missing the WJC
Last year Lindbom signed his first professional contract when he joined Mora in the 2nd tier of Swedish hockey, Allsvenskan. Mora, relegated that summer, picked up the young goalie from Djurgården in Stockholm where he played in the junior league SuperElit (u20).
“Everyone is way smarter on the ice, the pace is higher and players are much stronger. It is a big adjustment not going to school and just play hockey. You really notice a difference in how players approach games“, talking about the switch from junior hockey to professional hockey. Lindbom looks back without regrets. He spoke to several teams last year, and Mora was a good fit. The injuries he suffered didn’t change that decision for him.
“We had a solid start to the season and I played some good games. After a few weeks, I hurt my ankle and opted to get surgery. The coaching change affected the season with Mora and when I came back I had to catch up with the team. It was tough“, Lindbom said about last season. He would finish the season with 16 games and a .893 save percentage. 22-year old Isak Wallin played 30 games and had a .900 save percentage. Mora’s defense struggled a lot and it’s safe to say it wasn’t all on the goalies.
Unfortunately for Lindbom, he missed out on the World Juniors tournament in the Czech Republic. “It hurt when I was no longer part of the team. I know most of that team, played with them for years. I missed out on a great experience”, Lindbom continued. He barely watched any games at the WJC and focused more on club hockey while still recovering after his ankle surgery.
What stands out when talking to Lindbom about his time in the gym is how invested the Rangers were in his recovery. They offered all the help he needed during his rehab and were in contact with Mora regularly to make sure Lindbom had everything necessary to get better. “I have great people that help me, including a physician, physiotherapist and mental coach. Injuries can have a mental impact on a player and that’s often forgotten. Experiencing these injuries, and getting the help that I was offered, will help me throughout my career. You learn how to deal with this“, Lindbom concluded.
Crossing the Gulf of Bothnia? It’s a possibility
Lindbom spent a few weeks with SHL powerhouse Färjestad near the end of last season. “Färjestad was one of the favorites to win SHL last year and they thought I played good with Mora so they called me and wanted me to be a part of their playoff run”. It was a situation I personally have not seen happen before, but Lindbom was approached by them and he was sent there on loan in preparation for the SHL playoffs. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the season was cancelled and Lindbom did not suit up for the team from “Ferry Town”. It was still a valuable experience for Lindbom to be part of an SHL team for a few weeks, and get some experience practicing with them.
Fast forward to June 2020, and Lindbom has fully recovered. He’s healthy and ready to go. He doesn’t know yet where he will go but there is some interest from Finland. Lindbom doesn’t have a preference per se, but his agent Claes Elefalk has been in talks with teams from the Finnish Liiga. “My agent is doing a great job talking to a lot of different teams. Not only Liiga teams but, SHL teams and Allsvenskan teams as well. I’m sure we will find a good fit”, the goalie adds. There is no shortage in options for the young goalie, which is a good sign.
Earlier in the year he was a bit worried due to the lack of options. A lot will depend on what those interested teams do with their current goalies. It’s tough to speculate, but there are some teams in Liiga who can use a goalie like Kärpät where Justus Annunen was in net who signed his entry level contract. He could go back on loan using his European Assignment Clause, but if he opts to stay in North America, Olof Lindbom could be his replacement. Time will tell.
Staying in shape during the pandemic
Lindbom is currently back in Stockholm. He stays in touch with some of the other Swedish Rangers prospects, but none of them live close. At the moment, Lindbom is working out with strength coach Daniel Hedin in addition to 3 sessions a week with his goalie coach Peter Iversen. He is also on the ice with some players who spent time in the NHL this past season.
“I’m practicing with the NHL guys living in Stockholm. Kevin Stenlund, Alexander Wennberg and Lukas Vejdemo to name a few. It’s nice to have players to practice with and stay in shape while preparing for a move and the new season”. Lindbom is surrounded by players who bring out the best in him and if he can stay healthy, he may finally be able to show us what the Rangers saw in him back in 2018 when he was selected in the 2nd round.
Author’s Note: As always, I want to thank the player, Olof Lindbom in this case, for sitting down with me and telling me his story and giving me the opportunity to share it with our readers.