Future Ranger: Oscar Lindberg
When Oscar Lindberg announced he was coming to America, Ranger fans were salivating with high hopes for the 23 year old Swede. After a dominating showing at the Traverse City Prospects Tournament (five goals and two assists in four games), the hype was at an all time high. People even went as far to predict that he would make the team out of training camp. Of course that did not happen as Lindberg was sent to Hartford, and just like that, the hype came to an end. He had many ups and downs during the first part of the season, fans grew tired of Lindberg, quickly writing him off and comparing him to former players in the Rangers organization that never made it. Whether it was fair or not, Lindberg quickly found his way to the dreaded “he’s a bust” category.
Early Season Struggles
Opening night at the XL Center was buzzing as Wolf Pack fans were initially excited with the idea of Lindberg centering former first round picks Chris Kreider and Danny Kristo, dubbing them, the “line of the future”. That buzz did not last long as Kreider was called up to the NHL, and Lindberg was bounced around the line up. It seemed Lindberg was playing with a different line combination every night, often times going from the top line to the third line in a single nights time.
Many of his line mates where in an out of the line up or bounced around as well. Jesper Fast was injured; Danny Kristo was paired with a returning JT Miller and Marek Hrivik played himself out of the line up. Simply put, Lindberg had no chance to gain chemistry with anyone. The lack of cohesion, combined with the fact that he was still learning the North American style, and adjusting to the smaller ice surface lead to a see-saw first half of the season. Despite putting up seven points (2 goals, 5 assists) in his first 10 games, he struggled and had only eight points (5 goals, 3 assists) over his next 21 games. While, a lot of people would be happy with 15 points (7 goals, 8 assists) over their first 31 games, most were not, and Lindberg was written off again.
Second Half Greatness
Little by little, you could see Lindberg making plays he wasn’t making before, it was beginning to click. He was starting to stand out in games more often then not. Suddenly, you could see the speed of the game slowing down and the pace of his play picking up. Concerns over the ice size and North American style were starting to be alleviated. The constant juggling of line-mates was now replaced with every day line mates in Michael Haley and Danny Kristo. The line as a whole brings a combination of speed, size, talent and toughness. The presence of a strong fore check paired with a complete two way game is evident, and the results are noticeable.
In 12 January games, Lindberg put up five goals and eight assists, good enough for 13 points which led the team that month. In those 12 games, Lindberg matched his season total for assists, and had two less goals then what he accomplished in his first 31 games of the season. In February his strong play has continued, and Lindberg is showing that the previous 12 games were not a fluke. Through seven games this month, Lindberg has five points (1 goal, 4 assists) and often times stands out as one of the best players on the ice.
What to Expect
When Oscar Lindberg is on and playing his game, you will see a very smart two way center who demonstrates a great work ethic, and good face off skills. Unlike many offensive minded forwards, the one thing that separates Lindberg from others is his ability and willingness to take care of his own zone defensively. Offensively, Lindberg has shown very good play making ability, with excellent vision, slick hands and crisp tape to tape passes. While he is not a natural goal scorer, he has a cannon of a shot, that when he gets it off clean, has good potential for going in.
The biggest knock on Lindberg is that he is not overly physical. While he uses his body, and gets involved in the fore check, you will not see him lining anyone up for a big hit. As of now, Lindberg is just becoming comfortable with the changes to his game, and confident enough to try those changes game situations. Although he had his ups and downs in the early part of the season, those struggles should only make him a better and more complete player. At 23 years of age, the future looks bright enough to shoot down those critics who were quick to write him a off as a bust.