Manor 2024 NHL Draft Preview: Forward Cayden Lindstrom, Canada

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As we continue to analyze a handful of players in advance of the 2024 NHL Draft, let’s remember that hockey is different than football and basketball, in the sense this event is not meant to address immediate needs of a franchise. That said, even though organizational necessities often vary, sometimes there are constants which can be addressed.

Sure, every team wants to get more skill (and usually more size). Nobody making major decisions will, logically, turn down a sniper, or a playmaker, or a wizard with a puck on a regular basis. And while some of those prospects may have other disqualifying characteristics that may cause them to ultimately fall, there also may be intangibles that can positively differentiate somebody from another player with similar attributes.

Character — which can lead to culture — is a great place to start.

A team’s culture is something that doesn’t get defined by just one or two people, but some can certainly contribute to it. The attitude of not wanting to back down, play assertively, and supplementing skill with a positively infectious attitude goes a long way. Los Angeles blueliner Mikey Anderson is a great example. A more recent draft pick of this ilk would be Kings prospect Koehn Ziemmer, who has a blend of physicality and skill that resonates on the ice every shift.

While culture-establishing players will always benefit an organization, they don’t always come in and make an immediate impact in the room like Anderson did. Others need to grow into their role, take Adrian Kempe as a perfect example. Now, knowing that players like Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty won’t be around forever, the Kings organization is looking for their next wave of high-character prospects. It’s never too early to plan for the future and start addressing this type of a need, which isn’t specific to any particular position or perceived hole in the lineup.

Cayden Lindstrom

Vitals


Date of Birth: February 3, 2006
Height: 6-feet-4
Weight: 216 lbs
Shoots: Left
Position: Forward

2023-24 Season

Lindstrom has spent the season playing for the WHL’s Medicine Hat Tigers. He has 46 points (27 G, 19 A) in 32 games.

Nondescript Numbers

Looking at his numbers exclusively, the stats he put forward are unremarkable. During his complete rookie season, he was ninth among newcomers with 42 points (19 G, 23 A) in 61 appearances. Even on his own team this season, he was fourth in scoring before getting injured.

Fighting His Way Up

Lindstrom has literally begun taking matters into his own hands this season. After a 6-game start for the 2021-22 season, he went on to play the entirety of the following season with a total of 36 penalty minutes. The intensity has amped up this year, as he’s taken on a bigger leadership role – the native of Chetwynd, British Columbia has two fights to accompany two unrelated 10-minute misconducts. His 66 penalty minutes on the season put him just inside the top-20 of PIM leaders.

Ups and Downs

Lindstrom began the 2023-24 campaign on a high note, earning gold with Team Canada during the Hlinka Gretzky tournament. The season was going to continue with him being suiting up for the CHL’s Top Prospect game in January; however, a hand injury in December caused him to miss out on that opportunity, and he’s still sidelined as of this writing.

Rankings by Independent Scouting Services

Ranked No 5 by Bob McKenzie’s Scouting Poll. “Lindstrom was a third-round pick in the WHL bantam draft and put up some nice rookie numbers last season — 19 goals and 42 points in 61 games. But he has blossomed this year. It’s not just his 27 goals and 66 penalty minutes in 32 games; it’s his size, strength and ability to, at times, physically overwhelm opponents that scouts have noticed.”

Ranked No 9 by Craig Button. “Lindstrom is one of the biggest players in the draft at 6-foot-5, but his game isn’t all about size. He has 18 goals and 33 points in 24 games with the Western Hockey League’s Medicine Hat Tigers this season. As a rookie, he had 19 goals and 42 points in 61 games.
‘I don’t know where you find big, powerful players like that,’ said Button. ‘He’s got a skill set. He’s got a will set. And a physical attributes set.’”

Ranked No. 7 by Future Considerations. A subsequent report included the following, “Lindstrom is a sizeable center whose imposing frame affords him a lot of advantages over his peers at this stage. He just towers over opponents at this level with his size. He plays a solid two-way game and there’s a calmness in his approach. Lindstrom uses his frame well to buy time for himself in the offensive zone as he evaluates the options his teammates present.”

See For Yourself

Here is a video of Cayden Lindstrom playing against the Calgary Hitmen:

Final Comments

At face value, the numbers Lindstrom puts up on the ice don’t perfectly coincide with rankings from the individual scouting services. Without watching him play, there’s credence to the questions of ‘What gives? What’s the hype about?’ After all, Quinton Byfield had 82 points in 45 games in his Draft year, led his team in scoring, went to the World Juniors, and was selected second overall. This prospect is fourth in scoring on his own team, didn’t play in the WJC, and is just a shade over 1.5 points-per-game. How can Lindstrom be ranked in the top-10 so confidently? Before answering that question, let’s dive a layer deeper and discuss a few strengths and weaknesses; some of which have been alluded to already.

Before the puck even drops, his size stands out right away. Lindstrom is listed at 6-foot-4 and well over 200 lbs. That’s very big for someone who just turned 18 years old. Once the game starts, this massive forward can — and will — throw his weight around. It won’t be a dirty hit, nor will it be one that sends players onto their backsides, but the instincts to engage in board battles will cause defenders to look over their shoulder. This trait should scale very well as he grows professionally – he doesn’t try to “get by” via simply overpowering opponents, because in the NHL, that won’t be a reliable way to succeed. It’s the imposition of will and battling for the puck that immediately makes him a projectable player, even if the skills don’t grow at the same linear rate.

Speaking of skillsets, though, there’s little flash but plenty of substance to Lindstrom’s game. Puck handling consists of trying to protect the puck, instead of overdoing it with dekes. While he’s finds teammates with straight, simple passes, it will be important to build more zip to them as he progresses into higher levels. He’s not afraid to shoot, although he could stand to improve his arsenal a tad, as well. At times, he would have been better off trying to take a backhand shot rather than switching to his forehand for a wrist shot; or he’ll even turn around, buy time, and try to feed a teammate by passing on the forehand. The lack of a backhand shot isn’t a disqualifier, it will just make him that much more of a danger in front of the net when the goalie can’t anticipate the source of the shot.

Lindstrom’s skating has more good qualities than bad. Balance and average speed are good. The biggest point of improvement would be acceleration, as it takes several strides to reach top speed. This isn’t uncommon for a player of his size at his age.

Intelligence and hockey sense often get thrown about without a good description or definition. In Lindstrom’s case, he reads developing plays and readies himself for the best course of action – whether it’s checking a threatening player, planning a give-and-go, or lowering his shoulder to drive the net. He doesn’t force plays when he gets in trouble, which is a good indicator of maturity. As the game becomes faster, though, that decision-making should grow along with it.

For the Kings, they already grabbed a gritty winger in Ziemmer last summer. Lindstrom would continue to add skill and toughness for an organization trying to solidify and re-establish its culture. The biggest question is if this prospect would be available by the time Los Angeles picks, which is presumed to be late in the first round. He seems to be a consensus top-10 prospect, but we’ve seen plenty of players fall before.

Chat with David: You can find him on Twitter @Davidenkness to talk more hockey.




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