When talking about a team’s stockpiled prospect pool, sometimes we lose sight of the players that aren’t close by, or drafted with the expectation of being special. Jesper Lindgren is a good example of this; he plays an incredibly in-demand position (right-handed defence), but because he was a mid-round pick and because he’s building himself up across the Atlantic, we don’t talk very much about him.

Should we, though? You can certainly make the case.

Age 20 (May 19th, 1997) Birthplace Umea, Sweden
Pos Defence (RH) Drafted 2015 (Rd 4, Pick 95)
Vitals 6’0, 161lbs Acquired Via Draft

The fact that Lindgren’s development is happening from a far-away distance almost makes you forget that he was a part of that crazy stockpile that was the 2015 draft, but he sits firmly in middle round as their sixth pick of nine. By all accounts, his selection made sense; he finished second in points by a defenceman on MODO Hockey’s SuperElit junior team, trailing only Lucas Ekestahl Johnsson, an undrafted player that was a year and a half older than him.

That year, Lindgren finished first in the league in points by an Under 18 defenceman by a considerable margin; his 33 were 9 ahead of the next closest player, and his points-per-game edge was quite similar, scoring 0.2 more per game than Alexander Andersson. As a reward for his efforts, Lindgren was selected represent Sweden at the U18 World Juniors and got a brief SHL call-up, which turned into half of a season in his Draft+1 and a full-time spot on the team after their demotion to Allsvenskan last year.

 AGE  SEASON TEAM LEAGUE GP G A TP NHLe PIM +/-
15  2012-13  IF Björklöven J18  J18 Elit 19 0 13 13 9 4 11
15  IF Björklöven J18  J18 Allsvenskan 16 1 2 3 2.5 4 -8
16  2013-14  MODO Hockey J18  J18 Elit 20 5 18 23 15.1 22 39
16  MODO Hockey J18  J18 Allsvenskan 15 2 7 9 7.9 12 14
17  2014-15  MODO Hockey J20  SuperElit 39 6 27 33 17.3 39 11
17  MODO Hockey  SHL 4 0 1 1 13.7 0 0
18  2015-16  MODO Hockey J20  SuperElit 20 4 10 14 14.3 22 3
18  MODO Hockey  SHL 26 2 1 3 6.3 4 -8
18  IF Björklöven  Allsvenskan 4 0 2 2 18.9 0 1
19  2016-17  MODO Hockey J20  SuperElit 7 1 9 10 23.4 6 9
19  MODO Hockey  Allsvenskan 50 3 21 24 18.1 12 -5

To give some context on how good of a season Lindgren had for his age last year, 24 points would place him in 7th among U20 defencemen in the league. Not last year, he led in that department by nearly a third; in any year of the league’s existence. While there are a few guys that never made it over in his production range at that age, you also find guys like Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Mattias Ekholm, and Anton Stralman. Calle Rosen, who the Leafs signed this summer, scored 14 points in 52 games at the same age in the same league.

Needless to say, Lindgren has done pretty well for himself to start his career.

pGPSn pGPSs Exp. Success % Exp. P/82 Exp. Value
6 (29/31) 1 (T28/31) 32.9% (9/31) 21.7 (24/31) 7.1 (13/31)

The above numbers are products of the Prospect Graduation Probabilities System (pGPS), created by Canucks Army to project a prospect’s odds of becoming an NHL regular. For a run-down on what each of these stats mean, head back to the introduction.

Lindgren, like Pierre Engvall in the post before him, has had some of his favour taken away from him thanks to the success of his team. MODO Hockey has been a bit of a shell of itself in the past several years; in fact, this was a huge motivating factor in bringing William Nylander over to the AHL mid-way through his Draft+1 year. Lindgren has been excellent for them despite this, but the fact that they’ve been playing in second-tier Allsvenskan has lowered the sample of players to compare himself to.

Lindgren isn’t an overly big or imposing defenceman, but what he lacks in size and brutes he makes up for in his ability to move the puck. He’s a quick skater, he makes smart passes, and when he does find himself playing along the boards, he doesn’t back down easily.

The Upcoming Year

Lindgren has a very different challenge ahead of him this year, heading to Liiga rather than sticking with MODO. As mentioned above, they’ve fallen out of favour as a model organization in recent times, and since they’re still hanging out in Allsvenskan, pivoting to Finland’s top league will likely be a bigger challenge; especially when you consider that he’ll have to get used to different opponents and a different style of play.

With that in mind, he probably earns himself a few months of leeway to start the year, both in terms of adjustment and earning the trust of his staff, but I’m very curious as to where he ends up towards the end of it. As it stands, he has just one point in his first 9 games, but HPK currently only had three players with more than 3 points and nobody above 5, so that could be a bit of a team issue as well.

Long-Term Outlook

Toronto has two years to decide whether or not they like what they see in Lindgren, and since the “consequence” of leaving him be is racking up years of pro-tier development without committing to a contract, I suspect that they’ll take them. This could change, of course, if he lights up Liiga this year and is okay with taking a year with the Marlies.

For now, he’s a player showing a lot of promise in a position that remains perpetually valuable in this league. The Leafs are in no rush to commit until he shows that his play will translate, but as long as he gets there, he’ll find his way into North America if he wants to; be it here or with someone else.

To see the other profiles in this year’s series, please reference the full list.

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