When the Toronto Maple Leafs made a blockbuster trade to send Dion Phaneuf to the Ottawa Senators in February 2016, the first reaction of every observer was that it was a joint salary cap dump from two different angles; Toronto’s in the long term, Ottawa’s in the short. But each side needed to get something useful out of the move, and with the Sens getting a defenceman that was still serviceable and marketable, they had to send over a prospect of note to sweeten the deal.
That prospect was Tobias Lindberg, and for a while, fans were very, very excited for him. That excitement has tapered over the past few seasons. But has he completely fallen out of the picture yet?
|Age||22 (July 22, 1995)||Birthplace||Stockholm, Sweden|
|Pos||Forward (LH)||Drafted||2013 (Rd 4, Pick 102)|
|Vitals||6’2, 216lbs||Acquired||Via Trade (2016)|
Lindberg’s fame as a prospect comes from his single year of Major Junior. Performing well in Sweden’s junior ranks but unable to find a spot on Djurgårdens’ men’s team in their two years of pushing for re-promotion into the SHL, Lindberg headed to the Oshawa Generals in 2014/15, contributing over a point per game in the regular season and exceptional two-way play in two shocking runs to win the OHL Championship and Memorial Cup.
This, combined with a very solid, 22 point in 34 game start to his AHL career, put him on a lot of people’s radars, including those at the Maple Leafs.
|15||2010-11||SDE HF U16||U16 Div.1||53||35||59||94||37|
|16||2011-12||Djurgårdens IF J18||J18 Elit||22||13||12||25||10||14.9||23|
|16||Djurgårdens IF J18||J18 Allsvenskan||17||6||8||14||32||10.8||8|
|17||2012-13||Djurgårdens IF J20||SuperElit||43||9||13||22||30||10.5||-2|
|18||2013-14||Djurgårdens IF J20||SuperElit||38||7||15||22||93||11.9||-6|
|20||Toronto Maple Leafs||NHL||6||0||2||2||4||27.3||0|
Since then, Lindberg’s time in the organization has been a little bit of a mixed bag. He hasn’t been a complete slouch in production, notching 28 points in 66 games, but that pace definitely trails his start with Binghamton and many of his own teammates in the same timeframe. With that said, while he wasn’t a particularly big-time producer this year, he also spent most of the season playing bottom-six minutes and didn’t get a ton of powerplay time. It’s also worth noting that he missed significant chunks of the season thanks to an upper-body injury.
|pGPSn||pGPSs||Exp. Success %||Exp. P/82||Exp. Value|
|218 (10/31)||33 (7/31)||14.5% (20/31)||21.9 (23/31)||3.2 (20/31)|
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.
The underlying projection data seems to suggest that players of his mould (wingers who don’t produce a ton but have some size to them) get their chances to play in the NHL, just as Lindberg already received in 2015/16. With that said, they tend to be interchangeable, and as such, don’t have high odds of sticking around long term. Whether that’s Lindberg’s fate is tough to say, but pGPS doesn’t have the faith in him that his biggest supporters do.
Lindberg is loved by scout-types because of his reliable play style. He has size to him while not quite being a giant, he’s not afraid to use his physical strength to gain or protect the puck, and is very positionally smart. Improving his skating ability would likely be the most impactful thing he could do to help his game out at this point; with his ability to read the play and do creative things like this with the puck:
Really nice rush by Tobias Lindberg to put the Marlies up 1-0 in just the second minute of their game against Rochester: pic.twitter.com/c8PrbM2A59
— Jeff Veillette (@JeffVeillette) March 21, 2017
…getting to it quicker would make a world of difference.
The Upcoming Year
Lindberg is in a real tough spot for this year. Toronto’s depth chart along the wings is still strong at even the AHL level, with many players expected to play on that roster that could walk onto other NHL rosters or at least be the first call-up. Having a full offseason to recover from his injuries last year likely affords him better odds than he had upon returning last year, but he may still struggle to get a solid share of minutes. He’s one of those players that makes you wonder if there’s a downfall to over-loading your minor league teams on an individual development scale.
I wouldn’t be shocked to see Lindberg once again be a trade chip down the line. He’s a prospect with tools that the traditional crowd loves, and while his numbers aren’t particularly inspiring, they’re still fairly decent for someone with two years of North American Pro under their belt in the role that he’s played. The Leafs likely have too many other options to ever give him a serious shot, though; even if he was willing to play on either wing, his only real potential spot to slide into is on the wings of the fourth line and based on how other players have been doing, it’s unlikely he’ll be the top candidate there for a few years.
You don’t groom a player for several years to maybe play on your fourth line, so his future is likely elsewhere.
To see the other profiles in this year’s series, please reference the full list.
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