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Checking in on the Kids: Jesper Lindgren

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It's time to check in on another 2015 Leafs draft pick! My post on Mitch Marner starts with a bit of an introduction to my goals for these posts, as well as an explanation of my qualifications (spoiler alert: I don't have any). If you haven't already done so, give that article a read (if you are really opposed to reading about Mitch Marner for some reason, just read the first four paragraphs) and then head back here.

Today we'll take a look at the Leafs' only 4th-round pick from the 2015 draft, Swedish defenceman Jesper Lindgren. Unlike every other player the Leafs selected in 2015, Lindgren has not done me the courtesy of spending this season in the CHL, instead staying in Sweden where he has split his time between the SHL (Sweden's top pro league) and SuperElit (the top junior league), with a 4-game stint in Allsvenskan (the second-tier pro league) thrown in for good measure.

Lindgren didn't quite make PPP's Top 25 Under 25 list, but Scott Wheeler made a compelling argument for his inclusion. If you've been following his season at all you'll know that Lindgren hasn't exactly been tearing up the SHL, with only 3 points on the season so far.

That's not a very encouraging scoring rate for a guy described as "offensively gifted," but is it safe to say that Lindgren is a bust (insofar as a 4th-round pick can be a bust)? Let's find out!

Jesper Lindgren vs History!

Normally I start this section by looking at other draft+1 players in the same league with similar production rates from the previous six seasons. In this case, though, Lindgren's point total in the SHL is so low as to be pretty meaningless. So instead, let's take a look at the full list of under-19 defencemen to play at least 20 games in an SHL season with a scoring rate of at least 0.1 P/GP from the previous six seasons:

Name

Season

GP

G

A

P

P/GP

Draft +

Tim Heed

2009

27

1

9

10

0.37

1

Adam Larsson

2009

49

4

13

17

0.35

-1

Adam Almqvist

2009

28

2

6

8

0.29

1

Tim Erixon

2009

45

7

6

13

0.29

1

Sebastian Aho

2013

21

1

4

5

0.24

0

Peter Andersson

2009

21

1

4

5

0.24

1

Adam Larsson

2010

37

1

8

9

0.24

0

Sebastian Aho

2014

41

1

8

9

0.22

1

Ludwig Byström

2012

30

3

3

6

0.2

1

John Klingberg

2010

26

0

5

5

0.19

1

Oliver Kylington

2013

32

2

4

6

0.19

-1

Patrick Nemeth

2010

38

1

6

7

0.18

1

Lawrence Pilut

2013

22

0

4

4

0.18

0

Christian Djoos

2012

47

2

6

8

0.17

1

Jonas Brodin

2011

49

0

8

8

0.16

1

Gustav Forsling

2014

38

3

3

6

0.16

1

Albin Runesson

2014

25

0

4

4

0.16

1

Jacob Larsson

2014

20

1

2

3

0.15

0

Simon Bertilsson

2009

32

1

3

4

0.13

1

Robert Hägg

2013

50

1

5

6

0.12

1

Jesper Lindgren

2015

25

2

1

3

0.12

1

Jonas Brodin

2010

42

0

4

4

0.1

0

Andreas Englund

2014

49

2

3

5

0.1

1

Stats in this section are from eliteprospects.com

Only nineteen different u19 players over six seasons managed to stick in the SHL for 20 games or more (Larsson, Brodin, and Aho did it twice). Most of those players didn't score much, either. So the fact that Lindgren has already passed the 20-game mark is encouraging, and his lack of scoring is not so unusual for a player his age.

It bears mentioning that Lindgren's SHL team is MODO, who are very bad this year, so the relative weakness of the roster may have helped him to play more games. Also, SHL.se's game logs show him with 0:00 of time on ice in three of his games this season, indicating that he dressed for those games but did not play. I included them here because other players on the list may also have had 0-minute games, and I can't bring myself to dig through all their game logs to find out.

After a series of 9 games in which he averaged about 5.5 minutes of ice time per game (including the three 0-minute games), Lindgren went to the Allsvenskan league for 4 games, in which he averaged about 21.25 minutes of ice time per game and tallied 2 power play assists. He then spent 11 games with MODO's affiliate in the SuperElit league, where he scored at a point-per-game pace. Here's how that stacks up against some other draft+1 defencemen from the previous six seasons (2009-10 through 2014-15) with at least 10 games played:

Name

Season

GP

G

A

P

P/GP

Draft Pos.

Adam Almqvist

2009

15

5

29

34

2.27

7 (210)

John Klingberg

2010

13

3

14

17

1.31

5 (131)

Robin Press

2013

10

6

7

13

1.3

7 (211)

Anton Öhman

2014

35

15

28

43

1.23


Calle Andersson

2012

22

11

16

27

1.23

4 (119)

Marcus Fagerudd

2011

41

16

34

50

1.22


Tim Heed

2009

32

8

29

37

1.16

5 (132)

Lucas Ekeståhl Jonsson

2014

41

6

38

44

1.07


Niklas Hansson

2013

12

4

8

12

1

3 (68)

Jesper Lindgren

2015

11

2

9

11

1

4 (95)

Petter Hansson

2014

38

15

19

34

0.89

7 (202)

Philip Kemi

2009

41

12

24

36

0.88


Tobias Björklund

2013

45

10

29

39

0.87


Marcus Bohman

2012

33

9

19

28

0.85


Kevin Ekman Larsson

2013

11

1

8

9

0.82


Alexander Nilsson Lindelöf

2014

44

11

24

35

0.8


Lindgren's time in SuperElit compares respectably to the best players from the previous six seasons. Interestingly, only one player on the list (Niklas Hansson) was selected in a higher position than Lindgren in the NHL draft, and eight of the players on the list were not drafted at all.

Unless you follow Swedish hockey, you might not recognize most of the names on that list. That's because only one of them (John Klingberg) has ever played an NHL game. Adam Almqvist came close, but couldn't crack a crowded Red Wings roster and went back to Europe after two seasons in the AHL.

So is Lindgren doomed to never make the NHL because he spent some of his draft+1 season in SuperElit? Not necessarily. It's important to remember that defencemen tend to take a while to develop, so the fact that most of those guys haven't made the NHL yet doesn't mean they never will. Plus, Lindgren's birthday is May 19, so he's on the younger end of his draft class.

Instead of looking at a bunch of prospects, let's look at some Swedish defencemen who are currently playing in the NHL and how they spent their draft+1 seasons:


SHL

Allsvenskan

SuperElit


GP

G

A

P

P/GP

+/-

GP

G

A

P

P/GP

+/-

GP

G

A

P

P/GP

+/-

Klas Dahlbeck

55

2

2

4

0.07

N/A

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Jonas Brodin

49

0

8

8

0.16

6

-

-

-

-

-

-

1

0

0

0

0

0

Tim Erixon

45

7

6

13

0.29

-2

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Anton Stralman

45

1

4

5

0.11

-6

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

Oscar Klefbom

33

2

0

2

0.06

-1

-

-

-

-

-

-

15

1

3

4

0.27

-4

John Klingberg

26

0

5

5

0.19

-3

7

1

0

1

0.14

-1

13

3

14

17

1.3

N/A

Jesper Lindgren

25

2

1

3

0.12

-8

4

0

2

2

0.5

1

11

2

9

11

1

6

Niklas Hjalmersson

4

1

2

3

0.75

3

-

-

-

-

-

-

7

3

2

5

0.71

N/A

Oliver Ekmann Larsson

-

-

-

-

-

-

42

9

18

27

0.64

19

-

-

-

-

-

-

Mattias Ekholm

-

-

-

-

-

-

41

1

21

22

0.54

10

-

-

-

-

-

-

Alexander Edler

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

-

33

8

15

23

0.7

N/A

It doesn't look like a defenceman should be expected to play his whole draft+1 season in the SHL if he wants to eventually make it to the NHL. Only four players on this list spent the whole season in the SHL (I'm not counting Brodin's single SuperElit game). Ekmann Larsson and Ekholm spent the whole season in Allsvenskan, which is a step down from the SHL (and where Lindgren put in a solid performance in his limited games). Also, note that no one was scoring at a very high rate in the SHL (except for Hjalmersson, who did so in a very small sample), with Tim Erixon's 0.29 P/GP being the best among players with more than 4 games played.

The player with the most similar draft+1 season to Lindgren is John Klingberg, as he also spent time in all three leagues. His scoring rates were generally a bit better than Lindgren's, but not by a huge margin. Klingberg's offensive prowess didn't start showing up in his numbers until his draft+3 season when he put up 13 points in 25 SHL games, then followed that up with 28 points in 50 games the next season. Klingberg's birthday is in August, so his draft+3 season was played at similar age to many players' draft+2 seasons, but it's still a good example of how hard it can be to judge a defensive prospect by his numbers this early on.

This of course isn't to say that Lindgren is going to be the next John Klingberg, or even the next Oscar Klefbom. But if you've been despairing over Lindgren's lack of points in the SHL, you can cheer up a bit. Low point production seems to be the norm for draft+1 defencemen in the SHL, and his production in the SuperElit league looks pretty good.

Jesper Lindgren vs The Present!

Normally this section mostly consists of me compiling (read: copying over) data from prospect-stats.com, which unfortunately isn't an option for a prospect playing in Europe. So I won't have as in-depth of a comparison to Lindgren's peers as I'd like, but I'll try to give us a bit more insight into how his season is going anyway.

First off, let's compare his time in the SHL this season with the other draft+1 defencemen to play at least 5 games in the SHL this year:

Name

GP

G

A

P

P/GP

Jacob Larsson

35

4

9

13

0.37

Gabriel Carlsson

33

1

5

6

0.18

Lucas Carlsson

23

1

3

4

0.17

Jesper Lindgren

25

2

1

3

0.12

Christian Jaros

13

0

3

3

0.23

Calle Krantz

7

0

0

0

0

Kristoffer Gunnarsson

9

0

0

0

0

Yes, that's really all of them. This is pretty consistent with the list of u19 defencemen in the SHL from the previous six seasons, which suggested that an average of about four u19 defencemen play 20+ games in the SHL each season. Jacob Larsson (selected 27th overall by Anaheim) is the only player here with significant point production; Lindgren is on roughly the same pace as Gabriel Carlsson (selected 29th overall by Columbus), Lucas Carlsson (undrafted), and Christian Jaros (selected 139th overall by Ottawa).

Now let's see how Lindgren's production rate fits in with the top SuperElit defencemen this season (with at least 10 games played):

Name

Draft+

GP

G

A

P

P/GP

William Pethrus

0

25

11

15

26

1.04

Jesper Lindgren

1

11

2

9

11

1

Erik Brännström

-1

33

8

21

29

0.88

David Bernhardt

0

35

6

24

30

0.86

Erik Ullman

1

31

4

21

25

0.81

Gabriel Carlsson

1

10

2

6

8

0.8

Filip Berglund

1

36

16

12

28

0.78

Alexander Nilsson Lindelöf*

2

33

10

15

25

0.76

Marcus Ersson

0

27

6

14

20

0.74

Lucas Carlsson

1

15

1

10

11

0.73

Anton Brandhammar

1

36

4

21

25

0.69

Ludvig Collberg

1

28

8

11

19

0.68

Pontus Näsén

2

34

6

17

23

0.68

Timothy Liljegren

-1

27

6

12

18

0.67

Marcus Hardegård

1

19

2

10

12

0.63

(*Alexander Nilsson Lindelöf is listed as both a defenceman and a forward on Eliteprospects.com)

In his limited SuperElit appearances, Lindgren has put up the second-best scoring rate (or fourth-best if we were to include any player with at least 1 game played, but that would be silly). The player ahead of him is in the 2016 draft class, but Lindgren is only about 4.5 months older than Pethrus, so that isn't so concerning.

This is where I'd normally start looking at things like primary points, even strength points, points per 60 minutes, etc. Unfortunately none of that information is readily available for players in Swedish leagues (as far as I know). Rather than cut this section super short, I went through the individual game logs for each of Lindgren's games this season to get a bit more data about him. It was a pain in the butt, but I did it anyway because I love you. I did not do the same for every other defenceman in the SHL and SuperElit, though, because my love only goes so far.

First, here's a breakdown of Lindgren's scoring in each league with secondary assists counted separately (for the next few tables I'll only be counting the 22 SHL games in which Lindgren actually saw some ice time):

League

GP

G

1A

2A

Prim. P

P

SHL

22

2

0

1

2

3

Allsvenskan

4

0

0

2

0

2

SuperElit

11

2

4

5

6

11

Stats in this section were compiled from SHL.se, hockeyallsvenskan.se, and stats.swehockey.se

Now a similar breakdown, but only looking at power play scoring:

League

GP

PP G

PP 1A

PP 2A

Prim. PP P

PP P

SHL

22

2

0

0

2

2

Allsvenskan

4

0

0

2

0

2

SuperElit

11

1

2

3

3

6

So half of Lindgren's points have been primary points (goals + primary assists), and 62.5% of his total points have happened on the power play.

Point production is nice, but the most important ability for a defenceman is the ability to drive puck possession. Like with the CHL players we've looked at previously, there aren't any Corsi or Fenwick stats (the two most common measures of puck possession) available for the Swedish leagues. Fortunately, all the leagues record which players were on the ice for every goal, so we can use that information to get Lindgren's GF% numbers.

GF% numbers only use even strength goals, and we'll only be using the team stats for the games in which Lindgren played. Ideally we want to see the player's GF% be above 50, and his GF%Rel be a positive number.

League

GP

Team GF

Team GA

Team GF%

GFoI

GAoI

GF%

GF%Rel

SHL

22

41

65

38.68

8

16

33.33

-6.91

Allsvenskan

4

7

7

50

4

4

50

0

SuperElit

11

32

29

52.46

17

10

62.96

18.85

Remember when I said that MODO is a very bad team this year? In the 22 games where Lindgren saw ice time, the team only scored 38.68% of the even strength goals. Sadly, having Lindgren on the ice seemed to make things worse, as they scored just one third of the even strength goals when he was playing, as opposed to 40.24% when he wasn't. Having a negative GF%Rel is not great; having a negative GF%Rel and a GF% below 40 is just plain bad.

In the few Allsvenskan games he played, Lindgren and his team managed to put up perfectly neutral GF% numbers. His team scored the same number of even strength goals as they allowed, regardless of whether Lindgren was on the ice. A total of 14 goals is a very small sample size to work with, though, so we can't conclude much from those numbers.

In the SuperElit league Lindgren's GF% numbers look much better. The team scored 52.46% of the even strength goals in the 11 games Lindgren played, and that number jumped up to 62.96% when Lindgren was on the ice. Lindgren's GF%Rel of 18.85% means that when he wasn't on the ice his team was outscored at even strength (scoring just 44.12% of the goals), but having him on the ice completely turned things in his team's favour. Again, 61 goals is not a terrific sample size (although it's obviously better than 14), but from the data we have it appears that Lindgren is a major difference maker at the SuperElit level.

So based on the data available, Lindgren looks like he's excellent in SuperElit, average in Allsvenskan, and in over his head in the SHL. While I'm sure we'd all prefer to see him kicking ass in the SHL, that doesn't seem to be a realistic expectation for an 18-year-old defenceman drafted in the 4th round.

Jesper Lindgren vs The Future!

It would be interesting to see how Lindgren would do over a full season in the Allsvenskan league, but that would require a full-season loan from MODO which doesn't seem super likely. I think the worst-case scenario is for Lindgren to become MODO's Frank Corrado and losing valuable development time by sitting on the bench or in the press box.

Lindgren seems like he could be a prime candidate to start next season with the Orlando Solar Bears in the ECHL. He may not quite be ready for the SHL or AHL, but he'll almost certainly be too good for SuperElit, so the ECHL could be a good middle ground which would also allow him to adjust to North American hockey. The main issue there is that Lindgren hasn't signed a contract with the Leafs yet, and the Leafs are already using 48 of their 50 contract slots. They'll probably shed several of those contracts before next season, but management may still prefer to give Lindgren another year in Sweden before they make a decision on a contract.

As far as projecting Lindgren's long-term future, we can't do much from the data in this article. We can probably say that he still has a decent chance of becoming an NHL player, but anything beyond that would be guesswork. If you've seen him play this season, please comment and let me know how he looked!

Next time on Checking In With The Kids: We'll finally take a look at the player who inspired me to write this series, Dmytro Timashov of the QMJHL's Shawinigan Cataractes.

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