Tobias Lindberg ranks 20th on the list this year. He was 11th last year over at Silver Seven Sens, meaning the trade that brought him to Toronto might be a better opportunity but is definitely a tougher one.
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Everyone had him in the bottom half of the draw, and while there is a little bit of variance, it is a fairly close consensus for the lower rankings where there is generally a lot of range in votes. Only one person had him unranked.
Lindberg was acquired as part of the Dion Phaneuf trade, and he spent the post-trade-deadline period on the Marlies, broken up by a six-game call-up to the Leafs before he went back to the AHL for the playoffs.
Who is he?
He is a somewhat stereotypical Swedish winger—tall and built and often described as not a physical player. It is good to keep in mind he is sometimes confirming a bias when he is described that way, so we should judge for ourselves.
He is a left-shooter who can play either side, he is just 21 this summer, and he's listed at 6'2" and 216 lbs.
He played junior hockey in the Djurgården system in Stockholm, and he was good, scoring well as a teenager, but the main club had been relegated into the Allsvenskan at about the time he might think of getting a promotion out of junior, and they were more interested in earning their way back to the SHL than they were in developing a teenage prospect.
Drafted by the Ottawa Senators in 2013, they decided he should play in the OHL, and he had one very piping hot year for the Oshawa Generals in 2014-2015, winning the Memorial Cup and scoring at the most torrid pace he had ever managed since he was 15.
He put up those number with some very high-end teammates (Michael Dal Colle, Cole Cassels and Mitchell Vande Somple rounded out the top four in scoring along with Lindberg). Leafs assistant coach D.J. Smith was behind the bench.
And then it all sort of fizzled. He had five goals and 17 assists in 34 games for Binghamton in an injury-plagued season before the trade. He managed six goals and six assists for the Marlies in 22 games after the trade.
On the Binghamton Senators, he was seventh in points per game, and that's not a stacked with talent team. On the Marlies, he was around 15th, depending on what number of games played you use as a cut-off, and he couldn't even outscore Nikita Soshnikov, who played mostly fourth line minutes.
He had two assists in six games with the Leafs before he got familiar with the pressbox at Ricoh, as he appeared in only three games for the Marlies in the playoffs and scored no points.
Sheldon Keefe seemed to be setting him up to compete with Kasperi Kapanen for ice time early on in the playoffs, and Kapanen won that battle handily. Lindberg also couldn't knock currently-unsigned NHL UFA Ben Smith out of the playoff lineup.
Is he a bust?
No, not at all. But that was not the progression to the AHL or to the high-flying Marlies he likely wanted to experience.
Christopher Hatzitolios, who covered the Marlies for PPP this year, has this take on Lindberg:
"Tobias Lindberg is one of my personal favourites, arguably one of my favourite interviews, but that's not what we're discussing!
I rated Lindberg as high as I did because in my opinion he is someone that coaches just love to have on their team, his complete 200 foot game is something that coaches love in a player.
Lindberg is someone that can play in all situations as we saw while he was playing in Oshawa in his junior days, he was a key cog in Oshawa's OHL playoff & memorial cup success due to being able to produce & create offensively as well as shutting down the likes of McDavid & co.
As I was at more & more Marlies games after the Dion Phaneuf trade I started to notice Lindberg more often, it was predominantly for his steady play without the puck. He's only 21 years old but he's almost always in good position, always has an active stick and back checks hard.
His offensive game has been steady, he has a heavy and accurate shot & good vision to complement his playmaking ability. He makes sure to make himself available for a pass through his ability to read the play.
I see a lot of positives in Tobias Lindberg. In my opinion he is one underrated player to keep your eye on for the 2016-17 season as he is bound to get a bigger role with some players graduating from the Marlies to the Maple Leafs.
His scoring in the OHL is an anomaly, and no one should be expecting him to replicate that. He is much more of a two-way or defensive forward than he is a non-stop offensive threat. He is not as light on physical play by my eye-test as some would have you believe, and his six games in the NHL—albeit at the dead end of the season—were decent performances.
He can move at NHL speed. It seems like he can think at that speed, but his game is more in the Zach Hyman school than it is like Kapanen's.
However, his playoff performance with the Marlies was not good. I wasn't surprised when he got benched, and it is not the first time he has run afoul of coaching expectations. From Silver Seven Sens writer Jeff Ulmer, in a post-trade story:
Lindberg was benched several times with a poor attitude in the beginning, and his forechecking needed a ton of work. Attitude problems in the locker-room were reminiscent of Andre Petersson's days, except for Lindberg, he was smarter then Petersson and didn't complain to the media about it. Recently he looked to show some maturity.
The path from junior hockey to the pros is never easy, and if the night and day of Colin Greening's play before and after the trade that brought him and Lindberg to Toronto taught us anything, it was that there was something going on on that Binghamton team that went far beyond mere lack of talent depth.
Coach Luke Richardson left the organization of his own volition at the end of the year and has not signed on anywhere else so far this summer.
Fulemin said it well:
What strikes me most about Lindberg is that of all the next-gen wingers (Kapanen, Leipsic, Brown, Leivo, Soshnikov, Hyman, Johnson, Timashov, Bracco), most of them (besides Leivo and Hyman) are not big, and Lindberg is definitely the biggest. Especially if he can continue to develop his two-way game, he might have a real shot to move up in the Leafs' organization as a guy who can add size and power to a line while also keeping up on offence, and that's a real edge in the young-forward battle royale that's playing out across the rankings.
Lindberg has the chance to challenge for top line minutes on the Marlies this year. He also has a lot of young, fast, higher-scoring teammates nipping at his heels. He should also pause for a second to see Carl Grundström and Yegor Korshkov coming up on him fast. They've had professional opportunities at a younger age and done more with them, and Korshkov will likely best him in heft in a few years.
I ranked Lindberg in a group with Johnson, Leipsic and Leivo but behind the NHL-experienced Kerby Rychel. I'm not going to be too surprised if Rychel ends up the closest to the NHL out of that group. But Lindberg has the tools to advance, he just needs to use them.