Jesper Lindgren has been eligible for five Top 25 lists since being drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2015, but 2020 is the first time he’s made the list - and just barely at that. Apologies to Mr. Lindgren, but this is more due to the Maple Leafs current young player depth be split into three groups: In the NHL, Nick Robertson, and Filler Content.
Filler Content has some very good players in it, but this isn’t 2016. It’s not chock full of brand name players filling us with hopes and dreams. It’s 2020 and all Maple Leafs fans care about now are those players in the NHL, how the Maple Leafs will do in the playoffs, and how will our hopes and dreams be crushed in said playoffs.
The Toronto Marlies won their Calder Cup at the exact right moment. The Leafs were bad. The Marlies were great. The Raptors hadn’t won their championship yet. All the sports fans had to look forward to was the future, and here was the future!
Now there’s a lot more to care about than a minor league team half the city doesn’t know exists, and that’s where Jesper Lindgren comes in.
Votes - Jesper Lindgren
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Seven out of twelve voters ranked Lindgren in the 20-24 range for this year’s vote. I left him off because I didn’t know much about him, aside from him not being on last year’s list. Both sides of the Yes Vote or No Vote were knowledgeable in the prospects and the Marlies, and he was an easy one to use to fill out the bottom of the list or leave off.
Lindgren has made appearances with the Marlies after his season with HPK in Liiga was over, but 2019-20 was his first full-time season with the Marlies. 31 games played and nine points (1G, 8A) for the right shooting defender made for an okay AHL debut.
Jesper Lindgren Stats
He’s been playing pro hockey since his draft year, spending time in the SHL, Allsvenskan, and Liiga, which should be something to give him an edge on his development, but in terms of being a Leafs prospect it also hid him from view until this year.
Back when he was drafted, Scott Wheeler ranked him 24th and thought he was a bit more deserving of a spot on the list:
A strong puck carrier, Lindgren has an uncanny ability to find teammates cross ice or carry the puck into the offensive zone. And while he won’t blind you with speed, he manages the puck so efficiently that the end result is an offensive zone entry regardless.
Active as a defender, Lindgren doesn’t let his slender frame (6-0, 161 Ibs) impact a physical, up-tempo defensive spirit, pressuring forwards.
With the puck, he’s content to turn back and wait for the play to develop, something that’s uncommon in young defenders.
When he makes the transition to North America, his heads-up pacing and control of the game will translate well on the smaller ice surface.
Other voters this year gave their thoughts on Lindgren:
Katya: I’m a bit of an anomaly in that I didn’t rank Lindgren. And I did rank Joey Duszak, who is about the same age, size and position. My story that I’m sticking with is that I’ll give Duszak a little slack for having spent so long in the NCAA while Lindgren has been playing pro hockey for years. He was okay on the Marlies. And maybe it’s not fair to put a prospect like him on the ice with Sandin and Liljegren. He’s not going to be favoured by the comparison, but I just don’t think there’s enough there.
Brigstew: Pretty much all of the last five rankings for me were guys who are: a) Marlies (or borderline Marlies/Growlers), b) longshots to make the NHL, and c) defensemen. Lindgren is in that group for me. He’s performed nicely in the SHL, he’s had a limited run with the Marlies I think due to injury and a backlog of same-y level young defensemen all competing for bottom pairing spots in the AHL. I still have some faint hopes for Lindgren, but he needs to take a big leap forward this year since he’s the oldest of the bunch.
Kevin: Lindgren was one of the least noticeable players on the Marlies last year. However, that’s not always a bad thing for a defenceman, and he just turned 23. He’s never really amazed me, but he’s a fine defender who shoots right, and isn’t overly small. With only 39 AHL games under his belt, he needs to take another step forward next year, and emerge as a top-pairing option at the AHL level. I don’t see a ton of upside with him, but he could probably be a fine emergency call-up within the next year or two, and if he continues to improve defensively, he’s got a decent shot at the NHL because of his handedness. He’s behind players like Timothy Liljegren, Martin Marincin, and Kevin Gravel at the moment, so he’s got his work cut out for him next year.
Hardev: I liked Lindgren as a second pair AHL defenseman for the Marlies. He mostly played with Teemu Kivihalme and fellow rookie Kristians Rubins, which allowed him to both play the support player and puck carrier on second and third pairs. Kevin is right in that as a result of his development curve, he should hopefully be making strides onto the first pair quickly and asserting himself there. I currently have him top among the RD on the Marlies (ignoring Liljegren) and he’ll probably get the first crack at the new role. I like him with Kivihalme; they both move really well and support each other on the ice in both zones. Lindgren likes to shoot, but I don’t think he had the confidence last year to really show it more than in the odd flashes. He was also second in on-ice goal differential among Marlies defencemen this year (54.3%) according to Pick224.com.