This is the second of four draft profiles that will be done leading up to the draft. You can find the first profile on Alexander Pelevin here.
The WHL is chock full of exciting defensive prospects this year. The top three are Kevin Korchinski, Denton Mateychuk and Owen Pickering, and Mats Lindgren comes in at number four. He’s an offensive leaning defenseman that was a key part of the Kamloops Blazers both on the power play and at even strength this season. Lindgren’s father, also named Mats Lindgren, appeared in 387 NHL games over the course of his career, so the younger Lindgren knows what it takes to make it to the NHL.
Since I scout the WHL for another site, I’m pretty familiar with Lindgren. You could even say that I’ve done my homework. This profile will look at games from throughout the season, including playoff games and the CHL Top Prospects Game. And while I have already profiled Lindgren for Smaht Scouting, this profile won’t just be copied and pasted. It’ll obviously have a more Hurricanes-leaning tone since that’s what you’re all here for.
Lindgren’s effortless skating and puck skills stand out as soon as he takes control of the puck. Skating feels natural to Lindgren, and he makes it look easy. It’s a smooth, clean stride with nothing holding him back in terms of speed, acceleration or edge work. At times, it may look as if Lindgren isn’t trying out there, but it’s due to the fact that his skating is so effortless that he’s able to move without any real difficulty. For the Hurricanes fans that have been around for a while, you may remember fans calling Joni Pitkanen “lazy,” when in reality, Pitkanen was such a natural skater that he was able to move around effortlessly.
Lindgren is able to navigate with the puck in transition and in the offensive zone, making him a dangerous presence any time he touches the puck. Lindgren’s play with the puck is on the same level as Korchinski and Mateychuk’s but there’s a certain calmness that he possesses that the other two do not. He’s hard to knock off of the puck and can dart between defenders and utilize the space that he creates to make a pass when he starts to feel pressure. Lindgren is what I’d call a “slippery” skater. He’ll make a move that will get him out of coverage and into an open area where he can start to go to work offensively.
Here’s a clip that highlights Lindgren’s skating. Smooth like butter.
I feel that Lindgren may not look fast, but that his stride is so smooth that he makes skating look effortless pic.twitter.com/JmVgZfqpse— Matthew Somma (@Mattsomma12) January 12, 2022
Lindgren is borderline elite in the offensive zone when it comes to moving the puck and making passes. He’s such a smart player and is able to completely control every facet of the game in the offensive zone. He comfortably ran a power play and was able to generate a lot of offense. Lindgren may not always be the primary setup guy, but he’s always going to make a strong pass to a player in the offensive zone. 25 of his 44 points this season were primary points, and 28 of his 44 points were at even strength. This is a player that is able to make an impact both at even strength and on the power play, which is encouraging. A lot of the time, if a player struggles at even strength in junior, they’re not going to be able to cut it in the NHL. Lindgren has shown that he’s just as effective, if not more effective, at even strength.
Lindgren’s defensive game has been spotty for me. I believe that his skating gives him the ability to close gaps quickly, but he lacks strength and can lose battles along the boards. I’ve seen him make a lot of strong plays with his stick, but he’ll need to add about 10-15 pounds and start to throw his weight around in order to be a great defensive player. He did see time on the penalty kill this year and has shown that he can be trusted with these minutes, however.
Now, let’s talk about some areas in Lindgren’s game that concern me. I don’t see top pairing upside in his game, but I do see a player that will likely play in the NHL. The question that I have is: will Lindgren be a good enough defender to play in a top-four role? Right now, he’s average defensively and his skills offensively likely put his ceiling as a top four defenseman capable of running the second power play. This is why I have him ranked towards the end of the second round at this point in time. I love his offensive game, but I admit that there’s not a true dynamic trait that could push him up onto a team’s top pair.
Secondly, Lindgren can occasionally make some brutal passes out of his own end. Normally, he is able to initiate a breakout via an outlet pass or by carrying the puck out himself. Occasionally, he’ll have a lapse in judgment and have games where he’s turning the puck over on a regular basis. Now, I think that Lindgren improved over the course of this season and his comfort level in his own end also improved, but those concerns will still remain unless I see otherwise. Really, the biggest question that I have with Lindgren is his upside. Any other critique of his game would be a little too nit picky and nothing that couldn’t be fixed by working with an NHL development team.
I see Lindgren as a top-four defenseman capable of running a power play. His point production likely caps at 40 points, which is a solid number from a defender. Most of his points will come from assists and he’ll provide some steady defending along the way. Lindgren often gets passed over in discussions about the top draft eligible defenders in the WHL this year. Korchinski and Mateychuk dominate much of the conversation, and Owen Pickering has his fans out there that consider him a first round pick. Lindgren is still a solid prospect and the right team could make him a top four defenseman.
Now, here’s the question. Would Lindgren be a fit for the Hurricanes? My gut tells me yes. Their only other offensive left-handed defenseman is Dom Fensore, who will have to be signed by Aug. 15, 2023. By the time Lindgren is ready for the jump to the pros, Fensore will already have one pro season under his belt and the Hurricanes will have an idea of what his future is. That means that Lindgren could be poised to rise up the depth charts. He plays the type of game that the Hurricanes do and they’re a team that could get the absolute most out of him from a developmental standpoint.
Lindgren is a polarizing player in this draft class. Some people love him and others don’t like him at all. I’m somewhere in the middle. The highest I’ve seen someone rank Lindgren is 34th overall and the lowest I’ve seen him is 75th. In the Smaht Scouting rankings, I ranked him 63rd. There’s a good chance that he’ll be available when the Hurricanes make their selection at the end of the second round, but there’s also a slim possibility that he’s available when they pick with Chicago’s pick in the early third. It’ll be interesting to follow where Lindgren goes, because at that point in the draft, not many players have the same upside that he does.
Next week, our draft profile series will continue with a draft mailbag piece as well as another profile. During the week of the draft, expect three different posts in the days leading up to the draft.