The Canadiens have had some great success in recent years with the acquisition of NCAA free agents, and the hope is that the undrafted Charlie Lindgren will soon be viewed as one of those success stories. During his three years at St. Cloud State University, he showed consistent improvement, making him a sought after free agent last year.
His senior year was a big part of the NHL interest. Through 40 starts, he put up a ridiculous 30-9-1 record, a 2.13 Goals Against Average, and a .925 Save Percentage. He was lights out for his team, which put him on NHL radars in a big way, and eventually earned him his contract with the Montreal Canadiens.
He played just one game for the Canadiens last year following the end of his NCAA campaign. He started out a little shaky, but once he settled in he ended up turning in an excellent performance. The Canadiens beat the Carolina Hurricanes 4-2, with Lindgren making 26 saves along the way.
Goaltenders are notoriously hard to analyze at younger levels, which is why players like Lindgren often fly under the radar until they get their chance to shine. There are no guarantees, but he looks like he could be a real steal for the Canadiens as a free agent.
Lindgren is another player for whom we could establish no sort of consensus, with a high vote of fifth and a low vote of 28th. Still, only one panelist ranked him outside of the top-25, so there seems to at least be a general agreement that he does belong on our list.
Top 25 Under 25 History
This is Lindgren's first time being eligible on our list, and he has gotten a pretty good ranking. As he was signed late last year, he was not around when we made our selections in 2015.
Lindgren's athleticism is his biggest tool. He moves very well laterally and can get post-to-post in a hurry. He's also quite strong, so he can make those difficult in-tight saves that smaller goaltenders can't. He has a real wow factor to his game, as he can make those highlight reel saves everyone loves.
He covers the lower parts of the net very well thanks to his speed. There are no easy goals on Lindgren, and you really need to put a good shot up high to beat him. Even then, at 6'2" he's a big body, so he can cover the top shelf as well from the butterfly position.
From what I've seen, his puck handling skills are also quite good. They're not quite at Carey Price's level, but he will get a chance to learn from Price, so I could only see him getting better as time goes on.
Like many young goaltenders, the biggest issues in his game are rebound control and positioning. Often times, Lindgren will let out some juicy rebounds that force him to rely rather heavily on his athleticism to get back and make another save. It often looks good, but it isn't ideal.
Positioning was an issue I could see as well, particularly in his one game with the Canadiens. He's so athletic that he can often overcome those positional flaws, but ideally that is something he'll want to improve if he wants to stick in the NHL.
But with the raw talent and athleticism that Lindgren has, these weaknesses should quickly become strengths. After all, he'll get to work with arguably the world's best goaltending coach in Stephane Waite, who has shown quite the ability to groom successful goaltenders in the NHL.
He is expected to start the year in the AHL, which makes perfect sense given the fact that he does not require waivers like Al Montoya or Mike Condon would. That being said, the Canadiens apparently intend to limit Price to 60 games next year, which means they need to keep the competition for those other 22 games wide open.
If Lindgren makes their lives difficult with a great performance at camp this year, I could see him stealing the backup job this year, much like Condon did to Dustin Tokarski last year. He has the tools, it is simply a question of whether he can put together the type of camp that will force management's hand in making their decision.
His ceiling is that of a quality starter in the NHL. Whether he'd ever get that role in Montreal is tough to say because of the man who currently holds it, but I do believe he has the potential to start one day, and carry a healthy workload.
He played his way from obscurity to an NHL contract, and now the future looks pretty bright for Charlie Lindgren.