Despite his accomplishments at the junior level, Charlie Lindgren was overlooked during each NHL draft he was eligible for. The Montreal Canadiens scooped him up as a free agent at the end of his 2015-16 season, perhaps as a response to yet another injury to Carey Price.
Lindgren had great success in his three years in the NCAA with St. Cloud State University, but passed on his senior season to sign a two-year contract with the Canadiens on March 30, 2016.
In 2012-13, before joining the St. Cloud State Huskies, he was named USA Hockey’s Junior Goalie of the Year. By the time he signed with the Canandiens, he had set a school record for most wins in a season (30, in 40 games played) and was named the NCHC’s Goaltender of the Year in 2015-16. In the 88 collegiate games in which he manned the pipes, he was 51-29-3 with a 2.21 goals-against average and .921 save percentage, improving his numbers each season.
Did I mention this guy was not drafted?
To prove all who had doubted him wrong, during his first NHL game on April 7, 2016, he made 26 saves to help the Canadiens grab a 4-2 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes.
When the 2016-17 season rolled around, Lindgren was ready to prove himself again. He beat out Zachary Fucale for the starting position on the Canadiens’ AHL affiliate, the St. John’s IceCaps, sending Fucale, a former second-round pick of the organization, to the ECHL’s Brampton Beast.
He continued his rookie rise, having a remarkable AHL debut on October 21, 2016 against the Providence Bruins. He stood tall, kicking aside the barrage of shots he faced, stopping 50 of the 51 shots and taking home the 4-1 victory. From there, he went on to win his next five starts.
Like every player, Lindgren went through a bit of slump, with a five-game losing streak in January. But he picked it up again for the latter stage of the season and guided his team to the first round of the AHL Calder Cup playoffs; the first post-season appearance for the Canadiens’ AHL affiliate in six years.
He was invited to the 2017 AHL All-Star Game, finished his season fifth in the league in shutouts, and also won the two starts he received with the Canadiens near the end of year.
The majority view on Lindgren from the EOTP staff is that he deserves a spot in the top 10. The majority of votes landed at 6 or 7. There were four ballots outside of the top-10 range, with the lowest vote at #16.
Top 25 Under 25 History
Speaking of #16, that’s the spot Lindgren called home for the 2016 Top 25 Under 25, jumping up 10 spots this year. With fellow goaltending prospect Michael McNiven leaping 15 spots in the rankings, going from #28 to #13, it just proves there’s something special brewing in the Habs’ goalie vat.
Lindgren’s combination of passion, size, and ability kept the IceCaps in many games last season. He was able to get the win in half the games he started despite finishing sixth in total shots faced by an AHL golatender, and the most by a rookie.
He has the rare trait of being a right-handed catcher, which can sometimes deceive shooters used to seeing the glove hand covering the right side of the net.
One of Lindgren’s biggest strengths is his focus. He may not have reached the Carey Price zen level just yet, but with the determination he’s shown and his ability to remain unfazed — most of the time — he’s well on his way.
His rebound control is good, not allowing for many second-chance opportunities. He doesn’t panic with the puck in his crease, once again showcasing that focus.
Lindgren’s 6’2”, 190-pound frame pretty well fills the net yet his size doesn’t seem to hinder his lateral movements. For a big goalie, his athleticism is pretty impressive, able to shift across to cut down the shooting angles.
His athleticism can also get him in trouble at times. Although it allows for great saves that make the highlight reel, his lateral pushes can be too aggressive, leaving him out of position. It’s not a huge cause for concern with regards to his NHL future, and it’s something that can easily be worked on. With his competitive nature, there’s no doubt he’ll be working out the kinks.
Lindgren dealt with a few bumps in the road last season. That could be due to playing the most games he’s ever played in a single campaign. Between the IceCaps’ regular season, four playoff games, and two games with the Canadiens, Lindgren suited up for 54 games in 2016-17. Though it could also be due in part to the many breakdowns on defence last season from a team prone to untimely turnovers and blown coverages.
Nevertheless, he will need to raise his stamina a little, and that’s something he can plan a training regimen around now that he knows what being a starter in the professional ranks entails.
The Canadiens have two experienced goalies locked down for the upcoming season with Price and Al Montoya teaming up once again. Lindgren has agreed to a new one-year, two-way contract with the Canadiens, so it’s a good assumption that he’ll be leading the charge in the AHL for the Laval Rocket, though he will get his chance to battle for that spot in training camp. It’s a competition he’s looking forward to.
“I had an absolute blast last year, and I'm just super excited for what's to come next year," he said earlier this summer. "My goal is the same as it was last year: to do the best I can and make a good impression in front of the management and the players. That's really all I can worry about.”
With the skills he’s shown during his time in the AHL, finishing his rookie season with a 24-18-6 record, it won’t hurt his NHL chances to hone those abilities in the minors for another year before making his way up to the big club.
In the games he has started for the Canadiens, he has posted a 1.65 goals-against average, a .943 save percentage, and a perfect 3-0-0 record. It’s only a small sample to go by, but Lindgren has shown the ability to play at the NHL level.
I don't often look at a player and say he'll be in the NHL some day, but I've believed that since the first time I watched Charlie Lindgren take his place between the pipes for the Habs. And I don't think he's going to prove me wrong.