Despite dropping a few places in our Top 25 Under 25, Charlie Lindgren continues to rise in the goaltending ranks of the Montreal Canadiens’ organization. The 24-year old has a chance to become the team’s backup of the present, even if there is a safety option in Antti Niemi around him.
In addition to leading the charge in goal with the Laval Rocket in their inaugural season, Lindgren also saw time with the Canadiens during the 2017-18 campaign.
While the teams in front of him could have been better, Lindgren still put in some decent performances. He won three of his first four NHL starts of the season, including a 38-save shutout of the Chicago Blackhawks in early November.
However, that was the peak of Lindgren’s season, as he ended 2017-18 with just one win in his last 10 starts for the Canadiens. This includes back-to-back losses where he allowed five goals in disastrous team performances against the Arizona Coyotes and Toronto Maple Leafs. With Carey Price down injured, and the Canadiens shipping away Al Montoya in favour of Antti Niemi, Lindgren failed to turn more starts into wins.
It was also a down season for Lindgren in the American Hockey League as well, as his 8-19-2 record was a significant drop from the 24-8-1 season he had the year prior. Similarly to his Canadiens’ teammates, Lindgren’s minor-league defensive corps wasn’t stellar, either. The Rocket ended the season with 281 goals allowed, the most in the American Hockey League, all the while putting tremendous pressure on Lindgren, Zachary Fucale, and Michael McNiven to withstand the barrage.
The Canadiens appear to have felt the same way about the state of the organizational defence, still offering a three-year, one-way contract to Lindgren in February. Montreal made a few moves with their goaltenders to end the season, yet solidified their depth in net by having a clearer outlook for the development of those, including Lindgren, who remain.
Lindgren had the widest range of any player in the top 10. While his accumulating losses from the past season may have played a part, talented players like Victor Mete and Ryan Poehling took big steps this past season to move ahead.
His average rank of 9.86 was nearly four positions higher than that of Jacob de la Rose, as the top 10 was quite clearly defined this year.
Top 25 Under 25 History
After signing out of university near the end of the 2015-16 season, Lindgren debuted at #16 a few months later. Pulling the St. John’s IceCaps to a playoff berth while also getting a few wins in the NHL in his first full season, he rose to #6 in 2017.
This year he kicks off the penultimate week of the rankings rather than wrapping it up, as he wasn’t able to replicate his exceptional rookie season.
The netminder has an NHL-size frame and does well to cover shots down low. He’s shown that at both the NHL and AHL level. He has good lateral movement to be able to readjust while down in the butterfly position, shutting down cross-crease attempts to slip the puck into the opposite side of the net.
Making glove saves with his right hand can throw opponents for a loop, and his dexterity has long been a strong asset. It gives him good rebound control, clamping down on shots than many goaltenders would spill back in front for second-chance attempts.
With the athleticism to go along with those abilities, he can often be an imposing presence in goal, best indicated by his lifetime playoff performances, but also clear from his numbers from just about every year but the last. Lindgren rarely gives up on a play, no matter how improbable a save may seem, making for some incredible highlight-reel stops, which seemed to be needed all too often for him and his fellow netminders in Laval last season.
As pointed out last year, Lindgren will need to continue improving his positioning when in goal. That desire to challenge the shooter can lead to him over-compensating with his movements, or focusing in too much on the puck-carrier and opening up lanes for other forwards to exploit.
When the losses began to mount last season, he fell back on old habits — quite literally. With pressure around the goal, he tended to lean back or sit in the crease hoping to be able to catch any pucks launched toward him. However, this only makes him smaller in the net, and eliminates his ability to move across the crease to cover more ground. It was a behaviour atypical of the form he showed when he was on top of his game in his first half-dozen NHL starts, and looked well out of character for a normally composed goaltender.
It wouldn’t hurt for Lindgren to add more weight to his 6’1” frame, as a number of netminders at his height have bulked up to over 200 pounds. Of course, there are notable exceptions to this rule, like Henrik Lundqvist.
Lindgren is locked into a key role as either the NHL backup or the AHL starter for the upcoming season, and he’ll likely be entrenched as the Montreal Canadiens’ number-two behind Carey Price sooner rather than later. He was quite stellar in limited duty to begin his career in the top league, only faltering when suddenly thrust into a major role without the proper support in front of him to ease his workload.
He is still waiver exempt, meaning the Canadiens could always send him down to the American Hockey League for more seasoning with no fear of losing him to another team. He’ll have the Laval Rocket, and hopefully a better roster and coaching staff to lean on, waiting for him should that be the plan for his third pro year.
The Habs have a solid option in Lindgren going forward, and that’s a major win for the scouting that identified his ability, and also for Marc Bergevin’s gamble to sign him to what was essentially a single-year entry-level contract after the 2015-16 season was burned with one NHL start. He should see numbers closer to his usual performance, and ideally see some progression in the 2018-19 season.