“I compare him to Eric Lindros”: Cayden Lindstrom, the beef from the West who makes recruiters’ mouths water

“If I had to compare him to anyone, it would be Eric Lindros.” Former Canucks, Vancouver and Los Angeles Kings coach Willie Desjardins makes this shocking statement quite simply, without changing his tone of voice, describing his gem Cayden Lindstrom, one of the headliners ahead of the draft of 2024.

On social networks, particularly X, the name of Lindstrom resonates almost as much as that of Macklin Celebrini among fans who are passionate about hopefuls. The center for the WHL’s Medicine Hat Tigers is everything National League teams dream of: tough, badass and extremely talented.

Let his numbers speak for themselves: 46 points, including 27 goals, but also 66 penalty minutes in just… 32 games.

“For a moment, he was the leader in the circuit in penalty minutes,” recalls Desjardins, head coach and general manager of the Tigers, during an interview with TVASports.ca. You’ll find plenty of guys with skills. Bigger guys too, but they’re not as heavy and mean as Cayden. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen a guy like him.”

Lindstrom is an athlete. Most players at his level are, that goes without saying. But the main interested party is in the purest sense of the term.

Like a football player

“He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.3 seconds, I think, last summer,” says Desjardins about his attacker who has long taken part in track and field competitions.

“I started in primary school and stopped in secondary school [“middle school”], explains Lindstrom. I still run on the slopes during the summer, two to three times a week. During the off season, I train almost like a football player. I make sharp turns on the grass to increase my agility. This is what helps me to be fluid on the ice despite my big size.

We’re not taking anything away from his work ethic and his attitude – very professional according to people contacted in the industry – but it’s clear that the genetic lottery favored Lindstrom.

“There are people who told me that he could be a Canadian boxing champion with his striking power,” confides Desjardins. Obviously, that doesn’t mean anything, but he has assets that would allow him to be successful in other sports.

A suprise

In the mid-season rankings published by Central Recruiting, Lindstrom’s name appears third on the North American list.

Willie Desjardins would like to be able to say that he had planned it the day Lindstrom arrived at Medicine Hat at age 15. He would have felt brilliant.

However, Lindstrom, a modest third-round pick in the WHL draft, was not expected to be a future major junior superstar.

“I could pretend that I’m really intelligent and tell you that I knew it all along,” says Desjardins before bursting out laughing. It kind of came out of nowhere. He surprised me. He has always been physically strong. But every other aspect of his game has developed and reached another level. When he came to us, he wasn’t fantastic defensively. It’s much better now. He also sees the ice better.”

In a text message exchange, Lindstrom’s agent, Daren Hermiston, offered some illuminating explanations for his client’s late progress. A native of Chetwynd, a small village in northern British Columbia, Lindstrom did not have access to the same resources as young players quickly integrated into the elite and located closer to major centers.

“He probably has the highest upside in the draft, mainly because he played in the single letter, the A, up to the midget level, raises Hermiston. And he didn’t play center until he got to the WHL. Most of these boys have attended high-level programs and advanced skating lessons since they were 8 years old. Cayden began to benefit from such follow-up over the last three years.”

In the NHL next year?

In a class of his own in terms of physical maturity at 18 years old, Lindstrom does not rule out the possibility of playing next season in the Bettman circuit.

“Honestly, yes, if I continue on this path,” says the young man, who says he has a style similar to that of Roope Hintz or Auston Matthews. I still have to work on my defensive game, but it’s certainly possible.”

A candidate for the Canadians? Presumably they would love to get their hands on such a horse to complete their center line. But for that, CH will have to continue to lose matches. This is not an apology for “tanking”, but a reality: Lindstrom is ranked fifth on Bob McKenzie’s latest list, often the most reliable in the business.

“I spoke a little to the Canadiens scouts,” Lindstrom said. It was good. They’re good people. I know you have some pretty crazy supporters in Montreal. I love it and the organization has a rich history. The market doesn’t intimidate me.”

At the time of writing, the Habs hold the seventh lottery ticket. He would need a stroke of luck to claim Lindstrom.

Optimists will say that the wrist injury that is keeping the maverick out of the game – and caused him to miss the top prospects game – could set him back slightly. Now, it’s apparently nothing very serious.

“I fractured a small portion of my hand,” Lindstrom said. Nothing important. They removed a useless bone in the wrist area. My fitness will consist of regaining the mobility of my wrist, which has been inactive for a little while.

“I should regain my sensations after a few weeks and everything should return to normal.”

Lindstrom bulk

  • About Chetwynd, his hometown: “It’s a very small town where pretty much all you can do is play hockey. With the exception of two months of the year, it is permanently winter. There are a lot of outdoor rinks and we had our own ice in our backyard.”
  • As a youth, he was a fan of the Washington Capitals and Alexander Ovechkin
  • He plays with a stick with a flex index of 75: “I thought about going up a little, but I like my stick to be flexible. I could opt for something stiffer considering my weight, but I don’t think that’s going to happen.”

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