Rookie defenseman Gustav Lindström looks the part of a NHL player, but likely will head back to Grand Rapids before exhausting year of entry-level contract.
Rebuilding a sports franchise can be awkward.
Often, most everyone within the organization and its fans know who part of the future is and who isn’t.
Young forwards Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, Tyler Bertuzzi and Andreas Athanasiou are part of the core (though Athanasiou has been rumored to be a prime trade candidate). Even Justin Abdelkader is part the core, but that’s because Ken Holland gave him an egregious contract ($4.25M cap hit) that doesn’t come off the books until the end of the 2022-23 season, and no general manager in the league wants that smoke.
Whereas goaltender Jimmy Howard is not part of the future. He’s 35, having a disastrous season with a 2-21-2 record and 3.98 goals against average. Thankfully his contract comes off the books at season’s end. Guys like Valtteri Filppula, Mike Green and Trevor Daley aren’t part of the core, either, because of age, diminished skills or both.
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Then you have 21-year-old Gustav Lindström.
The Swedish defenseman was drafted 38th overall in 2017, so it should hardly be a surprise if he were to pan out. He’s not a diamond in the rough like Pavel Datsyuk (drafted 171st in 1998) or Henrik Zetterberg (drafted 210th in 1999), but it’s a lot easier to predict guys further along in their professional careers like Larkin, Mantha, Bertuzzi and Athanasiou than it is Moritz Seider, Joe Veleno or Lindström.
Even if it’s smaller sample sizes with guys like Bertuzzi, performing at a high level in the NHL is invaluable. Filip Zadina has shown as much in his short stint with the Red Wings, and next in the pipeline is Lindström.
His offensive game will likely be a work in progress or average at best, but he’s shown the ability to score with 10 goals in 16 games in juniors, according to EliteProspects.com. And heck, that rifle off the post coming out the box in the 4-1 loss to the New Jersey Devils Thursday night had me salivating at the possibilities.
But regardless of how the offense plays out, he’s a defenseman, and he’s looked every bit the part of a NHL one in just five games with the Red Wings.
He’s calm in both zones, has a 6-foot-2, 187-pound frame and has been assertive despite a minus-3 plus/minus and zero points on the stat sheet.
Not everyone on the 2019-20 team is part of the “core,” but Lindström is looking like he will be each time he steps onto the ice wearing the winged wheel.