2021-22 Team: Kamloops Blazers (WHL)
Date of Birth: August 26, 2004
Place of Birth: North Vancouver, British Columbia
Ht: 6-foot-0 Wt: 176 pounds
NHL Draft Eligibility: 2022 first-year eligible
The concept of what a defenceman can do has radically shifted in the past few seasons, thanks largely to the dominance of Cale Makar and Quinn Hughes, as well as Miro Heiskanen and Rasmus Dahlin. A big, slow thug on the blue line who patrols his area like a bouncer is all but a dead concept, and now, even the biggest defenders have to be able to skate and move the puck better than most. According to one amateur scout who spoke to The Score’s John Matisz, “We’ve realized playing D in the NHL is a much more puck-intensive position now. So you’re looking for the guys who are the best at moving pucks up the ice (and) on the tape. The days of drafting a ‘stopper’ high are over, I think.”
That’s exactly how Mats Lindgren plays. The Kamloops Blazers’ defender is arguably one of the better skaters in the draft, using finely-tuned edge work to quickly change directions and avoid trouble, along with a smooth stride making his rapid shifts in pace and direction seem effortless. He’s not the fastest skater out there, nor does he have the quickest acceleration, but once he has the puck, there’s little chance someone can outmaneuver him. Honestly, it’s just a joy to watch him skate.
However, when it comes to the Western Hockey League (WHL) defensemen, the conversation has been dominated by Kevin Korchinski and Denton Mateychuk. The two 17-year-olds scored at nearly a point-per-game pace in their first full WHL seasons, were fourth and fifth in defensive scoring, and have wowed scouts with their impressive skating and puckhandling skills. They’re locked to go early in the first round of the draft, with some rankings even placing them in the top 10. Meanwhile, Lindgren, also 17 years old, finished the season with five goals and 44 points in 68 games; by no means a poor season, but not one expected from a dynamic modern defenceman.
Related: 2022 NHL Draft Guide
The biggest concern with Lindgren is his consistency and overall influence on the game. The modern defenceman needs to make a strong first pass to be considered effective, yet Lindgren seems to rely more on his teammates to do that and get him the puck. Without the puck, he ranges from a decent defenceman able to quickly close gaps thanks to his brilliant skating, to a liability on defence, failing to rush back to cover an opponent and creating odd-man rushes and high-danger scoring chances. Smaht Scouting’s Matthew Somma described him at his worst as though his “…controller disconnects and he drifts along until either a goal is scored or his teammates gather the puck.”
However, these inconsistencies and lapses may not be as detrimental as they appear. Lindgren is a smaller defenceman at just around the 6-foot mark, with some sources listing him 5-foot-11, and weighing in at 176-pounds. To compare, Mateychuk stands at the same height, yet already has 10 pounds on him. Adding strength will give him a huge boost in his effectiveness in all areas of the ice and help him stand out among his peers.
Lindgren is also quite young; he won’t turn 18 years old until after the 2022 Draft, making him one of the youngest players available. His game shows that maturity gap, as he sometimes lags behind in transition. His work ethic will develop as he becomes more comfortable in his role and as he moves through higher levels of hockey. Vision, intelligence, and instincts are much harder to teach, but he’s already proven that he has those in spades. His shot is quick, his stickhandling is tight and controlled, and he can make strong crisp passes. He just needs to know when to use them more effectively.
Other THW Draft Profiles:
Mats Lindgren – NHL Draft Projection
Lindgren is ranked somewhere in the second or third round, and it’s unlikely he moves much past those rounds. As previously mentioned, scouts see a lot of inconsistencies in his game that question how effective he’ll be at the highest levels of competition. However, we may be still seeing the after-effects of the pandemic-shortened WHL season. Certain attributes are being overvalued, while others are undervalued, and Lindgren could very well be in the latter camp. Could he be this year’s Topi Niemela, who fell to the third round for the Toronto Maple Leafs to scoop up? The Finnish defender is now one of the fastest rising prospects in the NHL, yet in 2020, teams saw a small player with limited offensive output. The parallels are intriguing, at the very least.
“Mats Lindgren is a mobile possession defenceman with offensive flair. In transition, Lindgren is an evasive and agile puck carrier, able to outmaneuver opponents with speed and skill. In the offensive zone, Lindgren facilitates the cycle. He moves and skates the puck into dangerous areas, creating scoring chances. While he can get caught flat-footed in the defensive zone and he isn’t the best at turning the play around, Lindgren’s ability to escape pressure keeps him out of the defensive end more often than not. With refinements to his game, Lindgren has the potential to be an exciting top-four defenceman in the NHL.” – AJ Gidaro, Dobber Prospects
“I go back and forth with whether or not I love or dislike Lindgren. He has the potential to become one of the smartest defensemen in this draft and could be a top four defenseman capable of around 40 points at the NHL level. I wish I could see more consistency from Lindgren at even strength because that would ease some of the concerns I have about him as a player. I don’t doubt his hockey sense or his vision, but I do doubt his consistency. If Lindgren falls to my team in the second half of the second round, I’m jumping at the opportunity to take him. The potential is too great to not warrant a selection, after all.” Matthew Somma, Smaht Scouting
“Lindgren isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing skater but covers a lot of ice with his powerful stride and has the elusiveness to shake opposing defenders with the puck on his stick. He controls the offensive blue line with quick head fakes and his great edgework allows him to separate to open up shooting or passing lanes. Defensively, he is aggressive in taking away time and space off the rush and in defensive zone coverage but can sometimes get caught taking poor angles. Lindgren appears to have the right idea at both ends of the ice more often than not but he needs to execute with more consistency, especially with the puck on his stick. His upside as a top-four NHL defenceman might not be as apparent as some of the other defenders projected as potential first-round picks in the 2022 draft, but I still believe it’s there.” – Nick Richard, Dobber Prospects
Under Construction (Improvements to Make)
- Defensive positioning
At this point, it’s tough to know which version of Lindgren will emerge as he grows – will he become a top-four, 40-point playmaker from the blue line, or will he be a one-trick pony who fizzles out in the minors? Both outcomes seem possible, making him quite a risky pick, which has hurt his draft rankings. But the potential is there to blossom in a season or two, and it would be foolish to wait too long to grab such a dynamic offensive force.
Risk – 5/5, Reward – 3/5
Fantasy Hockey Potential
Offence – 7/10, Defence – 5/10
Lindgren was invited to the 2022 Top Prospects Game and was on the victorious Team White, where he registered a plus-1 and even won a faceoff. Back in 2020, he was part of the U16 Youth Olympic Games with Team Canada, where he received a bronze medal.
Mats Lindgren Statistics
An elementary teacher by day and an avid hockey fan, Dayton joined The Hockey Writers in 2019 and currently covers the Ottawa Senators, World Juniors, and NHL Entry Draft.