After a second taste of the professional ranks this summer, Jaden Lindo is hoping that not only will he continue to be a little less star struck, but that he will also be able to put in a full year’s work and show the Pittsburgh Penguins’ brass that they found a diamond in the rough.
“It was pretty great. I had a really good time down [at Pittsburgh’s training camp] and learned a lot of things,” Lindo explained. “It’s great to skate with those guys and see what the next level is like. I’ve taken a lot of what I learned down there and am trying to apply it up here.”
Lindo returns for his fourth campaign with the Owen Sound Attack. Drafted in the sixth round of the 2014 NHL Draft by the Penguins, the 6’2, 210-pound Brampton, ON native has spent the past couple of years dealing with a knee injury that has allowed him to play in only 40 and 49 games respectively. This year, back to 100 percent health, Lindo has already scored seven goals and added four assists in 16 games to start the season.
“I want to have a strong, full season. Obviously last year, coming back from my injury, I had a short season,” he said. “I will really want to have a great season, be consistent throughout the games, and continue on into the playoffs and have a strong finish.”
Having a full offseason, not to mention being able to see preseason action with his NHL club after signing an ATO, has helped increase Lindo’s confidence for the 2015-16 OHL campaign. He said he doesn’t even think about the knee anymore.
“I think I’m at that point. Especially having a full summer of being 100 percent and training was definitely a confidence-builder in me,” he said. “Not being able to do that last year was hard for me. Also, going down to Pittsburgh and being with those guys was also a confidence builder.”
Lindo joined the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins at the end of last season and, combined with his camp experience, is committed to working on the things that he feels will help him make the jump to the next level.
“At the end of the season they brought me up to the AHL team and signed me to an ATO. I didn’t get to play any games, but it was still a great experience and I appreciate what they did for me,” he said. “I got to go to the rookie tournament and main camp a couple of months ago, so it was great for me.
“The biggest things I noticed was the speed difference – the guys are a lot faster and a lot stronger. I’ve got to make sure that I keep moving my feet while I’m on the ice.”
And getting used to the pace at the NHL level has helped him succeed at the OHL level, Lindo added.
“Being up there for a while, playing at that speed, then coming back, it was a bit of a change,” he said. “Obviously it was on the plus side, playing against faster guys and then coming back to a slower pace – obviously a difference between the OHL and the NHL – helped me out a bit.”
Lindo’s confidence betrays him a bit, though, when you talk about getting the chance of sharing the ice with players whom he grew up watching. And even though it was his second time, the huge smile that spreads across Lindo’s face when he talks about talking shop with some of the league’s greatest players shows that he’s still got a bit of a fan at that core.
“I tried to talk to as many people as I could. Obviously [Sidney] Crosby was… [laughing] he was a guy that I obviously wanted to talk to a bit,” Lindo said. “I talked to him a bit – just small talk about basic things. I’m grateful to be able to talk to guys like that and be around them. I tried to learn as much as I can and take as much as I can from them.
“This was the second time that I met Crosby – I met him my first year and I was still star-struck. Even this year I was pretty star struck. It’s always good to see those guys when you’re on the rink with them.”
So at what point do you feel that you are a fellow player? Lindo said he’s not sure he has reached that point yet.
“It’s hard to say. You see these guys on the highlights, on Sports Centre and TSN every day, then you find yourself in the same locker room as them, playing on the same ice, and I’m doing drills with them,” Lindo said. “It was a great experience. It was a bit tough to settle in, but I had a really good time.
“Obviously you’re talking about other things, life in Pittsburgh. Obviously they’re hockey players, but they also have normal lives, so you can talk about things like that.”
Coming back to the Attack, Lindo is one of the older players. And he said he is looking to play a leadership role on the squad – but that’s a role that has to come from within.
“To be a leader, you have to be a leader in yourself. It has to come from within. I have to believe in myself and that will help lead throughout the team,” he said. “I’m one of the older guys so I want to take the younger guys under my wings sometimes.”
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