The Syracuse Crunch are looking to rebound this season after the 2004-05 campaign saw the team miss the postseason with a 36-33-4-7 record.
The club was hoping for big contributions out of a promising crop of young players. The team looks to be more competitive this season, as they currently sit in third place in the Western Conference’s North Division with 39 points, nine points behind the division-leading Grand Rapids Griffins.
One of the young guns Syracuse was counting on to carry a good deal of the offense is talented left winger Joakim Lindstrom, who is still trying to find his game in the world of professional hockey.
A native of Skellftea, Sweden, the 22-year-old Lindstrom is making the transition to hockey in North America this season after spending the past several seasons playing for MoDo in the Swedish Elite and Junior Leagues.
While a dominant player in the junior league, Lindstrom struggled to put up big numbers in the SEL, particularly last season (5 points in 37 games), when several NHL players made the trek over the Europe to find playing time during the lockout, which drastically cut into his ice time.
Although gifted with offensive skills and terrific vision on the ice, and possessing good size (6’0, 187 pounds), Lindstrom has struggled at times with both his production and consistency with the Crunch after facing similar issues in Sweden, and is still trying to find his way as a scorer in the AHL. He has posted 14 points (6 goals, 8 assists) in 22 games this season before a shoulder injury sustained in a game against Hamilton on December 9th knocked him out of the lineup for several weeks.
“It definitely takes some time,” he said of his adjustment. “But I think I get better and better every game. Every week I’m over here, I learn new stuff, so it’s going pretty well so far.
“It’s kind of a difference because over [in Sweden], the ice surface is bigger and the game is faster, but I think it’s more fun to play over here because there are more scoring chances here, so I like it.”
Columbus’ second round pick in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft (41st overall), Lindstrom was playing on the farm team’s top line before he was injured.
While he had struggled to put points up early, head coach Gary Agnew thinks Lindstrom is coming along, and will find his way eventually as he gains more experience at the pro level.
“When he came in, he had a pretty good knack for scoring, so we sort if expected that that might continue this year,” he said of Lindstrom’s season thus far before the injury. “He didn’t get out of the gate real well, and obviously, a guy with his skill, we’d like to see him score a little bit more than what he’s doing. But it’s a hard league, and it takes time for young guys to learn and develop and find their way through the woods, I guess.”
After finishing up his season with MoDo last year, Lindstrom made the jump to professional hockey as the AHL’s regular season was winding down. The shifty winger joined the club during the last month of the season, and found moderate success, putting up 8 points (4 goals, 4 assists) in 13 games, and says his experience of getting introduced to the AHL was time well spent.
“Yeah, I really think that helped because I knew a couple of the guys already coming into this year, and I knew the league a little bit from playing a few games, so it definitely helped.”
While his late-season foray into the AHL improved his comfort level coming into the 2005-06 campaign, it was seemingly not enough to fully acclimate himself to the different, more physical style of play the AHL offers. That, however, is what this season is for.
The Columbus organization is hoping a full year in the AHL will mold Lindstrom into a more complete player and his coach sees plenty of potential in the young winger.
“He’s a really skilled guy who’s got great vision out there. He’s really learning the pro game in North America. He came over last year and played three or four weeks for us and did fine. This year, he got out of the gate a bit slowly, but he looks like he’s going to turn into a pretty good player, and he’s a good prospect for our organization, that’s for sure.”
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