Lindstrom returns to North America

By Jeff Dahlia

It isn’t that uncommon for a prospect to fade out of the picture after draft day. Reality has a harsh way of reminding us that as much as we would like to see all the young talent prosper and make it to the ‘bigs,’ the chances are very slim.

Phoenix Coyotes center prospect Liam Lindstrom faded out a bit himself. Since Phoenix selected him in the fourth round, with 115th overall selection in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, he has pretty much remained an afterthought while playing in his native Sweden.

Lindstrom would like to change that, however. But before you understand where he wants to go, you have to understand where he’s been.

His hockey bloodlines run deep. The 21-year-old was actually born in Edmonton, Alberta during the height the Oilers Stanley Cup run in the mid-80’s to right winger Willy Lindstrom.

The summer after the 1984-85 season, when Willy won his second cup with the Oil, he was picked up off waivers by the Pittsburgh Penguins. The family, at Willy’s lead, would spend the part of two seasons in the Steel City before returning home to Sweden.

Though the younger Lindstrom doesn’t remember North America, he’s felt he’s always been destined to play the game from Day 1.

“They already had a stick for me before I was born,” Lindstrom recalled. “I saw pictures when we lived in Pittsburgh and they took me to the rink, so I’ve been around it since the early years.”

As he continued to grow up back in Sweden, he had a great mentor in his father to help him along the way.

“He gave me a lot of tapes and a lot of help,” the young forward said as he revealed that was also the time he started realizing just how good of a player his dad was. “He’s been a perfect dad because he knows hockey.”

It seemed just as much as Willy knew about hockey, he knew about life and the positive imprint he could put on his son.

“He didn’t push me,” Liam said. “I’ve never felt any pressure that I’ve had to be as good as him.”

But Liam’s game started to grow. He would move away from home about the same time he started high school. Though it was a daring move, he said that it wasn’t his game that took a hit, but he was more concerned about growing up and learning how to take care of himself at an early age.

As he learned to balance the two, he started to excel in junior leagues with Mora.
He would hit the scouting radar and the Coyotes would go ahead and take in 2003.

The rest of his career, well, it’s been pretty obscure.

Lindstrom spent the next two years playing with Sundsvall and Hammarby programs in the Swedish league. And while he admits his stats weren’t that impressive, he spent a lot of time battling through some bad injuries and fighting his way back to his earlier form.

Then this summer, he decided to change the scenery in hopes it would change his luck. The 6’0, 189-pounder signed an entry-level contract with the Coyotes and after three long years after he was drafted, he came out to Phoenix to participate in the team’s first-ever prospects conditioning camp.

“That was amazing,” he said. “I had some good practices and I got a good chance to see how it works with Barry Smith.”

Eager to get things going, Lindstrom kept himself in shape and ready for the club’s next rookie event, the 4th Annual Pacific Division Shootout.

Though he had some jitters heading into the opening game for the Coyotes, he did better than he thought he would.

“I thought I was going to get passed by,” he said about playing his first organized game of hockey in North America. “It wasn’t that bad. I thought I was going to be tired after one period but I was okay. Then, with the smaller ice, there are some things I have to learn and then I’ll feel a bit better out there.”

This is just another long, big step for Lindstrom, but he’s anxious to get playing full time.

“I’m looking to play in San Antonio (AHL),” the modest forward said about his upcoming plans for the season. “I’ll be headed to their camp and I’m looking to take a spot there. I’m going to work hard to do that. If it works out that way, then I’ll set some higher personal goals so I can have the best season possible.”

He realizes there is a lot he needs to prove, even more so that he’s going to be playing in North America now. He didn’t rule playing with the Coyotes ECHL affiliate, the Phoenix Roadrunners, only because he knows he has to work his way up and earn every new opportunity he’s given.

“I always go out there and do the best I can and try to make it happen,” Lindstrom said about his approach.

So now, he’s at the proverbial doorstep, getting ready to erase that doubt. You get that impression it’s not a matter of him needing to earn the spotlight day-in and day-out, as much as it is about getting back on track and showing everyone he can play.

“It feels like a new start being here,” he finally added. “I’m going to be focusing on hockey, the practices, and the games.”

Looks like he’s ready to go.

Copyright 2006 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.