When Joakim Lindstrom was drafted 41st overall in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft by the Columbus Blue Jackets, he was considered a high-ceiling European prospect.
He was called up early to the Mooo Hockey club in 2000, and exceeded all expectations; after a lackluster sophomore campaign with the club was overcome with strong numbers in the post-season, Lindstrom looked to be the elite Swedish club’s next big thing. The same club that developed the Sedin twins and Peter Forsberg, MODO had developed a reputation for churning out NHL-caliber skaters before Lindstrom came along and put himself in line to be noticed.
Whether due to bad timing or a lack of ability to translate his game to the NHL level, though, Lindstrom never really clicked in North America.
A decision during the 2004-2005 NHL lockout to circumvent clearance by the Swedish hockey federation and play for the AHL’s Syracuse Crunch instead of back home saw Lindstrom suspended from Swedish play for twenty-six games, and he spent the next few seasons stuck in the AHL before making a somewhat lackluster NHL debut as a twenty-five year old rookie. His 2007-2008 season saw him dealt to the Anaheim Ducks, claimed by the Chicago Blackhawks off waivers, and then re-claimed by the Ducks just a few days later in order to get assigned to the team’s AHL affiliate.
By 2009, Lindstrom had been claimed off waivers by the then-Phoenix Coyotes, but failed to get re-signed by the club in the off-season — so the 2009-2010 season saw the Swedish forward play overseas instead, with the Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod of the KHL.
Success with Torpedo Nizhny — followed by a peak year for the now-27-year old in 2010 for Skelleftea AIK of the SHL — saw Lindstrom brought back to North America, this time by the Colorado Avalanche. He was then waived, went back to Skelleftea AIK for another three very good seasons, and tried one final time to succeed at the NHL level — this time with the St. Louis Blues, who dealt him by the deadline to the Toronto Maple Leafs for Olli Jokinen.
Now, he’s going back overseas — he’s inked a deal with SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL, where he’ll likely remain to finish out his career.
For whatever reason, Lindstrom lacked the confidence on NHL ice to put up the kinds of numbers he does overseas; he’s a strong competitor on European ice, but can’t translate that to North American success. It’s somewhat a consequence of the rink dimensions, but more so because he fails to execute his passing or shooting decisions with enough speed to keep him and his teammates driving play on a smaller NHL rink. By his third time with clubs this side of the Atlantic, it’s clear he’s not cut out for the NHL style of play.
SKA St. Petersburg is likely going to reap the benefits of bringing him on board, though.
Earlier Friday morning, St. Petersburg winger Artemi Panarin inked a two year deal with the Chicago Blackhawks — and Viktor Tikhonov, the centre who often filled in on the wing prior to Panarin’s emergence, is also publicly considering heading for the NHL.
With two star forwards departing from the club next season, SKA St. Petersburg will experience a drop-off in offensive production almost immediately; by signing Lindstrom, this alleviates some of the hurt. He’s also able to play the right wing, something that SKA St. Petersburg was already short on this season — in the wake of Panarin’s departure, Lindstrom is a perfect fit for the club’s top six.
It also signals that the Toronto Maple Leafs, though, have lost at least one veteran depth forward who could have stuck around in the future — meaning that, although many negotiations are likely yet to come, the club has already started to form an idea as to whom they would like to keep and whom they will part ways with.