We have already discussed the expectations that may surround Jesper Fast as he looks to make the Rangers next season. When it comes to dealing with ‘reasonable expectations’ however, Oscar Lindberg may be on a hiding to nothing. When you’re an MVP, a league winner, and an elite scorer in your domestic league, people take notice and many people – media and fans alike – now eagerly anticipate Lindberg’s arrival in North American hockey.
With 42 points in 55 games in the defense first SHL (only three players scored over a point/game in 12-13), Lindberg exploded offensively compared to previous seasons. The Rangers may have anticipated a defensively sound, faceoff specialist (a team need). What they didn’t expect was a prospect arriving in North America as a potential NHL scoring forward.
Make no mistake, in the NHL Lindberg will still be judged primarily on his two way ability and his face off skills, but the Swedish center has developed such an all round game that people have already speculated how high he can go in the franchise, and whether he can be a legitimate offensive producer as an NHLer. It appears people are of the opinion that it’s when not if Lindberg becomes a Ranger. Ethan Werek who?
Prior to free agency, many speculated Lindberg would be a strong possibility to start the year in New York. But with the arrival of Dominic Moore –and Brian Boyle still on the roster– it appears Lindberg has to win a spot rather than have one to lose. Thanks to his recent, sensational SHL campaign it appears that Lindberg has more scoring upside than either Moore or Boyle. He should be a cheaper option than Boyle so with a strong camp Lindberg may force Boyle to the wing, or at the very least put himself in contention.
While the only sure thing at center next season is Derek Stepan (after all, we don’t know which Brad Richards to expect, or to what level Derick Brassard can play over an 82 game season) the Rangers have countless options down the middle with Stepan, Richards, Brassard, Boyle, Moore, and JT Miller; and that is without naming the prospects or AHL players who may be in contention.
Lindberg may be in the best position of all prospects heading into the pre-season in regards to winning a spot for opening night, but it also wouldn’t be a surprise or a disappointment to see him opening his season with Hartford. Like Fast, Lindberg still needs to acclimatize to the smaller rink.
The Rangers were patient with Artem Anisimov and developed the popular Russian into a fine two way NHL center. Anisimov played two full – one dominant – seasons with the Wolf Pack before eventually becoming a full time Ranger. Indeed, it took a 37 goal, 81 point AHL season for Anisimov to even get a first look at the NHL. So if Oscar Lindberg doesn’t even see the NHL next season it should neither be a shock nor should it create angst among the fan base.
Aside from Chris Kreider, maybe no prospect enters next year with greater expectancy than Oscar Lindberg. His achievements since becoming Ranger property has created this buzz. With Glen Sather publicly declaring that there will be room for prospects to play their way onto the NHL, roster Lindberg will arrive with plenty to play for.
Oscar Lindberg will start the season in the AHL barring a spectacular, undeniable pre-season based purely on numbers already in New York. However a strong start with the Whale and any kind of sub-par returns from Brian Boyle or Brad Richards will see Lindberg called up to New York.
Forty points and developing into a leader for the Wolfpack and an Anisimov-like development curve would be more than satisfactory for the Rangers. Lindberg doesn’t need to panic, with Brad Richards no long term solution the Swede is destined for New York.