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Cayden Lindstrom a Prime Draft Target for the Montreal Canadiens

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Montreal Canadiens NHL Draft - Cayden Lindstrom

The Montreal Canadiens have a few clear-cut targets for their first pick of the 2024 NHL Draft, but few would be as good a fit as Cayden Lindstrom.

When NHL betting odds predicted a bottom-five finish for the Montreal Canadiens this season, excitement over the Habs’ first selection instantly picked up; who would be the reward for this third season of misery?

Obviously, winning the NHL Draft Lottery and selecting Macklin Celebrini would be a game-changer for the franchise. But, assuming all things stay as they are and the Canadiens select 5th or 6th overall, then few players fit the bill for the organization quite like Cayden Lindstrom.

Standing at 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, the physical power-forward exploded up the rankings this season with a strong start to his WHL season. Although it was eventually cut short due to a broken hand and a subsequent back injury, many believe Lindstrom could be one of the Canadiens’ top targets leading up to the 2024 NHL Draft.

Montreal Hockey Now recently sat down with the 18-year-old forward to get his feel on how his game is evolving, his current health status and what he thinks about the possibility of playing for the Montreal Canadiens down the line.

Tailor-Made

In his exit interview last week, general manager Kent Hughes admitted that he felt his club currently lacked the scoring punch and physicality necessary to compete with the best teams in the NHL.

Enter Cayden Lindstrom.

“My best qualities are my goal-scoring ability, physical play and high competitive level,” said Lindstrom when asked to describe his best attributes. “I like to drive to the net, and use my size to cause havoc in the danger areas.”

Having put up  27 goals and 19 assists for 46 points in just 32 games this season, it would be an understatement to call Lindstrom a goal-scorer, as he used his unique combination of size and speed to get to open areas with ease to unleash his heavy shot at will.

“I think my shooting can improve even more,” admitted Lindstrom when talking about what he could change in his game. “I think working on changing my angles and faking out goalies is a part of my game that I can get better at to score even more and open up space for my teammates.”

But, Lindstrom believes he’s capable of showing much more than just goal-scoring, citing that he wants to show he can be much more than a regular crash-and-bang power-forward; but rather a physical forward that can combine scoring and skill for a more complete game.

“I want to show more of my playmaking. During this season Andrew (Basha) was the playmaker and I was the finisher and it worked really well. But I think I can also be effective at setting up plays as well, and that’s what I want to show more of,” said Lindstrom regarding his evolving game. “I’d like to start slowing down my game, entering the zone and getting some good looks in to make plays, rather than just trying to skate as fast as I can up the ice.”

It’s clear to anyone who has watched Lindstrom that he represents one of the most unique profiles in the 2024 NHL Draft, and, if he can continue to improve, could become a very dangerous top-six player in the NHL.

But, will teams balk at the small sample size of games this season?

Stronger, Better, Faster

Lindstrom’s season was cut short by two independent injuries, one to his right hand and another to his back; limiting the 18-year-old to just 32 games this season. He was able to return for the WHL playoffs, where Medicine Hat was eliminated in five games by the Red Deer Rebels, but then ultimately refused an invite to represent Canada and at the IIHF U-18 World Championships to recover from his injuries.

Shutting down his season created some concern across the hockey world, as the U-18s are an important stage for top prospects to cement their status right before the NHL Draft.

But, for Lindstrom’s camp, it was about making the right decision long-term.

“I feel good right now,” said Lindstrom about his health. “I was just at the gym and doing physio. I’m training hard and preparing for the NHL combine and next season. I wasn’t playing for three months, so I’m just trying to get back to that level of fitness and strength before we kick it up a notch this summer.”

When asked about Lindstrom’s health, agent Daren Hermiston confirmed that the back injury suffered by the young power-forward was a very common injury for sports athletes and didn’t require surgery. He confirmed that the decision to shut down Lindstrom’s season was purely from a precautionary standpoint.

With Lindstrom a lock to go within the first handful of selections in the 2024 NHL Draft, it can be argued that the benefit of improving his draft stock was heavily outweighed by the risk of aggravating an injury.

In fact, one could argue that it could play in Montreal’s favour, as Lindstrom could ultimately still be on the board at fifth overall, while other clubs look to stock up on the plethora of available defencemen instead.

A Clear Target for the Montreal Canadiens

The Montreal Canadiens have the 5th-best odds at the NHL Draft Lottery at the moment, and, notwithstanding picking 1st overall for the second time in three drafts, he could be a very realistic target for the club.

When asked how he felt about the possibility of being selected by Montreal at the 2024 NHL Draft, Lindstrom didn’t hesitate for a second.

“I love it,” said Lindstrom with a big grin. “I want to play in an environment like that. The pressure, the excitement and all that- it’s something I would definitely see myself succeeding in and it would be an honour to be drafted by them.”

When pressed about the unique aspects of the market, like the passionate fan base or the heavy attention from media outlets, Lindstrom seemed at ease with the idea.

For Lindstrom, the pressure is seemingly fuel for his game; and making the right play, not necessarily the biggest play, is what will help him win over a rabid market like Montreal.

“When the game is on the line and you need a big goal, I want to be on the ice to help make it happen,” said Lindstrom regarding the pressure of winning in a passionate market. “And if I can’t be the one to score, I want to contribute to that victory in any other way I can. With a big hit, a timely block or an unselfish pass. You make the little plays that lead to the big plays.”

Being able to play in a market like Montreal is a unique quality amongst youngsters and something that Kent Hughes and his team value greatly.

Wait And See

It’s now just a matter of time to see how the 2024 NHL Draft Lottery plays out and what the board looks like when the Canadiens step up to the podium on June 28.

It has been previously reported that Lindstrom has met with Montreal Canadiens scouts throughout the season, which isn’t all that surprising, given their organizational needs and the profile that Lindstrom has.

One thing is for sure: Outside of a lottery win, if Cayden Lindstrom is still on the board at that time when Montreal selects on Draft Day, he’ll likely be right up there on their list of prime targets.

 

For more NHL betting lines and futures, head over to FanDuel