Trades are usually named after the biggest player involved. Ask somebody about the recent Dion Phaneuf trade and they know what you’re talking about right away. Could they name all the other players involved in the trade though?
Along with Phaneuf, the Toronto Maple Leafs sent four prospects to the Ottawa Seantors including Casey Bailey, Ryan Rupert, Cody Donaghey and Matt Frattin, who got to stay with the Leafs’ AHL affiliate, the Toronto Marlies, on loan.
Who came to Toronto? Surely you’ve seen Milan Michalek‘s toe-drag goal, Colin Greening has been getting power-play time and Jared Cowen‘s bizarre contract situation got plenty of attention. Ottawa also gave the Maple Leafs a second-round pick.
There was one more part to that trade that hasn’t seen much, or any of the Toronto spotlight yet: Tobias Lindberg.
“I didn’t even have the slightest idea that I even could get traded,” Lindberg said after a recent Marlies practice. “So yeah, big surprise.”
What was a big surprise for Lindberg could be a big addition to the Maple Leafs. The six-foot-three, 215 pound Swedish winger was a fourth-round pick of the Senators in 2013. He also won the Memorial Cup with the OHL’s Oshawa Generals last year, a team that was coached by current Leafs assistant coach D.J. Smith.
“I was a little nervous and didn’t know what to expect in the beginning, but as soon as I got here and I met the guys, I met the staff, and I saw all the facilities and how professional everything is, I was very excited,” said Lindberg. “The Leafs are rebuilding and that’s an exciting opportunity for a young player so I’m happy.”
It didn’t take long for Lindberg to notice that the Marlies, as well as the Toronto organization as a whole, simply have some things that other teams around the league don’t.
Amenities such as a Marlies strength and conditioning coach, available skills coaches and a focus on statistics that Lindberg didn’t have at his disposal with the Binghamton Senators.
“Video is a thing they do exceptionally well here but we did video, good video, in Binghamton and Ottawa,” said Lindberg. “But here they have I don’t know how many guys that analyze the games and do statistics, but I can only imagine.”
With resources like that at his disposal, Lindberg’s development is up to himself just as much as it is up to the Leafs organization.
Marlies head coach Sheldon Keefe is cautiously optimistic with Lindberg.
“Lindy’s a guy that has teased us at different times to being a dominant player, with his size and skill set, the way he can shoot the puck,” said Keefe. “The challenge for him here has been to consistently do it all the time and to trust himself, and trust his body, that he can be a dominant player all the time.”
“We think he’s capable of doing it a whole lot more than he’s done it. If he’s going to take the next step as a a player that’s what he’s going to have to do.”
Lindberg, 20, began the season with a seven-game goal drought before scoring twice against the Utica Comets on Oct. 30. He failed to score a goal in 10 January games, a slide that featured his final three games in Binghamton and first seven in Toronto. He followed up that slump with a two-goal performance to start February that began a run of five goals in five games.
Lindberg has 10 goals and 23 assists in 52 AHL games this season, tying current Leafs call-up Zach Hyman for 23rd in AHL rookie scoring in two fewer games.
Keefe believes he can crack into Lindberg’s dominant ability through video sessions.
“The approach we’ve taken with him to this point has been showing him on video the times when he’s not competitive enough on the puck or he comes out second and loses a battle,” said Keefe.
“We reference a guy like Zach Hyman. His work ethic and his competitiveness is what’s got him in a solid position to be a productive NHL player in a short time there, and it’s just his hunger and competitiveness that does that.”
Hyman fought off Ryan Getzlaf to assist on the overtime winner on Thursday when the Maple Leafs beat the Anaheim Ducks 6-5.
It’s Hyman’s work ethic that has Keefe wondering if that’s what Toronto is looking for from Lindberg.
“Guys tend to take notice and perhaps that’s something that needs to happen for Lindy,” said Keefe. “He’s a great kid, he’s a good teammate, easy guy to have around, we just want him to keep pushing everyday to be his best.”
Maybe Tobias Lindberg just ends up being a footnote on the Dion Phaneuf trade. Not all prospects pan out, after all.
By the sounds of it, though, the Leafs, and Lindberg, think he could be a lot more.