During the offseason, while the hockey-world is abuzz with trade rumors and contract negotiations, the New York Rangers’ management looks diligently to determine who among their minor league prospects is the most NHL-ready.
From the Blueshirts’ AHL-affiliate team in Hartford, Conn., 23-year-old forward Oscar Lindberg is clearly the cream-of-the-crop. Finishing the 2014-2015 season with 28 goals and 28 assists, the Swedish-born center has proven to be a major asset for the Wolf Pack.
Although the Hartford Wolf Pack were ultimately swept by the Manchester Monarchs in the Conference Finals, Lindberg was critical for the team’s Calder Cup run. In the postseason, he put up 16 points—three goals, 13 assists—showing his ability to help set up the play under pressure.
But it’s difficult to compare the pressures and excitement of the Hartford Civic Center to that of “The World’s Most Famous Arena.”
Lindberg was drafted in 2010 as a second round pick by the then- Phoenix Coyotes, before being traded to the New York Rangers for Ethan Werek in 2011. After winning a gold medal for Team Sweden at the 2013 IIHF World Championship, Lindberg went on to score 18 goals and 26 assists in his first season (2013-14) with the Wolf Pack.
In February, when New York Rangers’ star-forward Rick Nash was out with a fever, the Blueshirts decided to substitute Lindberg into the rotation after recording four points in four games for the Pack, including an overtime goal in back-to-back contests with Springfield and Lehigh Valley.
Lindberg was called up to the NHL for a game on Feb. 24 against the Calgary Flames, which the Rangers would go on to win 1-0.
Yet, despite his performance, it is unclear whether or not the Rangers’ top prospect will be beckoned to play in the “Big Apple” this season. Considering that both Nash and Stepan have been on top of their game, is there room on the New York Rangers’ roster for more than one playmaker? And, if so, is Lindberg ready for the NHL?