In the 2017-18 Player Review series, we will evaluate the 2017-18 performances of each member of the Golden Knights. We have assigned each player a grade, which is a Knights On Ice composite grade made up of our individual ratings. Players were evaluated based on overall performance in both the regular season and playoffs, especially with regard to pre-season expectations and how that player performed in his particular role. Note: Only skaters who played in at least 20 games and goalies who played in at least 10 games were included.
The Golden Knights selected Oscar Lindberg from the New York Rangers in last summer’s expansion draft and subsequently signed him to a two-year, $3.4 million contract. It was not yet known that William Karlsson and Erik Haula would emerge as legitimate top-six centers, so Lindberg was expected to provide depth up the middle while playing a responsible two-way game. He hadn’t yet proven himself with steady production at the NHL level, but he had put together some impressive scoring stretches in the Big Apple despite modest overall numbers. There was reason to believe Lindberg would take the next step towards reaching his potential, and the Knights gave him a bridge deal to do so.
Season in review
But Lindberg did not take that next step.
In fact, he scored just nine goals and two assists for a total of 11 points in 63 games, which comes out to a rate of 0.17 points per game.
When Lindberg finished up October with a satisfying goal against his former team, giving him five goals in the first 11 games of the year, everything was going according to plan. From there, however, he managed just six points for the rest of the season. He was a critical component of Vegas’ early success given his versatility, hard work and scoring prowess, but his red-hot start evolved into an ice-cold slump he could not shake.
Not surprisingly, Lindberg’s 11 points ranked last on the Knights among players who played in at least 40 games. Only Ryan Reaves (0.1), Jon Merrill (0.09) and William Carrier (0.08) had lower points-per-game rates among players who played in at least 10 games.
Lindberg, a former second-round pick of the Phoenix Coyotes, went 15 straight games from late December to early February without recording a single point, and he served as a healthy scratch on several occasions in the regular season and throughout most of the postseason. He missed most of March with an upper-body injury and managed just three points in the final 29 games of the season. Two of his nine goals came in the final four games of the year, most of which carried little significance.
On the plus side, his 1.89 points per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 was good for fourth on the team behind only Reilly Smith, Jonathan Marchessault and David Perron. Also, most of his 5-on-5 possession stats were solid as well, including his 50.36 Corsi For percentage, 51.09 percent shot share, 52.42 percent scoring chance share, 52.53 percent high-danger chance share and 55 percent high-danger goal share. However, his 39.53 percent goal share was second-worst on the team; Tomas Tatar, who played just 20 games, was the only forward who had a lower percentage (30.43).
Lindberg’s defensive heat maps show that he was generally able to limit high-danger chances in front of the net, keeping most opposing shots above the circles.
But it was still a very tough year for the native of Skellefteå, Sweden.
It’s difficult to judge postseason stats with such a limited sample size, but Lindberg tallied one assist in three games and was not on the ice for a goal against. He managed a team-worst 43.75 Corsi For percentage at 5-on-5, but he helped generate shots and scoring chances with a 51.35 percent shot share, 61.54 percent scoring chance share and 63.64 percent high-danger chance share.
Memorable moments were few and far between for Lindberg in his debut season with the Knights, but there is at least one play well worth revisiting. In a matinee matchup against the visiting Avalanche in late October, Lindberg converted an outstanding individual effort into a dazzling goal destined for the highlight reels.
Lindberg stripped the puck, fought through two Avalanche defenders and flipped the puck over the shoulder of goaltender Semyon Varlamov.
It may not have been significant in the scheme of the game, a 7-0 win for Vegas, but it was a beautiful all-around play and easily his most memorable moment of the season.
KOI composite grade: C-
Knights On Ice awarded Lindberg a composite grade of C-, with individual grades ranging from D to C. Clearly, there were no ringing endorsements of his 2017-18 performance. The main reason for that was his utter lack of production. Just because he didn’t have a breakout season doesn’t mean he wasn’t successful, but it’s hard to call Lindberg’s 11-point performance anything more than a severe underachievement.
In a year in which seemingly everyone in Vegas had a career season, Lindberg’s stat line was especially glaring, though that’s not entirely fair. It’s not as though he went from 50 points to 11, as he managed 20 and 28 points in his previous two seasons, respectively. Plus, production doesn’t necessarily define a player’s effectiveness. Nevertheless, Lindberg did not do nearly enough to compensate for his lack of offensive contributions, and the C- assessment reflects that.
Many of his possession stats were respectable, but Lindberg fell short of pre-season expectations. He has the requisite skill to be an impact player at the NHL level, but he hasn’t been able to demonstrate that on a consistent basis, and he certainly didn’t do so last year. It was a disappointing result for a player capable of achieving much more.
Looking ahead to 2018-19
Lindberg’s future with the Golden Knights is unknown. He does not have a roster spot locked up by any means and will be competing for one in training camp next month. He has one year remaining on a contract that carries a $1.7 million cap hit; beyond that is anyone’s guess at this point. The fact that his production has declined every year since he scored a career-high 13 goals, 15 assists and 28 points with New York in 2015-16 is not doing him any favors. Fortunately for Lindberg, he usually gets off to a strong start, which could help his cause as Gerard Gallant forms the starting roster for opening night (Oct. 4 vs. Philadelphia). Maintaining that strong start will be key, though.
Despite the low grade, there is some reserved optimism surrounding Lindberg, who should be plenty motivated after being on the outside looking in during most of Vegas’ deep playoff run, especially since he’s in a contract year. If he sees regular time with the Knights, it’s reasonable to expect a decent increase in production. That’s easy to say considering the meager 11 points he contributed last year, but the soon-to-be 27-year-old has the skill to bounce back in 2018-19.
How would you grade Lindberg’s 2017-18 performance?
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