The ascendant Carl Lindbom
by Andrew Podnieks|31 DEC 2022
Carl Lindbom has been dominant in the Sweden crease so far this year in Halifax.
photo: Matt Zambonin / IIHF
Four months ago, goalie Carl Lindbom watched his Swedish teammates play at the World Juniors in Edmonton. And watched. And watched. He never got into a game, and the tandem of Jesper Wallstedt and Calle Clang took the team to a bronze medal.

Fast forward to Halifax after Christmas and Lindbom has played every minute of the first three games for Sweden, while backups Ian Blomquist and Marcus Brannman have been doing all the watching and watching. And why not? Lindbom has recorded two shutouts and allowed just two goals while posting a 3-0 record, stopping 74 of 76 total shots faced so far.

“I think I trust my game more, trust my hands, my eyes. I think I'm a lot better trained than I was back then, a lot faster,” Lindbom said of his development in four short months. Developed by Djurgarden over the course of many years, he is currently playing for the top team in the Swedish league and becoming a star, currently posting a 1.78 GAA in 21 games.

But while his improvement on ice is easy to see, it starts in the mind, becoming mentally stronger and psychologically more impervious to the ebbs and flows of stopping pucks. “The mental part comes from practise, trusting your instincts, trusting your edges. That's the main part, learning to trust yourself,” he continued.

Lindbom rose to prominence a year and a half ago at the U18 in Frisco, Texas, where he played six of seven games, winning four and posting a shutout in an emphatic 8-0 win over Finland to capture the bronze medal. “U20 is a lot faster,” he explained. “The game is simpler, not a lot of breakaways. There's more structure, which makes it easier for me.”

The U18s in the U.S. got the attention of scouts, but the result was a mixed bag. Yes, he was drafted in 2021, by Vegas, but he didn’t go until number 222. “It was unreal getting drafted,” he said. “I was so happy, but a lot of my best buddies went way before me. It kind of fuelled me a little bit, but I couldn't be happier to be part of the Vegas organization.”

To the good, though, Lindbom didn’t attend the draft in person and didn’t have to go through the agony of hearing one name after another for the better part of two days. “I didn’t go. We were at a U20 tournament. We actually played a game at the same time the draft was, so that was an odd experience, but pretty fun.”

Being drafted 222nd overall out of a total of 224 players doesn’t look good, but Lindbom comes from a rich hockey country that has, paradoxically, seen many of its greatest players go similarly late in previous drafts. Consider Jonas Hoglund also went 222 in 1992; Tomas Holmstrom went at 257 in 1994; Samuel Pahlsson 176th in 1996; Henrik Zetterberg 210 in 1999; Jonathan Ericsson 291 in 2002; Patric Hornqvist 230 in 2005. 

Lindbom is well aware of this fact, adding, “My biggest idol, Henrik [Lundqvist], the King! He went way down in the 7th round [205th overall in 2000].”

“The first time I was in the Vegas dressing room, they said you're in the room. Doesn't matter where you got drafted, you're in the room, and you're fighting for a spot. That fuelled me,” he noted, approaching his future with the most positive perspective possible.

For now, though, Lindbom will try to help Sweden win a medal in Halifax. Then, he’ll go back to Djurgarden, with no pressure and nothing else occupying his thoughts. The Golden Knights are taking their time with him.

“We're taking it day by day and season by season. We'll see how I do this year, and talk after.”