Names To Know: Cayden Lindstrom's Raw Athletic Ability, Scoring Prowess, Makes Him An Intriguing Prospect

By Dan Dukart on May 16, 2024 at 1:45 pm
Cayden Lindstrom skates for the  Medicine Hat Tigers
Jonathan Kozub/Getty Images

Welcome to the fourth installment of our "Names To Know," 2024 edition, a look-ahead at prospects who the Columbus Blue Jackets could select in the upcoming NHL Draft.

Previous Names To Know

Today, we take a look at Cayden Lindstrom, a 6'3", 215 lb center who plays for the Medicine Hat Warriors of the WHL. Lindstrom battled a hand and back injury this year, playing in just 32 regular-season games. But he made his mark, tallying 27-19-46, and finished third on the team in goals despite playing in half the games. 

It's easy to see why scouts love Lindstrom. He's huge, a great skater, and possesses an above-average shot. If he sounds a lot like Adam Fantilli, it's probably fair. Here's ESPN, who is projecting Lindstrom to the Blue Jackets at fourth overall:

He and Fantilli play a similar game, bring size and have the makings of a matchup nightmare for years to come. Lindstrom protects pucks, wins battles and drives the middle of ice to the dirty areas to create scoring chances for himself and his teammates. The Blue Jackets have been starved for high-end talent at the center position for years, something they can fix in the span of two drafts with Fantilli and Lindstrom. No need to overthink drafting a central, long-term pillar of the organization.

Imagining a 1-2 combo down the middle has to be tantalizing to the decision-makers in Columbus. But it doesn't come without risk. 

For as big and dominant as he is, he may have been able to take advantage of being a more physically mature player than his peers, which he'll be able to rely on far less in the NHL. Separately, The Athletic's Corey Pronman has voiced concerns that his hockey sense is below average for an NHL player, much less an NHL center, and is of the belief that he may get pushed to the wing. In such a scenario, it may be a bit rich (due to the depth of defensemen in this draft class) to take a winger at fourth overall, even if, as Pronman suggests, his player comp is Chris Kreider. Notably, Pronman ranked Lindstrom 11th in his recent player ranking, saying he projects as a 'top-of-the-lineup player', but not doesn't reach 'all-star' tier.  

In my isolated viewings, I've been impressed by how toolsy he is, particularly for a player of his size. He has good hands makes plays in tight spaces, and possesses exceptional finishing ability. I wonder if he follows a path to someone like Quinton Byfield, who went 2nd overall in 2020 and has a similar athletic profile. Byfield started slow in his professional career, but the Los Angeles Kings were patient with him, and now, at 21, he looks like the current and future 1C.   

Long-time Blue Jackets fans can remember the organization passing on another Kings center, Anze Kopitar. I don't mean to compare the two, but I do think there is the potential for a twinge of regret in a decade if the franchise passes on Lindstrom and he actualizes into a franchise center.

The last word on Lindstrom is that much of his draft stock is predicated on projection. In my estimation, there are players (probably several players, frankly) who are better than he is today that will be available at number four. Someone like Berkly Catton, who we will profile, was clearly better than him at last summer's Hlinka-Gretzky Cup. But Lindstrom's draft stock is high because of his tantalizing combination of size, athleticism, raw talent, and competitiveness. If he misses, some team will be frustrated in over-drafting him. But if he hits, he could be a game-breaking star. 

Mock Draft Results
ESPN 4th
My NHL Draft 3rd
Tankathon 4th 4th, 5th
The Athletic 5th
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