23-Year-Old Swede Has Made An Impression On Vigneault So Far In The Preseason

By Sean Hartnett
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Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault spent the second game of the preseason watching high above from the press box at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.

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Although the Rangers were defeated 5-3 by the host Flyers on Tuesday, rookie forward Oscar Lindberg impressed again.

Vigneault said that the elevated view gave him “a good feel in back-to-back games.” He certainly liked what he saw from Lindberg. The 23-year-old Swede continued his strong preseason by scoring in back-to-back games and making intelligent plays in all areas of the ice. Importantly, he proved his versatility by turning in a top-tier performance on the left wing of center Jarret Stoll.

“There’s no doubt that tonight is the better of the two and for a first time in a while for him on wing,” Vigneault said. “He made some plays and he certainly played a strong game in a back-to-back situation for him, and it was very positive to see.”

Lindberg finished the night with one goal, an assist, three shots on goal, two hits, one blocked shot, and a plus-2 rating in 17:02 total ice time. Through two preseason games, he has collected two goals, an assist and is a plus-4. Conventional statistics aside, he’s looked the part at both center and on the wing.

Last Friday, Lindberg spoke of his confidence in playing either role.

“It’s all about how you perform in these six games here,” he said. “I think if you play good, you’ve got a good opportunity to make the roster. I think that’s all up to me.

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“I played wing for two years back in Sweden. I’ve done that before, but I see myself as a center in the bottom (six). Any spot that’s open, I’m willing to play there. I think that’s up to the coaches, to find the best formation.”

Simply put, Lindberg is ready for the show and is a lock to begin the regular season with the Blueshirts as a bottom-six forward. So far this preseason he’s demonstrated effective two-way play, an ability to win battles along the boards, an active stick, high-energy effort and versatility.

“I’d like to say that I’m a good two-way center with good offensive upside,” Lindberg said. “I played a lot of offense last year on the power play and also the PK. … Playing good in the preseason is my goal right now.”

Versatility is a key. The Rangers have an abundance of competitors vying to win the job of third-line center, provided that Dominic Moore slots in at his usual role centering the fourth line. That includes Stoll, who struck up good chemistry with Lindberg on Tuesday and offered wisdom to the youngster. Stoll’s ability to teach things on the fly is a reason why he wore the alternate captain’s “A” in his first preseason game as a Ranger.

“Yeah, I like that he knew I was playing wing and I wasn’t used to that, so he was talking to me every faceoff and helped me out there and that helped a lot,” Lindberg said.

Another important factor is Lindberg’s contract. The Swede signed a two-year, one-way deal worth $650,000 in average-annual value on July 14. He would need to clear waivers to be sent to the minors and in that scenario would be quickly snapped up by another team.

It hasn’t taken long for Lindberg to show why he’s going to stick with the Rangers.

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Follow Sean on Twitter at @HartnettHockey