Stu Cowan: Gustav Lindström embraces fresh start with Canadiens

“Steady, reliable, nothing flashy,” head coach Martin St. Louis says about Swedish defenceman acquired from Detroit in the Jeff Petry trade.

Article content

Johnathan Kovacevic knows what it’s like to get cut by an NHL team and be sent down to the AHL.

It happened to him all three years he was with the Winnipeg Jets after being selected in the third round (74th overall) of the 2017 NHL Draft. Kovacevic spent three seasons with the AHL’s Manitoba Moose and only played four games in the NHL with the Jets during the 2021-22 season before being claimed off waivers by the Canadiens last October.

Advertisement 2

Article content

Article content

Kovacevic, 26, has made the most out of his change of scenery and has become a solid regular on the blue line.

Gustav Lindström, 25, is trying to make the most of his new chance with the Canadiens after being acquired in August from the Detroit Red Wings (along with a conditional fourth-round draft pick in 2025) in exchange for Jeff Petry.

Lindstrom played 36 games with the Red Wings last season, posting 1-7-8 totals, but he was cut by the Canadiens in training camp this year and started the season with the AHL’s Laval Rocket. The 6-foot-2, 194-pound defenceman was called up on an emergency basis Tuesday after David Savard was sidelined with a fractured wrist and made his Canadiens debut that night, logging 11:47 in a 5-2 loss to the New Jersey Devils.

“Our pro (scouts) like him,” Canadiens GM Kent Hughes said after acquiring Lindström from the Red Wings. “They feel like he’s a really smart, puck-moving defenceman, that he still has a lot of room to grow in his game. I think the number that they threw out was he was about 70 per cent of what they believe his potential is — and he’s young.”

Article content

Advertisement 3

Article content

Hughes is hoping Lindström is another young player who needed a fresh start somewhere else and can develop further under Canadiens head coach Martin St. Louis and his staff the same way Kovacevic and Kirby Dach did last season and the way Alex Newhook has so far this season.

We apologize, but this video has failed to load.

Advertisement 4

Article content

St. Louis said Lindström came as advertised in his Canadiens debut.

“Steady, reliable, nothing flashy,” the coach said after the Canadiens’ morning skate Thursday at the Bell Centre before facing the Columbus Blue Jackets with Lindström back in the lineup. “I thought he played really well.”

Kovacevic thought the same thing.

“I think it’s always hard your first game when you get called up,” Kovacevic said after the morning skate. “He took it in stride. A calm but positive attitude. That’s a demeanour that I think is the best way to approach it. Optimistic, positive, excited to be part of the team and not overexcited where you’re extending yourself. He stays within his game. I thought he did an awesome job.

“I know it’s never an easy thing to be sent down,” Kovacevic added. “It’s happened to me a few times. But he seems similar to me in the sense that once it happens, well, what are you going to do now? You have two options — either you can sulk or you can be positive with it and make the most of it. He’s obviously done that. For me, personally, I think that’s why he played so well. If you know you did everything you can after you got sent down for a couple of weeks, let’s say, and then you get called up, well there’s nothing holding you back when you get the chance to play your first game and I think that’s what he did.”

Advertisement 5

Article content

Growing up in Sweden didn’t allow Lindström to watch many NHL games as a kid because of the time difference. But he did watch highlights in the morning, focusing on fellow Swedish defenceman Erik Karlsson.

“For our generation, everyone was looking to be the next Erik Karlsson,” Lindström said. “He’s one of a kind … I’m not trying to say I play like him, but I was always watching him when I was growing up.”

Lindström plays more like Kovacevic, which is definitely not a bad thing. Calm and steady — and that’s the way Lindström came across while chatting with him one-on-one in the locker room after Thursday’s morning skate. He said he was happy and excited when the Canadiens acquired him and was also happy when he cleared NHL waivers, which allowed the team to send him to Laval.

“Of course, everyone wants to be here,” Lindström said. “But I had no problem going to Laval to play. Just have some fun again and play some minutes. Take it day-by-day and now I’m here. It’s been good.”

Lindström is still getting to know his new teammates and his new city, although he got to know Montreal a bit last season when the Red Wings held their father’s trip here in January. He’s hoping to still be with the Canadiens when they head out on a three-game road trip next week.

“You just try to enjoy every day and take it day-by-day,” he said. “It’s fun to be here.”

[email protected]

Related Stories

Advertisement 6

Article content

Article content


Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.

    Advertisement 1