Lindgren’s development dates back to his early years in Sweden
Skating has always been one of Mats Lindgren’s strengths and it’s a special skill that didn’t come by accident.
The newly acquired Red Deer Rebels defenceman was born in Vancouver where his father, of the same name, wrapped up a 10-year NHL career with the Canucks in 2003 after also playing with the New York Islanders and Edmonton Oilers.
His father and mother Vanessa pulled up stakes a couple months after Lindgren was born and moved back to his dad’s hometown in Sweden, where he first learned to play and hone his exceptional talent.
“That’s where I got my foundation with my skating and edge work. I like to take pride in that,” he said Friday, following a main camp practice session at the Peavey Mart Centrium.
Lindgren and his parents moved back to Vancouver in 2015 and he continued to develop his game with the help of his father and minor hockey coaches with the Burnaby Winter Club through the next few years.
“When we moved back (to North Vancouver) when I was 11 my dad kept that going,” he said. “We would go on the ice, just me and my dad and maybe a couple of friends, and work on skating and edges and skills.
“We did that for endless hours for a number of years.”
Lindgren was selected by the Kamloops Blazers seventh overall in the 2019 WHL Prospects Draft and played four games with the club as a 15-year-old.
He split the next season with the Blazers and Chicago Cougars of the USPHL Premier League, then turned in an excellent 2021-22 campaign in Kamloops, scoring five goals and recording 44 points in 68 regular season games and adding seven assists in 17 playoff contests.
Lindgren was rewarded by being selected by the Buffalo Sabres in the fourth round, 106th overall, of July’s NHL entry draft. Shortly after, he requested a trade from the Blazers.
His wish was eventually granted earlier this week when the Blazers moved the promising rearguard to Red Deer in return for 19-year-old defenceman Kyle Masters and a lottery-protected first-round pick in the 2025 WHL draft.
“It was the best thing for me for personal reasons and I’m just excited for this new opportunity,” said Lindgren. “I just want to look ahead and I just can’t wait for the season to get started. I can’t wait to show my game and being the player I am. I’m beyond excited and I just can’t wait for that first game.”
Rebels general manager Brent Sutter is equally pleased with the transaction and despite his dislike for comparing players, said Lindgren’s style of play reminds him of Vegas Golden Knights star Shea Theodore.
“That was very generous,” said Lindgren. “Obviously it’s great to hear things like that, it’s always good to hear good stuff about yourself.
“But I think it all comes down to you have to keep working, keep putting all the time in. I think I have more to prove. Last year was a good season for me, but I feel I have more to prove and that’s why I’m so excited to be here, to be a part of the Red Deer Rebels.
“It’s the perfect spot for me to kind of let my game shine.”
Lindgren, who knows Rebels netminder Kyle Kelsey and defenceman Jace Weir from their minor hockey days in BC, is hoping to further develop his game in Red Deer and one day earn a berth on the Buffalo blueline.
The Sabres have been a weak NHL franchise for years but are forecasted to turn things around sooner than later with a promising group of prospects.
Lindgren certainly likes the direction in which the team appears to be headed.
“Everything they’re doing there is amazing,” he said. “I’ve met with all the staff, the coaches, scouts and player development people and they’re really making a change there.
“They’re doing such a good job. The GM, Kevyn Adams, is a great person and they obviously have great prospects. In a few years you’re really going to see a huge change there. I’m very excited and hopefully I can be a part of that.”
Lindgren will leave for the Sabres rookie camp on Sept. 12, and if he shows well may be invited to main camp.
The Rebels main and rookie camps run through the weekend, with the rookies wrapping up Monday and the remaining campers preparing Tuesday for the Black and White intrasquad game the following day.