Our annual, 2021 version of the top players under the age of 25 in the Pittsburgh Penguins organization.
2021 Pensburgh Top 25 Under 25: Graduates and Departed
#25: Santeri Airola
#24: Jan Drozg
#23: Will Reilly
#22: Clayton Phillips
#21: Chase Yoder
#20: Kirill Tankov
#19: Raivis Ansons
#18: Lukas Svejkovsky
#17: Judd Caulfield
#16: Johnathan Gruden
#15: Kasper Bjorkqvist
#14: Jordy Bellerive
#13: Cam Lee
#12: Drew O’Connor
#11: Joel Blomqvist
#10: Isaac Belliveau
9: Calle Clang
#8: Filip Lindberg, Goaltender
2020 Ranking: NR
Age: 22 (January 31, 1999)
Height/Weight: 6’1”, 194 pounds
Acquired Via: Signed as free agent (July 2021)
Filip Lindberg represents the third, and highest ranked, goalie in our 2021 countdown. He’s also the newest member of the list, joining the Penguins as a free agent in July 2021 after withdrawing from the University of Massachusetts after his junior season ended with an NCAA championship.
Lindberg was drafted in 2019 by the Minnesota Wild following an impressive freshman season (along with a backup role on Finland’s gold medal winning WJC team). His stats only improved from there to end up in the record books as the best goalie in UMass history. In 2020-21, Lindberg was downright dominant with a 10-1-4 record and a .949 save% and stingy 1.24 GAA and led UMass with four shutouts in the NCAA tournament, including the last two games of the season. Overall, in three games of the tournament he played, Lindberg surrendered just one goal, and naturally going 3-0-0.
He was right up there in the all-time, single-season marks in NCAA history by posting the fourth highest save percentage and third best GAA ever.
As his former head coach Greg Carvel said:
“[Filip] was simply outstanding in the net this past season and proved that he is ready to move on to the next level of hockey. His development as a goaltender during his time at UMass has been impressive and I give a ton of credit to associate head coach Jared DeMichiel, who works closely with our goalies.
“Fille has our full support after being an outstanding part of our team and culture and a critical part of our winning the national championship.”
Withdrawing from school and bypassing his senior year meant Lindberg’s NHL rights with the Wild were expiring and he opted to not sign with them and instead go to free agency. The Pens quickly scooped him up on the first day of free agency to a standard two-year entry level contract.
Here’s some highlights of Lindberg over the years. At 6’1 he is not a big goalie, but shows excellent athleticism and the ability to track plays and make stops. The way he collapses and seals the bottom half of the net reminds me in style a lot of Tomas Vokoun (himself a 6’1 goalie).
.@RiverHawkHockey thinks they've tied the HockeyEast Final at 1 with about 7 minutes left in the 3rd, but Filip Lindberg (#MnWild) manages to shut the door for @UMassHockey. No goal, after a lengthy review. pic.twitter.com/SGbwwShb7o— J.D. Burke (@JDylanBurke) March 21, 2021
The exciting part for Lindberg, and no doubt a reason to make Pittsburgh an attractive organization for him to join, is the depth chart. The Pens waived goodbye in free agency to goalies Emil Larmi and Maxime Lagace. Besides NHL goalies Tristan Jarry and Casey DeSmith, Pittsburgh only has one other netminder on an NHL contract in Alex D’Orio, who has shuttled between ECHL Wheeling and AHL Wilkes-Barre for the last two seasons.
Lindberg is a pro rookie, but given that Pittsburgh has not brought in a AAAA-esque level veteran that they have typically have had in past years (Lagace, before him Dustin Tokarski and the season before him Anthony Peters and the season before him Michael Leighton), the path for Lindberg looks as open as is the youngster’s ability to step up and make the most of the opportunity.
Wilkes-Barre has been a fertile proving ground for young goalies over the years, especially lately and graduated several goalies to the NHL and Lindberg will be looking to be the latest name to join the list. In the hockey world goalies can often “come from out of no where” to get hot and play well quickly in the NHL (Johan Hedberg, anyone?) and other than the experience and chance to prove it yet, Lindberg has a lot going for him as far as the ability and mastery of the NCAA level that he showed.
A step up in competition to the AHL level will teach us a lot about Lindberg has to offer and just how soon that might be. The Penguins have often had to use more than two goalies in a season, and they could always pull a trade or make a waiver claim in the weeks to come if they feel the need, but for right now it looks like it’s Lindberg’s opportunity to make his case to be the No. 3 goalie in the organization just as soon as training camp opens.
It might be difficult to get too excited about how a goalie may or may not develop, but the Pens getting Lindberg as a free agent makes him an excellent value bet to make. If he progresses, he could have a future in the NHL. If he doesn’t, they aren’t out too much of anything.