By JAMES TUBB on December 20, 2023.
Two Medicine Hat Tigers have been recognized alongside the top NHL draft prospects after strong starts to their season.
Forwards Andrew Basha and Cayden Lindstrom were listed alongside 38 other players for the CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game in Moncton, N.B. in January. The duo will play before hundreds of NHL scouts and thousands of fans in Moncton in an effort to improve their draft stock ahead of the 2024 NHL Draft, scheduled for next June.
The pair of forwards, who have spent the majority of the first half of the season playing on the same line, find themselves with ‘A’ rankings at NHL Central Scouting’s Preliminary Round of Players to Watch.
Head coach Willie Desjardins has liked how his two forwards have handled the extra attention this season has brought and says they’ve earned that attention.
“They worked last summer, that’s why they’re having a chance now, if they wouldn’t have worked last summer, none of this would have been happening,” Desjardins said. “Both athletes put in a lot of time this summer to give themselves a chance to be here so they both should feel really good about themselves and how hard they worked this summer, because it’s paid off for them.
“It’s exciting when you see the interest around them and people talk about them getting drafted is huge. I don’t care what round it is, it doesn’t make any difference. It’s just thinking, I’m going to be in the top 210 kids in my age group, in the world, that’s unbelievable. You have to give them a lot of credit. They’ve handled it well, too, they know there’s people watching them but they’ve come every night and they’ve played hard and tried.”
Lindstrom leads the Tigers in scoring with 27 goals and 46 points through 32 games. His 27 goals are tied for third in the WHL and his points have him at 11th. Basha isn’t far behind, the Calgary product has 16 goals and 45 points in 32 games.
Both have liked the unofficial first half to their seasons but also recognize the need to find the next level.
“As of late, especially, I’ve been playing the best hockey that I’ve been playing my whole life, so I’m really happy,” Basha said. “Anytime you can be a contributor on a winning team is something that you can’t take for granted, it’s not every year you get to do that. I’m just looking the same as the team, but personally I just want to build off it and I think I can have a better second half.”
“There’s still a lot I need to work on,” Lindstrom said. “Definitely my defensive game, that’ll carry on a bunch of offence as well.”
Both are navigating the new age of hockey prospect, where each game is followed online and can ‘rise or drop’ them in the many different rankings made available daily. Between TikToks about their skills or posts on the platform formally known as Twitter about how good they’ll look in certain teams’ NHL jerseys, there’s a lot of chatter about their draft potential.
Basha says he uses any of the rankings as a motivator, having already jumped himself from a B rating in October to now being an A. While Lindstrom says he sees the rankings and the posts on social media but he doesn’t even worry about handling them, he says he just plays.
“I don’t really pay attention to it too much, I just try and play my game and just try to work as hard as I can to get better,” Lindstrom said. “I see some of the stuff, I get sent some of the stuff once in a while but I just keep playing.”