March 16, 2024

How Catton and Lindstrom compare against each other in the 2024 draft class

There will come a time at the 2024 NHL Draft that a team, selecting somewhere near the top-five, will have to ask themselves a very tough question — Berkly Catton or Cayden Lindstrom?

Seems simple enough.

Both players could quite easily go within the first five picks of the 2024 draft. They are two players with a chance to become stars at the next level. Both are forwards. Both are coming out of the Western Hockey League.

Yet, that’s essentially where the similarities end, most especially when it comes to how they play. 

Catton sits fourth in WHL scoring this season with 107 points (50 goals, 50 assists) in 64 games. Lindstrom, meanwhile, hasn’t been afforded the opportunity to be nearly as productive overall because of an injury, originally expected to sideline him for four-to-six weeks, that has sidelined him since Dec. 16. As a result, Lindstrom has 46 points (27 goals, 19 assists) in 32 games.

Yet, Lindstrom closes the point gap with his 6-foot-4, 204-pound frame. Catton, at 5-foot-11 and 164 pounds is slight, and there are still general managers in the NHL who will put a premium on size. Last season, Zach Benson stands as an example as he fell on draft day. Dmitri Simashev and Daniil But, selected before Benson, were big players taken before — arguably — more skilled players, largely due to the size difference. 

So let’s compare the likes of Catton and Lindstrom.

Play styles are complete opposites

Catton plays a very smart and balanced offensive game, which leans on finesse over sandpaper. He also utilizes speed and skill to avoid stick and bodychecks, attempting to slice through defenders like a hot knife through butter. Catton is good on the forecheck as well, not because he throws his weight around but instead using his smarts and anticipation to read plays and intercept passes. 

Lindstrom plays a forceful style. With the puck, Lindstrom can flash some skill, but he usually attacks in a very straightforward path. He looks to drive through defenders, using his frame and strength to push past his opponent. Additionally, he welcomes battles at the net-front and in the corners. He uses his long reach and sizeable body to close space, finishing his checks and being a menacing presence on the ice. 

Speed vs. Strength and Pace vs. Power

Catton plays fast, using his strong skating ability to dart into the zone and create problems for defenders. He uses speed to force defenders to have bigger gaps when defending him. That then gives him more space to work with when he enters, often opting to slow down and take that space. He’ll then use his smarts and vision to find a teammate with room and momentum. Or, he’ll close in and shoot. With his speed, stickhandling and smarts together, he becomes a constant threat through the neutral zone. That ability has allowed him to produce at such a high level. 

Lindstrom, meanwhile, isn’t as clean of a skater. His skating is awkward, and at times it seems like he isn’t quite completely used to his stature just yet. Despite the awkwardness, he is still an average to above-average skater. His acceleration stands out, thanks to his lower-body strength and the power he generates from his legs. The biggest thing to get excited about, though, is that he’s a good skater with poor mechanics. An NHL skating coach can certainly clean that up, and the thought of the combination of power and technique is scary.

Despite differences, both find ways to impact the offensive zone. 

A lot of Catton’s offense comes via the rush. As mentioned, he uses his speed and smarts to attack then slows down after gaining the zone to take advantage of his new-found space. With that, he can find teammates coming into the zone with momentum and time, or he can simply create for himself. His stickhandling is high-end and can get him out of a pickle when needed. He knows however, when to settle and take the smart and safe play. He isn’t guns-blazing, attacking the slot constantly. Catton understands when to slow down, and he’s been rewarded with assists from those simple plays. He makes those smart plays limited moments where he could be knocked off the puck for a giveaway. 

Lindstrom isn’t as big of a threat off the rush, but once in the zone he becomes a ‘code red’ level of threat for the defense. He possesses a heavy shot with accuracy. As a passer, he’s always looking to attack the slot, looking for teammates cross-ice or right in the middle of the ice. Add in his size, and he has the ability to drive to the net and score in close, shielding or shrugging off defenders as he does so.

He’s also had success gathering rebounds, a testament to his physical ability to fend off defenders to finish plays. At the same time, he’s still learning how to effectively dominate shift-in, shift-out with that size as he’s not completely immune to being knocked off the puck at the junior level. A combination of balance issues and a long reach that can be a burden sometimes, and that can lead to unnecessary turnovers.

Playmaking with tempo versus high pace and high risk

Catton looks to slow the play down at times, attacking with timing and playing with a controlled pace. He can turn it up and look for a home-run play, as he does sometimes get caught trying to bite off more than he can chew. That’s largely seen with him skating into tight spots and being forced to dig himself out with his stickhandling.

But as a passer, Catton is balanced and isn’t always caught forcing things. In three tracked games this season, Catton attempted 33 passes in the offensive zone at even strength, successfully completing 27 of them (81.82%). Only five of those passes were considered high-danger, completing three of them. Meanwhile, 21 of his passes were deemed low-danger, and he completed 19 of them. In total, four of his passes were intercepted by the opponents, while two more were inaccurate, but did not lead to turnovers. 

Lindstrom, on the other hand, plays at a very high pace, especially as a passer. Overall, he attempted 31 passes in the offensive zone at even strength over three games tracked, and completed 20 for a 64.52% success rate. Seven of his passes were deemed high-danger, where he completed just two of them. Meanwhile, 17 of his passes were low-danger passes, and he completed 13 of them. Five of his passes ended up being intercepted, while six more were inaccurate, but did not lead to turnovers.

Between the fact he can be guilty more often with trying to put too much on his plate than Catton — with the seven giveaways to Catton’s two — Lindstrom also can attempt passes that are just not open. Learning to slow down and making better decisions will make him an even more efficient player than he already is. 

Both players can be threats as shooters

Catton has a very accurate shot, with really good power, to go with his speed, smarts, and playmaking skills. That’s what makes him so successful despite a smaller frame. In those three tracked games, Catton fired nine shots at the net, with five hitting the target. Of the nine attempts, six came from high-danger areas — the home plate area in front of the net. He scored one goal from there, along with three more hitting the net.

Not a single one of his shots got blocked, showing his ability to create shooting lanes for himself consistently. Another reason behind his success as a shooter lies in his smarts. Catton just gets open away from the puck, then knows how to attack the middle on his own. He doe need to shoot more often, however. He’s an underrated shooter because he does not flash his shot nearly enough. 

As for Lindstrom, he is the better pure shooter between the two. He has a good release, great power, and deadly accuracy from anywhere. In tight, he can roof it over the goalie’s shoulder. From distance, he can find openings in the goaltender. In the three games tracked, he fired 13 shots at the net, with six hitting the net. Of the 13 attempts, nine came from high-danger. In those spots, he scored three goals, with an additional shot that hit the net but was stopped. In total, two shots got blocked, showing his ability to get shots through traffic as well.

With his size and general strength, Lindstrom makes it look easy to play in the high-danger areas at times. As he gets used to his size and cleans up his balance, he’ll be an even more dangerous player in the mid-to-low slot. 

Offensive game summations

For Catton, he knows how to control the pace of the game with the puck on his stick. He shows an excellent ability to scan the ice and find the right plays to make, and makes them. While he is certainly more of a playmaker with his ability to navigate out of tight spots and buy time for teammates to set them up, he’s a good shooter too. Learning to use his shot more will make him an even better offensive presence.

And the thing in particular that teams will really love is his ability to create off the rush, using his speed to its fullest extent in that area. 

As for Lindstrom, he creates with some skill and sandpaper. He can flash some great stickhandling ability from time to time and isn’t afraid to bully his way into the slot with and without the puck. He’s also good with utilizing his shot, getting to the high-danger areas to take advantage of the power and accuracy.

If he can be more consistent with his off-puck movement — which can be shaky at times — plus build up his skating and balance, he’ll be a star power forward in the offensive zone.  

Both players are successful transitionally

It probably sounds like a broken record with Catton when it comes to his abilities off the rush. But it’s true, and there’s context to observe in regards to how good he is in this area. For entries, he was involved directly in 26 entry opportunities, gaining the offensive zone with control on 18 attempts for a 69.23% success rate. Twelve of those controlled entries came directly from Catton skating the puck in himself. Six others were passed to teammates that directly led to a controlled entry. His lone dump-in attempt ended up being retrieved as well.

Then, there’s the fails. Catton failed on seven attempts, getting stopped at the blue line and turning the puck over. In total, when he was on the ice, he and his linemates dumped the puck into the zone 24 times, with Catton retrieving four of them himself (16.67%). 

For Lindstrom, it hasn’t been touched on a lot. While he doesn’t generate as much in terms of quantity of scoring chances as Catton, Lindstrom is just as involved and pretty equally effective. In his three tracked games, Lindstrom was involved directly in 30 entry attempts, gaining the zone with control on 19 of them for a 63.33% success rate. Seventeen came straight from Lindstrom carrying the puck in on his own, and two were passes to teammates. He had four dump-ins, with none being retrieved, and seven failures. As for retrievals, he and his linemates totalled 19 dump-ins, and Lindstrom retrieved two of them (10.53%). 

Exiting the defensive zone, the story largely remains the same

Catton was involved directly in 15 zone exit attempts, getting the puck out with control on nine of them for a 60% success rate. Another three attempts were cleared, but without possession, and the remaining three were failed exits. To put it plainly, Catton doesn’t always put himself in the best spots, sometimes cheating up ice to get a step on the opposition to go on the offensive. But, he is still efficient regardless in this area. 

Lindstrom is more involved. This is due to the fact he places himself in a more supportive spot, making him an easy outlet. That led to him being involved directly in 19 zone exit attempts, clearing the zone on 13 of them with control for a 68.42% success rate. An additional three attempts were cleared out of the zone without control. The final three attempts were failed exits, just like Catton.

Overall, while Lindstrom was more often tighter to the puck on breakouts, they were nearly identical in efficiency overall.  

Brain versus brawn: effectiveness in the defensive zone

Catton is such a fun player to watch on the penalty kill. He genuinely becomes a threat, even when shorthanded. He’s very smart and does a good job reading the play in the defensive zone. His anticipation allows him to force mistakes, and when the puck is on his stick he can turn a PK into what feels like an even-strength sequence. He’s always sitting and waiting to make a play. That isn’t a bad thing, but he can be a bit too conservative. Catton is incredibly smart, understands his positioning well, and is hardly pulled out of his spot. That’s a part of his game that can really be hemmed into, and the right coaching could make him an even more impactful forward in his own end. 

Lindstrom, on the other hand, isn’t as flashy defensively. He can be a bit too lackadaisical at times, not really pressuring puck-carriers. But his size gives him a big advantage on Catton, no doubt. Lindstrom has a strong understanding of space and how much of it he takes up. His understanding regarding his size allows him to be solid in his own end. He widens his stance and displays a very active stick in order to keep plays away from high-danger regions. He is not perfect by any means, but as he gets stronger and smarter he’ll be a good defensive zone presence down the line. 

The numbers behind their defensive abilities

Catton’s numbers as a forechecker shows his ability to disrupt initial breakouts, but not to the level of Lindstrom. In three games tracked, he forced two turnovers off the forecheck. For comparison’s sake, Lindstrom forced six in the same amount of games. On the backcheck, however, Catton reigned supreme. He was able to disrupt eight entry attempts from his opponents, while Lindstrom only disrupted three. 

In zone, Catton had 20 puck touches, giving up the puck over just once for a 5% turnover rate. Meanwhile, Lindstrom had 21 defensive zone puck touches, with two giveaways for a 9.52% rate. Catton also forced five turnovers, with all five being passes that he picked off. Lindstrom forced two turnovers, with both being disruptions leading to teammates getting the loose puck. 

Catton versus Lindstrom, summarized

These two players remind of the kind of comparisons many made in debating two players a few draft classes ago in Alexis Lafreniere and Quinton Byfield. Lafreniere was the more polished prospect, and was going to go straight to the NHL and be a frontrunner for the Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie. But Byfield was captivating, with raw tools and a bigger frame than Lafreniere. The argument boiled down to this — Lafreniere is ready to go, and is safely (at the time) a projected top-six winger. Byfield had tons of upside, but was still very raw and would need time to round off the edges in his game as he was far from a finished product.

With Catton, he isn’t NHL ready, per se, but his skills are more well-rounded. Lindstrom needs to continue to get learn how to maximize his body, take strides in improving his skating, and become more consistent overall in his offensive game.

It starts with Lindstrom continuing to bulk and become more refined with using his size more efficiently and adjusting to his long reach. If all things go well, Lindstrom could end up as one of the best prospects out of the class. But he needs time to reach that potential.

As for Catton, he needs to keep par to the course, taking strides in every area and layering his offensive game, as he too could be a special talent.  

What others are saying

Berkly Catton: 

“Catton is an offensively gifted center who displays a high hockey IQ and quick feet. He’s able to get up and down the ice quickly, and he’s strong on his edges, can cut on a dime, and has the speed to beat defenders wide. He always looks poised regardless of the pressure put on him, and his hands and vision allow him to skate with his head up in all situations. He doesn’t need to look down to reassure himself of possession. He’s just smooth in that regard, with his puckhandling looking effortless.” Aaron Vickers, FCHockey scout

Cayden Lindstrom: 

“The puck seems to follow him around in the offensive zone due to his stick and body positioning, allowing him to intercept pucks and keep offensive possessions going below the hashmarks. Lindstrom forechecks well and plays unafraid of the dirty areas, showing a willingness to drive attacking lanes to the net to make himself available as a shooting threat or to draw in pressure from defenders before dishing the puck to a teammate.” – Brandon Holmes, FCHockey crossover scout

**Tracked Catton’s Games: 10/21/2023, 01/30/2024, 02/17/202
**Tracked Lindstrom Games: 10/23/2023, 12/13/2023, 12/16/2023

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