The NHL Draft has a funny way of giving fans optimism. Some have even gone as far as saying you shouldn’t mess up your first round pick. Conversely, if your second round pick has a somewhat seamless transition to the NHL, you’ve won that second round. In 2013, Elias Lindholm was one pick ahead of Sean Monahan who went to the Calgary Flames.
In his first season, Monahan captured 34 points with 22 goals and 12 assists. In his last two seasons he managed more than 60 points with 31 goals and 31 assists in the 2014-15 season and 27 goals and 36 assists in 2015-16.
Lindholm’s Swedish nationality isn’t the only reason he gets compared to Peter Forsberg, the country’s best player of all time per Sweden’s largest newspaper. He also has a similar type of play and height at 6-1. For him to really fit the Forsberg frame, though, he needs to beef up because he gets knocked off the puck too easily and just doesn’t have the top speed needed to get around opposing players.
Consistency and his transition to the NHL have been a struggle for Lindholm as well. His development has taken longer than some had presumed.
“Lindy was in the NHL too early,” head coach Bill Peters said. “He played when he probably physically wasn’t able to, or shouldn’t have been in the league, but he was for whatever reason.”
“He got hurt and got set back because of that, and that happens to many young guys when they are up too early, they get hurt. Then their development and their maturation is stunted somewhat.”
Even though he may not fit the Forsberg frame precisely, Lindholm is a player that when he’s able to find a way to the net from below the goal line, he can use is size and lethal release to make something happen.
“He’s grown into his body, he’s got good strength, good hockey strength, and real good hockey sense, and he’s a real big piece of it,” Peters said.
Watching Lindholm, there are times where he is one of the more captivating players on the ice. Even if he doesn’t captivate, you can find him in the right position. But then there are stretches where he seems invisible and not even noticeable on the ice.
Striving in his Natural Element
For a good majority of last year and years prior, it wasn’t uncommon for Lindhom to be put on the wing with one of the Staal brothers and would occasionally center a line with Jeff Skinner as one of his wings.
The Hockey Writer’s Brett Finger projects Lindholm to center two Finns in recently acquired Teuvo Teravainen and highly praised prospect Sebastian Aho. For Lindholm’s point production to increase it would seem that the two Finnish players would be the right players to compliment his skill. Teravainen has been known to be very creative and has fantastic on-ice vision and excellent hockey IQ.
On the Marek vs Wyshynski July 28 podcast, Peters confirmed that the two Finns and Lindholm will be together on a line. He continued to say “Lindy played a little bit of center at the end of the year and was very good and got better as he went.”
Lindholm is not a player who has a history of elite scoring in Sweden prior to his arrival in the NHL, but can put up solid assist numbers. However, with his quick release, the Boden, SWE native should find ways to score with more of a shoot-first mentality especially if he’s centering a line with two skilled wingers of Aho and Teravainen.
As Peters mentioned, Lindholm played well at center down the final stretch of the season and had more skip in his stride after Eric Staal left for the New York Rangers. He’s been in the league too long to not have taken more advantage of his lethal release. Although at only 21 years old, he already has 220 games under his belt.
Lindholm has showcased his skill level many times and is capable of much more if he can get going on a consistent basis. He took a step back last season, and for a team that could use a goal scorer’s finishing touch, he has the ability to bring that to the table.
He backchecks hard, but now it’s time to put his two-way game on full blast. With any hope, Lindholm will find himself at his natural position of center for the majority of the year. Even adding him to the 3rd line will add depth to a young and skilled Hurricanes team. If he plays the position he feels most comfortable wtih and is surrounded by skilled and crafty wingers, maybe he’ll be able to put Monahan’s numbers to shame.