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Boikov, Lindholm Ready To Make Their Marks

The defensemen begin their professional careers in North America this season

by Ron Knabenbauer @RonKnab / ColoradoAvalanche.com

CENTENNIAL, Colo.--Sergei Boikov and Anton Lindholm took different routes to get to the Colorado Avalanche's Rookie Camp, but both young defensemen could find themselves in the team's lineup sooner rather than later.

After being drafted by the Avs in 2014 and signing entry-level contracts with the club this past summer, the two foreigners are set to begin their first professional campaigns with either the NHL squad or in the American Hockey League with the San Antonio Rampage.

The Russian Boikov and Swede Lindholm didn't look out of place during this past weekend's Rookie Showcase and both enjoyed the experience of competing against their peers in a game scenario.

"The games against San Jose and Anaheim, they were exciting games," Boikov said after practice on Monday at Family Sports Center. "You can take a lot from them. You have to watch everything, what other players are doing; you have to understand your partner.

"It was very exciting. When you wear the jersey, you understand that not a lot of guys can do that and get this chance."

Boikov played in both contests, while Lindholm only dressed for Saturday's matchup against the San Jose Sharks.

It was Lindholm's first taste of what North American professional hockey is all about. 

Lindholm has appeared in 75 Swedish Hockey League games with his hometown club, Skelleftea, over the past five seasons, playing a significant role the past two. He will need to get used the smaller ice surface found in the majority of rinks in the United States and Canada since the SHL plays on international ice sheets, which are 15 feet wider than in the NHL.

"I like the physicality and I like the speed of the game. I like the smaller rink," Lindholm said. "It's just going to take some adjustment time to adjust my game to the smaller surface. Not searching for the tape-to-tape passes up the middle all the time, use the glass, use the boards, which I'm not used to. On bigger ice surfaces, you can land tape-to-tape passes every time. It's a fun game. It's straightforward. It's hard. I like it."

Getting accustomed to the faster style in a tighter space seems to be Lindholm's only hurdle so far in camp.

"Certainly playing on the big ice there, it's different, but [he's] a very competitive guy and comes from an excellent organization, Skelleftea-a top development organization, always in the top," said Colorado assistant general manager Craig Billington of the Swede. "He is coming from what we consider a great breeding ground in itself."

Lindholm seems to be the type of defender that will fit in nicely in new Avs head coach Jared Bednar's system and structure.

Bednar has said he is looking for his players to play fast, moving the puck quickly out of the defensive zone and up to the forwards on the rush. That is what Lindholm has been doing for years in Sweden.

"They want to move the puck fast. They want to move the feet fast," Lindholm said of Colorado's current structure. "It's kind of like the idea we had back home as well, moving the puck and moving the feet. Never stop or stay still, unless you're in a standing defensive kind of play."

The 5-foot-11, 191-pound rear guard also isn't afraid to throw his body around. Despite playing in only 30 contests due to various minor injuries, he led Skelleftea and finished 12th in the entire SHL with 85 hits last season.

He delivered a couple of those big blows early in the contest against the Sharks.

"I've always kind of been a physical defenseman. I always liked to put a stop on the flying offense," Lindholm said. "During my time at Skelleftea, I had to develop the game with the puck and skates, just to make the team there. So they forced me to play a puck moving and mobility game for the last three, four, five years. I think I found a good balance there last year and the year before that. Now with a smaller rink, it's close out to the corners, I can explode even harder, hitting some bodies out there. I hope it's going to be appropriate for my game."

Video: Lindholm discusses turning pro in North America

Boikov doesn't have the professional experience that Lindholm has, but he is more familiar with the North American style and ice surface. 

He spent the past three seasons playing in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with the Drummondville Voltigeurs and saw four games of action with the Rampage last season while on an amateur tryout.

The blueliner had his best offensive season last year with Drummondville, posting six goals and 20 assists in 52 regular season games. He didn't record any points in four postseason contests, but his minus-3 rating stands out given that the Voltigeurs were outscored 31-4 in the series sweep by the eventual league champion Rouyn-Noranda Huskies.

"I just play my game," Boikov said. "I play a physical game, and I think that is what the coaches want to see. I just play my style of game."

During the season, he played two games with Russia in the Super Series against a QMJHL all-star team and also made his country's roster for the 2016 World Junior Championship, a squad that often features more players competing in Europe than in Canada or the U.S.

"I certainly think a guy that is making the next step, coming out of major junior up in Quebec, he did a good job," Billington said. "Got the World Junior experience as well. He's headsy player. You saw no fear in his games over the exhibition games here. There is lots to work with, and we're excited to see him progress and see him the rest of the training camp."

It's hard not to notice the Khabarovsk, Russia, native's smile and the lone missing tooth near the front. The grin always seems to be there, and his positive outlook is a big reason why Billington thinks Boikov could be ready to make the next step.

"He has a tremendous attitude. That is one of his greatest assets," Billington shared. "When you have that learning attitude, it really progresses your development quicker rather than later. That is one of his strong suits. I expect his development throughout the season to be probably quicker than others simply due to attitude."

In his small sample of the pro game, Boikov said the biggest difference was the speed of it, but even that wasn't a big adjustment.

"It is a little faster and you have to think faster in the game," the 6-food-2, 200-pound defender said. "Not really a big difference because I was starting to prepare for that."

On if he'll be able to compete more with the pros this season, Boikov smiled and said, "Yes. I will be ready, for sure."

Boikov and Lindholm are among the 25-player contingent at Rookie Camp that are getting a preview of the structure that will be taught at training camp later this week.

Is it an advantage over the NHL veterans? Maybe, but Lindholm said their play on the ice will tell if they deserve to stay or begin the year in San Antonio.

"We've gone through the video stuff. We've played some games, have had some practices with the new system," Lindholm stated. "We'll kind of get a head start, which is good. But at the same time, you have to compete and let them see your work ethic. It's not about the system this early on, it's [about making] the best out of every hour you have out there."

Video: Boikov talks about turning pro this season

ROSTER UPDATE

Forwards Travis Barron (knee) and Jackson Houck (shoulder) sat out Monday's practice after suffering injuries in Sunday's Rookie Showcase outing against the Anaheim Ducks.

Barron and Houck are joined in the training room by Mikko Rantanen, who will miss two to four weeks with an ankle injury suffered in Saturday's contest against the San Joe Sharks.

Avs assistant general manager Craig Billington also said amateur tryouts Filip Karlsson and Chase Marchand won't be on the team's roster for training camp later this week

Karlsson will return to Sweden, per the agreement between the Avalanche and Rogle BK before camp began, while Marchand heads to Canada for college.

Video: Billington talks about the second day of rookie camp

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