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Lindholm Showing Promise

The rookie rear guard is making a strong case

by Ryan Boulding @rboulding / ColoradoAvalanche.com

CENTENNIAL, Colo.--It's only been four games, but Anton Lindholm is showing a certain sort of promise for the Colorado Avalanche.

The 22-year-old Swedish defenseman was recalled on March 13 and made his NHL debut on the 15th against the Detroit Red Wings at Pepsi Center. Since then, he's continued to impress those keeping an eye on him.

"I really like what I see. I think he's a real competitive kid, and he skates real well," Avs head coach Jared Bednar said. "So you put those two things together, and he's an aggressive defender. If he's making a mistake, it's an aggressive mistake. He closes quickly, he's physical. He's got that edge to him. Again, the skating really helps him set tight gaps and be difficult to play against.

"The game is going to slow down for him, and as he makes some mistakes he's going to learn some of the reads. He is making a few mistakes out there, but he makes up for them with his hard work. I think over the long haul, he's going to be a good player. His puck moving has surprised me a little bit. Because he skates so well, he gets a lot of first touches on the puck. He's been making good decisions with them, the easy, simple first pass that's available--using his first option. We're encouraged by what we're seeing from him at this point."

Video: Anton Lindholm on his first few NHL games

A self-evaluation from the 5-foot-11, 191-pound blueliner produced an honest look at the positives and negatives that he's experienced in his short time at the top level of the sport.

"I think I've played pretty decent. There's some stuff I need to work [on] to get out of my game-- unnecessary turnovers, being hard on the puck in every situation--but overall I think I've played four pretty good games," Lindholm said following practice on Wednesday. "I think I've been breaking out the puck pretty well, using my skating ability, closing gaps and I've been trying to play my game and not change anything. I still play hard on the body."

There's always an adjustment period for a player making the transition from the American Hockey League, and most skaters typically say that it has to do with the speed of the game. For Lindholm, the difference in pace, time and space was expected. He knew that errors would prove calamitous, so there's little shock when something happens. 

"I don't know if it surprised me, [but] I had the mindset coming in that if you make mistakes, you're going to get punished," he said. "That's a big difference from the AHL to here, making turnovers, making mistakes, you get punished right away." 

A product of the Swedish Elite League, Lindholm made the jump to the North American game at the start of the 2016-17 season. He skated in 59 contests with the San Antonio Rampage, Colorado's AHL affiliate in Texas, prior to his recall and used his experience competing against men to find a nice groove on the squad's top defensive pairing. 

"I've been playing at high speed and with big guys growing up, guys who are bigger and heavier than me," Lindholm admitted. "So obviously coming into North American pro leagues, that has helped me a lot."

Another thing that has contributed to his success is his ability to skate. The kid can fly up the ice, transition in a hurry and explode into an engagement in an instant. Clearly, that skill is Lindolm's most honed talent.

Video: STL@COL: Mitchell fires a wrist shot past Allen

"I think so," Bednar agreed. "He gets around the ice real well and thinks the game pretty well. I think it's kind of a whole package. That skating with that competitiveness I think is the strength of his game."

For Lindholm, the skating success came as a product of something the Avalanche offers annually to all of its prospects, a summer development camp. Colorado's fifth-round selection (144th overall) in the 2014 NHL Draft has attended the session for the previous two iterations, both of which featured an emphasis on skating provided by a specialized consultant. 

"Obviously, the work we put in with Tracy Tutton during development camp helped me a lot," Lindholm said. "Then I just think about what she said during every practice and every opportunity you get to work on it. Summer is a big part of it too, working on explosiveness and leg strength.

"I would say development camp is a really good opportunity to come here and learn. They have so [many] tools in an NHL organization, so I just take advantage of it."

Video: Lindholm recaps his season at development camp

Although he has yet to record his first career point, Lindholm's hard work and speed with ease helped John Mitchell find the scoresheet on Tuesday night against the St. Louis Blues. The young Swede burst into the zone with immediacy, drove straight to the net, faced himself to the puck and provided the screen to Mitchell's shot. 

"Just another thing I can get more involved in, skating up, joining the offensive rush," said Lindholm. "I trust my skating ability, and I know that I can be a part of it if I put my mind to it. So on that time, I was the second guy in the offense zone, and in that case there's nothing to think about. Just get to the net and good things happen."

If he continues to trend the way he has, Lindholm's first point will come sooner than later, and his impact on the blue line will become essential.

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