ColoradoAvalanche.com is profiling players who just completed their rookie seasons with the organization. This second installment takes a look at defenseman Anton Lindholm.
After two full seasons in the Swedish Hockey League with the Skellefteå AIK, defenseman Anton Lindholm made his way to the North American professional ranks in the 2016-17 season.
The 5-foot-11, 191-pound blueliner was selected in the fifth round (No. 144 overall) by the Colorado Avalanche in the 2014 NHL Draft. In 2014-15 and 2015-16, Lindholm helped Skelletfeå to back-to-back appearances in the SHL finals.
On May 24, 2016, he earned the opportunity to follow his NHL ambitions and signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the Avalanche.
The following is a look back at the rookie's first season in the North American professional arena.
Opportunity in the AHL
After attending the Avalanche's training camp and preseason, Lindholm was assigned to the Avs' American Hockey League affiliate, the San Antonio Rampage. This assignment allowed the Swedish-born player to adjust to the North American style of hockey played in the NHL.
The defenseman made his American professional debut with the Rampage on opening night in a 2-1 loss to the Milwaukee Admirals on Oct.15.
In addition to his position as a productive regular on the blue line, Lindholm also developed his offensive abilities, scoring his first goal for the Rampage on Jan. 16. Tallying 13 points (two goals and 11 assists) in 62 games, Lindholm finished third among Rampage defensemen in points despite the games he missed while playing in the NHL.
Lindholm certainly made a noticeable impact during his first season in the North American pros.
Due to his impressive performance and comfort level in the minors, Lindholm received his first NHL recall to the Avalanche on March 13.
"It was exciting to get the call and travel here yesterday and practice this morning," Lindholm said following his first session with the team. "Really excited to get this opportunity."
On reflecting on how the AHL helped him adjust his playing style, he said, "I felt like I adapted my game more to the small rink. Value the puck the more, when to put the puck on the tape and when to just use the boards or the glass. Also, the defensive part of the game, D-zone coverage, standing closer--because the ice is so short--you have to be on the right side all the time."
The rookie made his NHL debut against the Detroit Red Wings on March 15. He played for nearly 15 minutes and helped the team to a 3-1 victory.
Video: Anton Lindholm on his first few NHL games
Lindholm showed lots of promise during his 12-game run with the Avalanche this season. While he didn't mark the stat sheet himself (apart from two penalty minutes), his fearless screens helped his teammates put points on the board.
The physical D-man also averaged 3.2 hits per game, the highest number among his teammates. His aggressive presence along with his quick stick handling have begun to define the young player's scrappy playing style.
Lindholm's fire and drive made an impact on head coach Jared Bednar.
"I really like what I see. I think he's a real competitive kid, and he skates real well…He's got that edge to him" said Bednar.
"I think over the long haul, he's going to be a good player. 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."
After appearing in 10 games with the Avs, Lindholm sustained a leg injury in early April but quickly recovered to play in two more contests during the season. The defender then rejoined San Antonio to support the Rampage in its final games of the 2016-17 campaign.
The grit and enthusiasm he gained from his past experience in Sweden has evidently helped him perform on the North American stage.
Video: Lindholm on his stint with the Avs
As the 2017-18 season approaches, Lindholm is expected to play a larger role on the ice and the D-man is optimistic about his capacity for performance.
"I trust my skating ability, and I know that I can be a part of it if I put my mind to it," he said in late March. "Just get to the net and good things happen."