With the 2013-14 season only a few months away, AnaheimDucks.com takes a look at some of the younger Ducks who will likely have expanded roles and responsibilities
Next up are defensemen Hampus Lindholm and Sami Vatanen.
For Lindholm and Vatanen, the 2012-13 season began in the American Hockey League, where the two defensemen began the year playing for Anaheim’s affiliate, the Norfolk Admirals. It was the first time both played professionally in North America, with Lindholm coming from Sweden’s Division 2, and Vatanen from the Finnish Elite League.
Though injuries limited him to only 44 games in the AHL, Lindholm finished his rookie season with 11 points (1g/10a) and a +5 rating with the Admirals. The 19-year-old ranked tied for third on Norfolk and second among team defensemen in plus/minus, and recorded his first career AHL multi-point game (0-2=2), Mar. 8 vs. Hershey. The 2012 first-round pick (sixth overall) scored his first career AHL goal on Nov. 3 vs. Binghamton, and debuted on Oct. 12 vs. Worcester, becoming the youngest player in AHL Admirals history at 18 years, eight months and 23 days.
Vatanen, the elder of the two at 22 years of age, appeared in 62 contests with the Admirals, earning 45 points (9g/36a) with five power-play goals and 44 penalty minutes. In addition, the 5-foot-10 defenseman was selected to the 2012-13 AHL All-Rookie Team. Vatanen led the Admirals in assists and ranked second overall in scoring, and, among AHL leaders, ranked tied for fourth among all defensemen in scoring. Vatanen also ranked tied for 10th in rookie scoring. Among his accomplishments were nine multiple point games (eight multi-assist).
Vatanen made his NHL debut with Anaheim, appearing in eight contests, scoring two goals (2-0=2) with a +3 rating. His first goal was scored on the power play in a 3-2 OT loss, Apr. 17 vs. Columbus, and his second tally came in Anaheim’s 3-0 shutout, Apr. 22 at Edmonton. Vatanen appeared in his first NHL game on Feb. 1 vs. Minnesota (21 years, 7 months, 29 days), going scoreless on one shot with 13:52 TOI and a +1 rating.
Though both are young and coming off rookie seasons, Lindholm and Vatanen impressed the Ducks brass, including Executive Vice President and General Manager Bob Murray.
“I’m going to force the issue on Sami Vatanen,” Murray said in a July conference call. “I wanted him to play more last year. I want to give him a good, hard look. Lindholm, he’s only going to be 19 years old, but he was really coming gangbusters.”
By the Numbers
13, the age of Lindholm when the Ducks won the Stanley Cup in 2007.
5, the age when Vatanen started playing hockey in his native Finland.
For Ducks fans, there is a lot to be excited about with Lindholm and Vatanen. Both have proven themselves at the AHL level, and Vatanen held his own with the big boys in his eight-game stint in the NHL. Though the Ducks are deep on defense, you can expect Lindholm and Vatanen to battle hard during training camp in hopes of making the opening night roster. Or, if injuries occur on the blueline, you’ll more than likely see either of the two (or both) inserted into the lineup.
Though the majority of his tweets are in Swedish, you can follow Lindholm’s Twitter account here: @HampeLindholm
Vatanen’s favorite NHL team growing up was the Ducks, and his favorite player was Scott Niedermayer.
He Said It
“It was a good experience with North American hockey, with the smaller rinks, and how everything goes off ice and on ice. I got to taste everything. It was a good experience for me to come over.” – Lindholm, on playing professionally in North America
“I trust myself on the ice. It’s like, ‘It’s just hockey,’ and you do your best, and after that, you can [look at yourself] in the mirror and say you did what you had to do. I don’t think I’m ever too nervous on the ice. Just enjoy the time and try to get better.” – Vatanen